Still Waiting in Attawapiskat: Will Canada Fail the Next Generation of First Nations Students?

The Cree community of Attawapiskat on James Bay has been fighting for a new elementary school for more than a decade after their first school became a toxic hazard. Will Canada fail the next generation?

License: Standard YouTube License

Shame on Canada!

Killarney: A Discarded People from Kent Locke on Vimeo.


More Elderly Find They Can't Afford Not to Work - WSJ.com

More Elderly Find They Can't Afford Not to Work - WSJ.com:

Rose Marie Meece planned to retire from her job as a tour leader in Honolulu three years ago. The 78-year-old woman decided to stay after losing about half of the $300,000 in her retirement account during the downturn.

"I did some high-risk things," she said of her investments. She has since moved her remaining savings into bonds and other safe but low-yield investments. Social Security and her late husband's Navy pension barely cover her monthly rent of about $1,300, so she keeps working.

Ms. Meece is one of a growing nuumber of elderly people working or seeking work..."

'via Blog this'

Blogger Comment

Mumia Abu-Jamal

He has such a powerful group of people working for his release, why no luck?

Remember hurricane Carter had many people working for his release and the process exhausted them all.  He was still wrongly incarcerated when along came a group of dedicated Canadians and they got him released from an American Prison!!!



New Poem for Mumia by Alice Walker, Courtesy of Prison Radio

Occupying Mumia’s Cell ©2011 by Alice Walker

I Sing of Mumia
brilliant and strong
and of the captivity
few black men escape
if they are as free
as he has become.

What a teacher he is for all of us.

Nearly thirty years in solitary
and still,

He will die himself.
A black man;
whom many consider to be
a Muslim, though this is not
how he narrows down
the criss-crossing paths of
his soul’s journey.
Perhaps it is simpler
to call him
a lover of truth
who refuses
to be silenced.
Is anything more persecuted
in this land?

No boots will be allowed
of course
so he will not
die with them on;
but there will always be
of the mind and spirit
and of the heart and soul.

His will be black and shining
(or maybe the color of rainbows)
and they will sprout wings.

they have decided
not to kill you
hoping no blood will
stain their hands
at the tribunal
of the people;
but to let you continue
to die slowly
creating and singing
your own songs
as you pace
alone, sometimes terrorized,
for decades of long nights
in your small cage
of a cell.

We lament our impotence: that we have failed
to get you out of there.

Your regal mane may have thinned
as our locks too, those flags of our self sovereignty, may even have
waiting out this unjust sentence,
until we, like you, have become old.
if you will: accept our gratitude
that you stand, even bootless,
on your feet. We see
that few of those around us,
well shod and walking, even owning, the streets
are freed.

Somehow you have been.

Enough to remind us
of freedom’s devout
internal and
ineradicable seed.

What a magnificent Lion
you have been all these
disastrous years
and still are,

'via Blog this'

to be edited Human Rights Coalition and Others

Published: Saturday 21 January 2012
An interview with Bret Grote of Human Rights Coalition.

On De­cem­ber 7, fol­low­ing the US Supreme Court’s re­fusal to con­sider the Philadel­phia Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s final av­enue of ap­peal, cur­rent DA Seth Williams an­nounced that he would no longer be seek­ing a death sen­tence for the world-renowned death row jour­nal­ist Mumia Abu-Ja­mal--on death row fol­low­ing his con­vic­tion at a 1982 trial deemed un­fair by Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, the Eu­ro­pean Par­lia­ment, the Japan­ese Diet, Nel­son Man­dela, and many oth­ers. Abu-Ja­mal’s sen­tence of ex­e­cu­tion was first “over­turned” by a fed­eral court in De­cem­ber, 2001, and dur­ing the next ten years, he was never trans­ferred from death row at the level five su­per­max prison, SCI Greene, in rural west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia.

Shortly after the DA’s an­nounce­ment in early De­cem­ber, Mumia Abu-Ja­mal, now 57 years old, was trans­ferred to SCI Ma­hanoy in Frackville, PA, 100 miles from Philadel­phia. Once there, it was ex­pected that he would be re­leased from soli­tary con­fine­ment and trans­ferred into gen­eral pop­u­la­tion where he would fi­nally have con­tact vis­its and gen­er­ally less oner­ous con­di­tions. How­ever, he was im­me­di­ately placed in “Ad­min­is­tra­tive Cus­tody,” in SCI Ma­hanoy’s “Re­stric­tive Hous­ing Unit” where his con­di­tions of iso­la­tion and re­pres­sion are now in many ways more ex­treme than they were on death row.

