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For nearly three decades, Anthony Ray Hinton lived on Alabama's death row. 

When he was convicted in 1985 for allegedly murdering two restaurant managers, there were no witnesses. There were no fingerprints. And Hinton always maintained his innocence. 

In April 2015, the state of Alabama overturned his conviction and dropped all charges against him. He had spent nearly half his life in prison. 

We spoke with Hinton about his wrongful incarceration, what kept him fighting for justice and life since his exoneration. 

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New info from the Department of Corrections finds Georgia’s incarceration rate of black men dropped by 30 percent in the last eight years. But a huge imbalance still exists in our state prisons. African American men still make up nearly two thirds of Georgia’s prison population. We talk about this trend with Bill Rankin, Reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Georgia’s 9th Congressional District is one of the strongest Republican bases in the country. The Cook Political Report ranked it the most conservative district in the state in 2010, and the third most conservative nationwide.

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Computer Science students at Morehouse College are working on a project to help save young minority men from incarceration.

They have created a tool that uses visualization technology to help organizations analyze data from more than 200 youth facilities nationwide. The goal is to help these detention centers determine the most effective reform methods so resources can be allocated more efficiently.

 

With President-elect Donald Trump's tough talk on immigration, private prisons may be an early winner under his administration.

In the week after Election Day, stocks of GEO and CoreCivic, the two biggest for-profit detention companies, shot up more than 20 and 40 percent, respectively.

Last spring at a town hall meeting on MSNBC, Trump said this about the confinement industry: "By the way, with prisons I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons. It seems to work a lot better."

A lawsuit on behalf of Alabama's prisoners, claiming they're being denied mental health care, begins in federal court Monday. The class-action suit states that Alabama doesn't provide adequate mental health treatment for those behind bars.

Lawyers for the prisoners argue that the state provides little other than medication, and sometimes inmates are forced to take it against their will. The plaintiffs allege prison conditions are dangerous and discriminatory, which amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

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Atlanta activist Cecily McMillan is only 27 years old, but she's experienced things that most of us won’t ever face. In 2014, McMillan was convicted for assaulting a police officer during an Occupy Wall Street protest, and she served three months behind bars at Rikers Island in New York. She made numerous accusations while incarcerated about abuse and prisoner neglect.

We speak with her about her new memoir, "The Emancipation of Cecily McMillan," which chronicles her time at Rikers Island.

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U.S. Justice Department officials plan to phase out their use of private prisons to house federal inmates, reasoning that the contract facilities offer few benefits for public safety or taxpayers.

In making the decision, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates cited new findings by the Justice Department's inspector general, who concluded earlier this month that a pool of 14 privately contracted prisons reported more incidents of inmate contraband, higher rates of assaults and more uses of force than facilities run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

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Grant Blankenship / GPB

Throughout his tenure, Governor Nathan Deal has pushed for criminal justice reform, including education and occupational training behind bars. That has more felons going from cell block to firehouse.

In the middle of Chester, a rural town about an hour from Macon sits the Dodge State Prison. Ride through the open gate and you see the typical looking prison surrounded by barbed wire.

But to the left is a firehouse complete with two bays where shiny red trucks sit pointed towards the road.

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 PBS talk show host and author Tavis Smiley spent Thursday in Atlanta as part of his “One Great Idea” tour in which he highlights public policy successes around the country. 

Georgia’s one great idea, according to Smiley, is the sweeping overhaul of its criminal justice system.

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Anthony Ponder has been cutting hair for most of his life. He has also spent a lot of time in prison. Ponder lost his equipment the last time he was incarcerated. A pair of Macon churches have set him up with gear again. In return he is cutting hair on Sunday mornings for other men who like him are getting back on their feet.

"I was told that my father was a barber. My father got killed when I was seven years old but I often heard that he was a barber. Maybe that stuck in my head that I wanted to be like my father.”