Activists host forum on race, crime and punishment in Columbus

Activists host forum on race, crime and punishment in Columbus

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Local activists held a forum Tuesday night to continue the conversation on discrimination in prisons and the judicial system.

The Southern Anti-Racist Network met to further dialogue and hear stories from Columbus residents who've faced adversity after going through the legal system.

Paul Tyner has spent the last four months trying to find his footing as a civilian in Columbus after decades behind bars.

When members of the Southern Anti-Racist Network heard his story, they wanted the public to hear why he says he was wrongfully imprisoned in the first place.

At 24 years old, Paul Tyner was convicted of sexual assault charges and sentenced to prison in 1981.

It took him until 2015, when a Georgia court of appeals overturned his wrongful conviction – one he said was enforced by a corrupt judge, prosecutor and defense team.

"I find out that the judge and prosecutor had written a letter to the parole board telling them to never let me out," Tyner said.

Tyner talked about his struggles at the forum on race, crime and punishment inside the Mildred Terry Library in Columbus.

He said he still remembers the time he was forced to serve at a state maximum security prison.

"It took me 14 years and 10 months to get transferred [to another prison]," Tyner said. "There was nothing easy about the situation."

He said he also remembers the moment he found out the appeals court threw his case out.

"I was overjoyed, I felt jubilant because that long overdue justice had came," Tyner said.

The Southern Anti-Racist Network now wants to tell Tyner's story and struggle as he says he now faces discrimination to find a stable job and shelter.

"[Companies] are using my conviction, which was thrown out by the court of appeals, to deny me the things that I really need," Tyner said.

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