Presently at SCI Ma­hanoy, Mumia Abu-Ja­mal is shack­led around his an­kles and wrists when­ever he is out­side his cell, even to the shower and dur­ing al­ready re­stricted vis­its--where he is al­ready be­hind Plex­i­glas; Be­fore going to the yard he is sub­ject to strip searches be­fore and after the visit; He is only al­lowed bits of paper to write notes on, with a rub­ber flex pen, and four books (no shelves); No ac­cess to news re­ports; Let­ters de­layed; Glar­ing lights on 24 hours a day; Only one brief phone call to his wife and one to an at­tor­ney; No ac­cess to ad­e­quate food or com­mis­sary, and more.

In the first week of Jan­u­ary, at Abu-Ja­mal’s re­quest, sup­port­ers began a cam­paign di­rected at the PA Sec­re­tary of Cor­rec­tions, SCI Ma­hanoy, and DA Seth Williams, de­mand­ing that Abu-Ja­mal be im­me­di­ately trans­ferred to the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. The Na­tional Lawyers Guild (for whom Abu-Ja­mal serves as the Vice Pres­i­dent) has re­leased a state­ment and cre­ated an on­line pe­ti­tion de­mand­ing his trans­fer to gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

Fur­ther­more, Abu-Ja­mal has asked for sup­port­ers to not just call for his re­lease from the hole, but to chal­lenge the very prac­tice of soli­tary con­fine­ment and what are called in Penn­syl­va­nia “Re­stricted Hous­ing Units.” Sup­port­ing Abu-Ja­mal’s call to ac­tion, the Penn­syl­va­nia-based prison-ac­tivist or­ga­ni­za­tion called Human Rights Coali­tion ex­plains that "Mumia may be in soli­tary, but he is not alone. The PA De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tions holds ap­prox­i­mately 2,500 peo­ple in soli­tary con­fine­ment on any given day, many of them for years at a time."

Ten Extra Years Spent On Death Row

In 2001, US Dis­trict Court Judge William Yohn first “over­turned” Mumia Abu-Ja­mal’s death sen­tence, rul­ing that for a death sen­tence to be re­in­stated, the Philadel­phia Dis­trict At­tor­ney must first hold a sen­tenc­ing-phase jury trial, where the jury could only de­cide be­tween ex­e­cu­tion or life with­out pa­role. The DA im­me­di­ately ap­pealed this rul­ing, in an ef­fort to ex­e­cute Abu-Ja­mal with­out bring­ing him to court be­fore a jury in Philadel­phia.

Fol­low­ing Yohn’s 2001 rul­ing, Abu-Ja­mal could have been trans­ferred from soli­tary con­fine­ment on death row at SCI Greene, and into gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. If trans­ferred, he would have had more free­dom, in­clud­ing con­tact vis­its with fam­ily and friends.  How­ever, Judge Yohn granted the mo­tion by the DA to keep Abu-Ja­mal in puni­tive con­di­tions on death row while the DA ap­pealed Yohn’s rul­ing. As a re­sult, Abu-Ja­mal stayed on death row dur­ing an ap­peals process that lasted al­most ten years, a process that has now up­held the sen­tence’s re­moval.

In March 2008, the US Third Cir­cuit Court af­firmed Yohn’s 2001 rul­ing, but in Jan­u­ary 2010, the US Supreme Court va­cated the 2008 rul­ing and re­manded it back to the Third Cir­cuit. In April 2011, the Third Cir­cuit af­firmed the 2001 rul­ing for the sec­ond time. Fi­nally, in Oc­to­ber 2011, the DA’s final at­tempt to chal­lenge the de­ci­sion was re­jected by the US Supreme Court, and in De­cem­ber the DA of­fi­cially ac­cepted the life sen­tence.

Fight­ing for Mumia’s Re­lease

While Abu-Ja­mal and his in­ter­na­tional net­work of sup­port­ers cel­e­brated the final over­turn­ing of the death sen­tence, it was a bit­ter­sweet vic­tory for a move­ment that has long fought for his re­lease. In 2008 when the Third Cir­cuit first af­firmed Yohn’s 2001 rul­ing, the Court also ruled against a new guilt-phase trial, ef­fec­tively ended that av­enue of ap­peal for Abu-Ja­mal to be re­leased from prison.

