The Jolt: In Georgia prisons, price tags on Doritos, dental floss and Mother’s Day cards are about to jump

A sign set up outside Georgia State Prison in Reidsville just last yeaer offered job opportunities. Turnover and staffing shortages are constant problems in prisons. JOHNNY EDWARDS / JREDWARDS@AJC.COM

A sign set up outside Georgia State Prison in Reidsville just last yeaer offered job opportunities. Turnover and staffing shortages are constant problems in prisons. JOHNNY EDWARDS / JREDWARDS@AJC.COM

Our AJC colleague James Salzer has taken a deep dive into the impact of budget cuts ordered by Gov. Brian Kemp in the face of a possible recession next year. Among the casualties:

The Department of Corrections — possibly the hardest-hit agency — said that starting Oct. 21 it would increase the price of everything from Doritos, Spam and dental floss to book lights, Mother's Day cards and hair gel in prison commissaries. It also listed hundreds of positions that would be RIFed, from construction and food services to administrative staff and education. Some would be laid off, others transferred to new jobs. Big pay cuts would affect some starting in mid-November.

The director of victims services would see a salary cut from $117,000 to about $45,000, according to the agency's RIF plan. "The employee will be offered the opportunity to continue employment with the department in the new job title," the plan said. "If the employee decides not to accept the offer, the employee will be released." A senior training manager would be offered a lower-level job paying $35,000 — a 56% cut — according to the plan.

The RIF plan includes 26 teachers in the system. About half would take pay cuts in the range of $25,000 a year. The two highest-paid teachers — earning about $101,000 a year — would face $37,727 cuts.


Early this morning, our WSB Radio colleague Jamie Dupree told us that it had been obvious in recent months that U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., was having health problems, given his use of a wheelchair and a walker in the halls of Congress:

“But his voice was still firm, and he would sit in the Speaker’s lobby to do group interviews with us. It was not clear what health problems he was having, and his office only said there had been ‘longstanding’ health challenges.”

Cummings was often mistaken for another bald African-American, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta. Just this week, a live MSNBC feed showed members streaming from a House Democratic caucus meeting – one of the topics was impeachment.

"There's Elijah Cummings," said MSNBC's Ari Melber. But it was Lewis. Cummings was in the hospital. From the formal New York Times obit:

With his booming voice and a speaking cadence with hints of the pulpit — his parents eventually became preachers — Mr. Cummings was a compelling figure on Capitol Hill. For more than two decades, he represented a section of Baltimore with more than its share of social problems. He campaigned tirelessly for stricter gun control laws and help for those addicted to drugs.

He grabbed the national spotlight in 2015 when he took to the streets of Baltimore, bullhorn in hand, and pleaded for calm after riots erupted in his neighborhood after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a young black man who died in police custody. Hours earlier, Mr. Cummings had delivered Mr. Gray's eulogy.

More from the Cummings obituary in the Washington Post:

The bullhorn he wielded in West Baltimore was emblazoned with a gold label that read, "The gentleman will not yield." It was a gift from his Democratic colleagues, bestowed after Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) silenced Mr. Cummings's microphone at a 2014 hearing into complaints that the Internal Revenue Service had unfairly targeted conservative nonprofit groups.


State Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, a Sixth District congressional candidate, has touted the support of a Republican mega-donor who is a business partner of Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and personal attorney to President Donald Trump. Giuliani is now at the center of a deepening federal fraud probe.

Beach, a state senator, said through a spokeswoman the$500 donation from Roy Bailey in May was a sign that "one of President Trump's top allies has joined Team Beach and recognizes that Brandon is the most well-positioned candidate to take back the Sixth District," a campaign spokeswoman told us.

The Alpharetta Republican is one of several candidates seeking to challenge Democrat U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath in 2020. The crowded GOP primary field also includes former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, who has out-raised Beach so far in her comeback bid.

Bailey, a Texas lobbyist and financier, is the finance co-chairman of Trump's re-election committee and a former campaign chairman for former congressman Pete Sessions, who is facing questions from investigators seeking records about his interactions with Giuliani and two Giuliani associates charged with fraud.

Campaign finance records show Bailey, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, has made only a handful of donations to candidates this year. His previous two contributions, in April, were to Trump's campaign.


Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is hitting the campaign trail again for former Vice President Joe Biden. Fresh off separate trips to Texas and South Carolina, the first-term mayor plans to trek to Iowa this weekend to rally his supporters in Ames, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and West Des Moines. No Georgia Democrat has played a more prominent role in boosting a 2020 White House hopeful than Bottoms, who was one of the first state officials to pick sides in the race.


The New York Times tells us that the Westerville, Ohio, debate of 12 Democratic presidential candidates on Tuesday drew 8.3 million viewers, a significantly smaller audience than the one in Houston last month.


A tropical storm is developing in the Gulf of Mexico that really could strike Alabama this weekend, according to UGA weather guru Marshal Shepherd.


Impeachment continues to dominate the spotlight in Washington, but some House lawmakers are planning to resume their examination of the Voting Rights Act this morning. The House Judiciary Committee is slated to hold ahearing on proposed legislation to revive sections of the 1965 law that were struck down by the Supreme Court back in 2013.

Two Georgians are slated to testify:Bryan Tyson, a Republican attorney who was involved in the party's redistricting effort in 2011, andBryan Sells, an Atlanta civil rights lawyer who previously worked for the Justice Department during the Obama administration.

The hearing comes four months after former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abramsleveled criticism at her rival Brian Kemp in front of the same committee and warned that the Supreme Court's ruling in Shelby County v. Holder "created a new channel for the troubling practice of voter suppression during a time of dramatic demographic change."

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, the panel’s top Republican and a Kemp ally, has his counter-arguments mapped out. He plans to say today that voter turnout increased by double digits for Latino and African-American voters in Georgia between 2014 and 2018 and that officials are “committed to ensuring the ballot box is open to all eligible voters.” A taste:

"I invite my friends on this dais—particularly the ones from the great state of Georgia—to consider the data, which show that our state is diverse and politically engaged. Despite a certain candidate's claim that she won an election that she, in fact, lost, and that 'voter suppression is endemic' in Georgia, the facts disagree—and so do the values of Georgians and Americans."


Speaking of Stacey Abrams: This was the answer posed by Alex Trebek of "Jeopardy" last night: "This Georgia state representative and candidate for governor has published several romance novels under the name of Selena Montgomery." The answer was worth $2,000 under (we think) Southern Political Authors. The video clip on Abrams' Facebook page was a bit fuzzy.


Friends and family members of Richard Stogner, who died at age 76 in August, will gather at Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta at 5 p.m. Sunday to remember the legacy of one of the more important figures in local. Stogner who served in the upper echelons of DeKalb and Fulton county governments as well as under four Atlanta mayors, was one of a small cadre of bureaucrats who held metro Atlanta history as it transitioned from white to African-American rule.