At this point, a new trial will likely re­quire the bring­ing forth of new ev­i­dence.  The in­ves­ti­ga­tion of po­lice and pros­e­cu­to­r­ial mis­con­duct, in­clud­ingthe sup­pres­sion of cru­cial ev­i­dence and the in­tim­i­da­tion of wit­nesses could also lead to a new trial. These are the av­enues that will be pur­sued to ob­tain Mumia’s free­dom. Among the new ev­i­dence that has come out in re­cent years, Philadel­phia jour­nal­ists Linn Wash­ing­ton Jr. and Dave Lin­dorff have re­cently per­formed a bal­lis­tics test, (watch video) fun­da­men­tally chal­leng­ing the DA’s shoot­ing sce­nario/the­ory used to con­vict Abu-Ja­mal.

In Philadel­phia on De­cem­ber 9, the 30th an­niver­sary of Abu-Ja­mal’s ar­rest, sup­port­ers or­ga­nized a large event at the Na­tional Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter that was at­tended by over 1,000 peo­ple. De­clar­ing that a sen­tence of life with­out pa­role is un­ac­cept­able, speak­ers rang­ing from au­thor/ac­tivist Cor­nel West to Ra­mona Africa of MOVE & the In­ter­na­tional Con­cerned Fam­ily and Friends of Mumia Abu-Ja­mal, pledged to con­tinue fight­ing for Abu-Ja­mal’s free­dom. Pre­re­corded video mes­sages to the De­cem­ber 9 event were de­liv­ered by au­thor/ac­tivist Michelle Alexan­der and the in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned human rights ac­tivist Desmond Tutu, who days be­fore has al­ready re­leased a state­ment de­clar­ing:

"Now that it is clear that Mumia should never have been on death row in the first place, jus­tice will not be served by rel­e­gat­ing him to prison for the rest of his life—yet an­other form of death sen­tence. Based on even a min­i­mal fol­low­ing of in­ter­na­tional human rights stan­dards, Mumia must now be re­leased. I there­fore join the call, and ask oth­ers to fol­low, ask­ing Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Williams to rise to the chal­lenge of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, human rights, and jus­tice: drop this case now, and allow Mumia Abu-Ja­mal to be im­me­di­ately re­leased, with full time served."

In­ter­view with Bret Grote

In this in­ter­view we speak with Bret Grote from Human Rights Coali­tion (HRC), who’s web­site de­scribes it­self as "a group of pre­dom­i­nately pris­on­ers' fam­i­lies, ex-pris­on­ers and some sup­port­ers," whose "ul­ti­mate goal is to abol­ish pris­ons." HRC seeks "to em­power pris­on­ers' fam­i­lies to be lead­ers in prison or­ga­niz­ing, while at the same time re­duce the shame of hav­ing a loved one in prison or being for­merly in­car­cer­ated," and "to make vis­i­ble to the pub­lic the in­jus­tice and abuse that are com­mon prac­tice through­out our ju­di­cial and prison sys­tems across the coun­try, and even­tu­ally end those abuses." Learn more at www.​hrcoalition.​org.

Prison Radio:         Sup­port­ers of Mumia Abu-Ja­mal argue that his cur­rent time in the hole is a form of re­tal­i­a­tion for his being a long­time po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist.  In his re­cent ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled, "Sadism in the Cell: Thanks to a Vin­dic­tive Prison Sys­tem, Abu-Ja­mal is Still in 'The Hole,'" Linn Wash­ing­ton Jr. con­tex­tu­al­izes re­cent events by doc­u­ment­ing a long his­tory of re­pres­sion, ul­ti­mately ar­gu­ing that "while Abu-Ja­mal de­trac­tors in­dig­nantly dis­miss all claims of his being a po­lit­i­cal pris­oner, his post-ar­rest or­deals pro­vide a com­pelling case of a per­son specif­i­cally tar­geted by au­thor­i­ties for who he is po­lit­i­cally more than for the crime he is sup­pos­edly serv­ing time for." Why do you think it is that Mumia is cur­rently being held in “Ad­min­is­tra­tive Cus­tody?”

Na­tionofChange fights back with one sim­ple but pow­er­ful weapon: the truth. Can you do­nate $5 to help us?

Bret Grote:    In re­gard to Mumia, the in­fer­ence should al­ways be that the gov­ern­ment is tar­get­ing him be­cause of his pol­i­tics due to the more than forty years that fed­eral agents, Philadel­phia po­lice and pros­e­cu­tors, gov­er­nors of Penn­syl­va­nia, and prison of­fi­cials have been con­spir­ing to si­lence him. The cur­rent ra­tio­nales of­fered by prison of­fi­cials for his place­ment in soli­tary con­fine­ment do not with­stand scrutiny, which lends fur­ther sup­port to the in­fer­ence that he is con­tin­u­ing to be tar­geted.

First, they as­serted that they were wait­ing for the fil­ing of pa­per­work by the Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s of­fice of Philadel­phia so that his sen­tence would be for­mally changed from death to life with­out the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role. Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion avail­able on the DOC’s web­site, how­ever, all death-sen­tenced pris­on­ers are held on death row at State Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion (SCI) Greene or SCI Grater­ford. Abu-Ja­mal was re­moved from death row vir­tu­ally as soon as Philadel­phia DA Seth Williams an­nounced he would not seek to re-im­pose the death penalty. If the prison were in fact wait­ing for a for­mal re-sen­tenc­ing prior to place­ment in gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, Mumia would still be on death row.

Sec­ond, they have re­cently de­cided that his hair ex­ceeds the reg­u­la­tory length and that he needs this cut. It took them five weeks to no­tify him of this. Ob­vi­ously, the length of Mumia’s hair was not un­known to prison of­fi­cials. In fact, he was held on dis­ci­pli­nary sta­tus while on death row ear­lier dur­ing his con­fine­ment for eight years, al­though he was re­moved from that sta­tus-with­out cut­ting his hair-in the early-90s at some point.

The shift­ing ra­tio­nales in­di­cate that they are dig­ging their heels in and seem pre­pared to try to con­tinue sub­ject­ing Mumia to soli­tary con­fine­ment tor­ture, which has been his fate for thirty years.

It is im­por­tant to note that the United Na­tions Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on Tor­ture has re­cently de­clared that, in his opin­ion, pro­longed soli­tary con­fine­ment of more than fif­teen days vi­o­lates ar­ti­cle 1 (pro­hibit­ing tor­ture) or 16 (pro­hibit­ing other cruel, in­hu­man or de­grad­ing treat­ment) of the Con­ven­tion Against Tor­ture and Other Cruel, In­hu­man or De­grad­ing Treat­ment. He fur­ther stated that the Con­ven­tion is vi­o­lated when soli­tary con­fine­ment is im­posed as pun­ish­ment. These stan­dards ap­plied to U.S. pris­ons ren­ders the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of soli­tary con­fine­ment prac­tices crim­i­nal.

PR:     Can you please tell us more about how PA Pris­ons use soli­tary con­fine­ment and what are called “Re­stric­tive Hous­ing Units.” How is it used? Against whom? Are there other ex­am­ples of soli­tary con­fine­ment pun­ish­ment being used to re­tal­i­ate against po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists?

BG:     While the Penn­syl­va­nia De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tions (PA DOC) op­er­ates in a seem­ingly ar­bi­trary na­ture, there are some fac­tors that place pris­on­ers at high-risk for being kept in long-term soli­tary con­fine­ment: 1) po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism and jail­house lawyer­ing; 2) race; and 3) men­tal ill­ness.

To start with, those who file griev­ances about staff mis­con­duct and abuse, or file law­suits about civil and human rights vi­o­la­tions, are rou­tinely sub­jected to re­pres­sive treat­ment. Penn­syl­va­nia is far from alone in this prac­tice. Pro­fes­sor of Cor­rec­tions and Cor­rec­tional Law at Min­nesota State Uni­ver­sity, James Robert­son, has stated that “Re­tal­i­a­tion is deeply en­grained in the cor­rec­tional of­fice sub­cul­ture; it may well be in the nor­ma­tive re­sponse when an in­mate files a griev­ance, a statu­tory pre­con­di­tion for fil­ing a civil rights ac­tion.” He also refers to a sur­vey of Ohio pris­on­ers that found “that 70.1% of in­mates who brought griev­ances in­di­cated that they had suf­fered re­tal­i­a­tion there­after; more­over, 87% of all re­spon­dents and nearly 92% of the in­mates using the griev­ance process agreed with the state­ment, ‘I be­lieve staff will re­tal­i­ate or get back at me if I use the griev­ance process.’ [FN18] Among staff su­per­vi­sors, only 21% be­lieved that re­tal­i­a­tion never hap­pened, with one war­den char­ac­ter­iz­ing it as ‘com­mon­place’ when in­mates re­sort to the griev­ance process.” As Robert­son says, guards who re­tal­i­ate “can­not be re­garded as rogue ac­tors. They act within the norm.” (“One of the Dirty Se­crets of Amer­i­can Cor­rec­tions”: Re­tal­i­a­tion, Sur­plus Power, and Whistle­blow­ing In­mates, 42 U. Mich. J.L. Re­form 611 (2009)).

Rus­sell Ma­roon Shoats, a for­mer Black Pan­ther Party and Black Lib­er­a­tion Army mem­ber who has been in­car­cer­ated in PA pris­ons for al­most 40 years is a promi­nent ex­am­ple of a po­lit­i­cal pris­oner tar­geted for re­pres­sion via place­ment in long-term soli­tary. Ma­roon has been held in the hole for more than twenty years and has not had a mis­con­duct ci­ta­tion dur­ing that time. Al­though it is true that he es­caped in the late 70s and early 80s, prison of­fi­cials have told sup­port­ers and fam­ily that he is being kept in soli­tary be­cause he is an or­ga­nizer and a leader.

Andre Ja­cobs and Car­ring­ton Keys, two mem­bers of a group of pris­on­ers known as the Dal­las 6, have been held in soli­tary for ap­prox­i­mately 11 and 9 years re­spec­tively as a re­sult of their speak­ing out against tor­ture and other human rights vi­o­la­tions in­side PA’s con­trol units.

Da­mont Hagan is an­other who has been con­tin­u­ally tar­geted for his out­spo­ken­ness, in­clud­ing a re­cent in­ci­dent where he was as­saulted and placed in a cell with nooses at SCI Hunt­ing­don. He was re­cently held in the soli­tary units at SCI Cres­son, a prison that the Jus­tice De­part­menthas an­nounced an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into, in part due to the guard-en­cour­aged sui­cide of John Mc­Clel­lan in May 2011.

Caine Pelzer, Ra­vanna Spencer, Rhon­shawn Jack­son, Michael Ed­wards, Jerome Cof­fey, Andre Gay, Kerry Shak­a­boona Mar­shall, and count­less oth­ers have been thrown into soli­tary for the sole pur­pose of break­ing their spirit. Look them up on the PA DOC in­mate lo­ca­tor and send them a let­ter.

Re­gard­ing race, the dis­par­i­ties within the soli­tary con­fine­ment pop­u­la­tion may be the most ex­treme in the en­tire crim­i­nal legal sys­tem, which is say­ing a lot. We do not know the exact fig­ures be­cause the de­mo­graph­ics are not pub­lic, but re­ports of soli­tary units over­whelm­ingly com­prised of peo­ple of color in PA pris­ons are com­mon.

Over the last thirty-plus years there has been a na­tional trend of ware­hous­ing those with men­tal health needs in­side pris­ons. These peo­ple often end up in prison be­cause of their dif­fi­cul­ties in adapt­ing to life out­side the walls, often be­cause of ex­pe­ri­ences of child­hood trauma and sub­stance abuse, and their chal­lenges in nav­i­gat­ing so­cial life is even more dif­fi­cult in­side the walls. The stresses of prison can lead to them get­ting in trou­ble with prison au­thor­i­ties due to an in­abil­ity to fol­low the rules, which leads them to soli­tary, which leads to a wors­en­ing of their un­der­ly­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal state. This cycle of dys­func­tion is a nor­ma­tive fea­ture of prison sys­tems across the U.S.

This nexus of re­tal­i­a­tion, racism, and abuse of the men­tally ill is wide­spread in PA pris­ons, and there is no short­age of ex­am­ples to be found by re­view­ing the weekly PA Prison Re­ports on our web­site.

PR:     Be­sides soli­tary con­fine­ment, what other as­pects of PA pris­ons does HRC iden­tify as human rights vi­o­la­tions?

BG:     Some of the ob­vi­ous ex­am­ples in­clude phys­i­cal abuse, med­ical ne­glect, racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, and sex­ual vi­o­lence, all of which are chronic is­sues in pris­ons within Penn­syl­va­nia and be­yond. In re­gard to the lat­ter, a guard at SCI Pitts­burgh was re­cently in­dicted on about 100 counts re­lated to his rape and tor­ture of pris­on­ers at that fa­cil­ity. This is also being in­ves­ti­gated by the Jus­tice De­part­ment. This story has been sup­pressed in the na­tional media, a phe­nom­e­non com­mented on by Mumia (1,2), in what can only be un­der­stood as yet an­other ex­am­ple of the cor­po­rate media’s com­plic­ity in en­abling tor­ture in U.S. pris­ons.

Of course, race-based poli­cies of mass in­car­cer­a­tion vi­o­late the human right of equal­ity under the law and the right to be free from racial dis­crim­i­na­tion. Michelle Alexan­der refers to this as­pect of the U.S. prison na­tion as “the new Jim Crow.” Under in­ter­na­tional law it is known as apartheid, and it is pro­hib­ited under the In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion on the Sup­pres­sion and Pun­ish­ment of the Crime of Apartheid. The United States has never signed or rat­i­fied the con­ven­tion for rea­sons that should be ob­vi­ous enough.

Penn­syl­va­nia is the world leader in an­other egre­gious human rights abuse: send­ing chil­dren to prison for the rest of their lives. There are more than 400 peo­ple in PA pris­ons who were sen­tenced for crimes al­legedly com­mit­ted when they were younger than 18. In this state, life means life, an utterly despicable practice that makes a cruel mockery of any pretense that the society we inhabit is humane, enlightened, or fair.

Also of great importance in any discussion of the criminal legal system is the series of laws that enable “legal” discrimination against formerly incarcerated people, prohibiting them from obtaining access to food, housing, employment, stripping people of their right to vote in many states (though not PA) and setting them up for a life of poverty that guarantees high recidivism rates. This should be understood as a matter of deliberate policy, as it has been going on so long that it cannot plausibly be an unintended consequence of an otherwise sound system.

The system works to violate human rights in such a comprehensive manner, from the socio-economic conditions that give rise to property and drug crimes and related acts of violence to the damaging and anti-human conditions inside the walls, and then to be  released into a life of second-class status, enforced poverty, and political disenfranchisement, that it is hard to see how it is ‘legal’ in anything but pretense.

PR:     How is Human Rights Coalition working with PA prisoners and their families to improve conditions for PA prisoners?

In Pittsburgh and Philly we have weekly letter-writing to prisoners nights. Visit our website (Pittsburgh or Philly) to learn more and email us athrcfedup@gmail.com or info@hrcoalition.org. We are constantly receiving phone calls and emails from people looking to advocate for their loved ones. In 2011 we initiated a Political Action Committee in order to be better organized through the building of a membership base and engaging in consistent acts of advocacy, education events, and building other campaigns. The PAC is in real need of some committed organizers to help us build momentum.

One of the campaigns we’ve been increasingly involved with here in Pittsburgh is Decarcerate PA, which was started in Philadelphia. While the broader vision is to push for decarceration – shrinking the prison population, closing prisons, redirecting social resources to programs that care for people and communities – the immediate objective is to push back against planned prison expansion. The state of Pennsylvania is sinking some $685 million into building two new prisons and expanding a host of others. If more people are continually sent into these hellholes, then our efforts to improve conditions in any given situation will be futile.

PR:     What is HRC doing specifically to challenge the use of solitary confinement?

BG:     Aside from public education and advocacy, we are working to develop a legislative campaign with allied organizations such as theAmerican Friends Service Committee, the NationalReligious Campaign Against Torture, and the ACLU. While it is still in the planning stages, this campaign can be useful as a means for furthering political organizing objectives.

Ultimately, any efforts to push back against torture and get people out of prison is contingent upon the wholesale removal from power of both corporate-backed imperial parties, the redistribution and redefinition of political power, and the elimination of an economic system with its roots in the market, replaced by one that has its roots in the earth. Anything less spells certain doom for our specific efforts to abolish solitary confinement, mass incarceration, and prisons, as well as our very survival on this planet.

PR:     HRC is also now starting a campaign to have Russell Shoats transferred out of solitary confinement at SCI-Greene. How can our readers support this?

BG:     Russell Shoats, discussed above, is a co-founder of HRC who has spent 20 years in the hole as a consequence of his principles and resistance to the inhumanity and criminality of this system. He is a 68-year-old revolutionary who has taught and inspired countless other prisoners and activists inside and outside the walls.

Along with HRC, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild have submitted letters to the PA DOC requesting that Maroon be released into general population.

Supporters can visit a recently-created website and click the “Follow” link at the bottom right to receive email updates when new postings are available. There is a sample letter on the site, and soon more material will be added. A new interview was just posted where Maroon discusses his thoughts on the importance of democracy and self-determination to movement building, the power of the feminist movement and matriarchal politics, Occupy Wall Street, and the imperative of centering food security (and square-foot gardening) in our movements.

PR:     Anything else to add?

BG:     It is absolutely critical to the fate of movements for social justice in this country that the situation of prisoners and the function of prisons in the social order take a central role in our analysis and practice. Everybody can correspond with a prisoner, help out a local group, get on email lists, and research the reality of the prison nation. It is not the land of the free, never was, never was intended to be, and the sooner we disabuse those around us of that notion the better chance there is to win some badly-needed victories. There is no dream too big and no action too small, let’s keep at it till the walls crumble.

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Who is Mumia Abu-Jamal?
Mumia Abu-Jamal is an African-American writer and journalist, author of six books and hundreds of columns and articles, who has spent the last 29 years on Pennsylvania’s death row. His demand for a new trial and freedom is supported by heads of state from France to South Africa, by Nobel Laureates Nelson Mandela, Toni Morrison, Desmund Tutu, by the European Parliament, by distinguished human rights organizations like Amnesty International, city governments from Detroit to San Francisco to Paris, scholars, religious leaders, artists, scientists, the Congressional Black Caucus and other members of U.S. Congress, the NAACP, labor unions, and by countless thousands who cherish democratic and human rights – and justice -the world over
Why is Mumia on Pennsylvania’s Death Row?
In 1982, during a time still under the influence of the corrupt and violent police regime of Mayor Frank Rizzo, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office headed by Ed Rendell (now, Governor of Pennsylvania) secured a conviction and death sentence in a jury trial, which lasted only three weeks, claiming that Mumia had murdered Philadelphia police officer, Daniel Faulkner, on December 9, 1981.
What was the District Attorney’s Argument?
Philadelphia prosecutors argued, and still claim, that Mumia, while working as taxi-driver in downtown Philadelphia and who also carried a gun in his taxi due to past robberies he had suffered as cab driver, came across his brother who had been stopped by Officer Faulkner. Prosecutors argue that Mumia ran across a parking lot into the street where Faulkner was, pulled his gun and shot Faulkner in the back, and that, even though Mumia too had been wounded by a shot from Faulkner, he then stood over Faulkner, straddling his body, and shot him several times point blank in the face, as Faulkner lay on the sidewalk.
What do Mumia’s Supporters Say About the Crime?
There is no dispute that Mumia was wounded as he approached the crime scene where his brother also was. After Mumia was shot the details are unclear. It is clear that after police apprehended Mumia and while in transit to the hospital, he was beaten severely by the police. Many of those who believe Mumia is innocent claim that it is most likely that the shooter was a fourth person at the crime scene (beyond Mumia, his brother, and Faulkner), who was riding with the brother in his car and about whom jurors heard nothing at trial. Patrick O’Conner’s book, The Framing of Mumia offers the most reasoned account for that claim. Other supporters have no opinion about Mumia’s innocence, but nevertheless unite in viewing Mumia’s 1982 trial as a travesty of justice, and affirm, withAmnesty International’s 2000 case study, “that justice would best be served by a new trial.”
What do Mumia’s Critics Say About Him and the Crime?
Mumia’s critics who routinely tag him as “cop killer,” and who are led by the Fraternal Order of Police and a web site with a Board of Directors that includes Faulkner family members, former Philly Police Chief, John Timoney, and Mumia’s original prosecutor Joe McGill, have charged the following: (a) that the prosecutors’ argument mentioned above is an open and shut case which subsequent appeals’ rulings have simply confirmed, (b) that supporters of Mumia – whether Amnesty International or others in Philadelphia, the nation or abroad – are simply uninformed about the case against Mumia, (c) that Mumia as a former Black Panther and revolutionary journalist was just waiting for a chance to kill a cop, (d) that Mumia’s writings and notoriety are a mode of torture for the slain officer’s widow, Maureen Faulkner, who is being denied “closure,” (e) that all the arguments made by Mumia’s attorneys and supporters are based on “myths.”
What have Mumia’s Attorneys Argued?
By 1999, Mumia’s attorneys had filed appeals at all levels of state and federal courts, arguing 29 claims showing violations of Mumia’s constitutional right to a fair trial. Many of those were discussed and confirmed also in the Amnesty International 2000 study of Mumia’s case, A Life in the Balance: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The most prominent of these claims focused on the original trial judge’s racial bias, the failure of police to do minimal forensic tests, racial bias in jury selection, providing Mumia with only ineffective and under-resourced defense counsel, rushing trial proceedings, denying Mumia the right to self-defense, giving inadequate instructions to the jury about mitigating circumstances, and the prosecutors making of venomous closing arguments to the jury.
Since 1999, Mumia’s attorneys have been allowed by the federal courts to focus largely on only four areas:
(a) in relation to sentencing, whether the jury verdict form along with the judge’s instruction to the jury mislead the jury in violation of Supreme Court case law;
(b) in relation to conviction and sentencing, whether racial bias in juror selection existed to such an extent that it tended to produce an inherently biased jury and therefore an unfair trail;
(c) in relation to conviction, whether the prosecutor improperly attmpted to reduce jurors’ sense of responsibility by telling them that a guilty verdict would be subsequently vetted and subject to repeated appeals, but that a not guilty verdict could not be reviewed; and
(d) in relation to the post-conviction review hearings in 1995-1996, whether the presiding Judge Sabo, who had also presided at the trial, demonstrated unacceptable bias in his conduct.
Also in the years following 1999, Mumia’s attorneys have tried to get judicial review of (a) an affidavit by a court stenographer that Judge Sabo said in a court anteroom about his role in the case, “yeah, and I’m going to help them fry the nigger” (b) witnesses who now recant their testimony given at trial who say they were pressured by police into denying the presence of a fourth fleeing person at the scene and into naming Mumia the shooter, (c) a confession by another man who claimed to have been the actual shooter, and (d) the failure of both defense attorneys and prosecutors to present for review to any jury or judge the first photos taken at the crime scene (the Polakoff photos). Only police photos taken slightly later, and with significant differences from the Polakoff photos, were used at trial.
Where Does the Legal Case Stand Now?
Mumia’s requests for a new trial have been denied by each reviewing court.  Only claim (a) of the four post-1999 claims has been a fruitful ground for relief for Mumia, so that a district federal judge, William Yohn, set aside Mumia’s death sentence in 2000. Yohn’s decision was appealed by prosecutors to the federal appeals circuit court which affirmed it. Unfortunately, the US Supreme Court vacated that grant of relief and has asked the federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling in light of the highest court’s recent ruling on another case, Smith v. Spisak.  During all of these appeals, Mumia has never left death row.
Last year a petition was filed in Philadephia’s Court of Common Pleas asking for a new trial based upon a newly released report from the National Academies of Science that found flaws in many forms of forensic evidence.  That petition was denied and an appeal of that denial is currently pending in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, amid all these ongoing processes, Mumia remains on death row, with prosecutors and politicians in Pennsylvania ready to dispatch him to death as soon as a way is made clear. Even if execution is avoided, Mumia faces the sinister prospect of life in prison for a crime he did not commit.
What Grounds Do Supporters Cite When Claiming Mumia’s Innocence?
Supporters draw from, and usually combine, four kinds of argument:
(1) Procedurally and legally, no one should be denied innocence until a constitutional and fair trail has been provided. With the long list of distinguished jurists and human rights analyses that decry the many violations at trial, Mumia’s guilt remains unestablished.
(2) Those who know Mumia, his personal history, character, beliefs, principles,career development and convictions, argue that it is inconceivable that Mumia could be guilty of the cold-blooded murder of Officer Faulkner.
(3) The fourth person at the crime scene, Kenneth Freeman, who was riding in the car with Mumia’s brother and who fled the crime scene (a fact never heard or considered by the jury) was also known by his acquaintences to be harboring rancor, grievances and a temper under conditions of widespread and frequent police violence suffered by him and other citizens in 1970s and 1980s Philadelphia. Freeman as shooter has not been even considered by the courts, but that he was the shooter is more plausible than believing Mumia to be. (In 1985, Freeman was found dead in a Northeast Philly lot, reportedly hand-cuffed, naked and gagged, with a drug needle jabbed in his arm, the morning after Philadelphia police dropped a military explosive on MOVE headquarters, letting a fire burn out of control destroying over 50 blocks of West Philly.)
(4) During and after the time of Mumia’s arrest, trial and conviction, police were often convicted of corrupt procedures and of fabricating the guilt of defendants – all of which also makes plausible that Mumia, too, was “framed,” especially since he had so long been routinely singled out by police and authorities for his reporting on police violence in Philadelphia. It is known, for example, that in 1981, police and prosecutors framed four men: the first two of the four were acquitted in trials, one in 1982, and the second after spending 1,375 days on death row; the other two men spent nearly 20 years in prison for murder before released on DNA evidence and confessions by the real killers.
Why Have Mumia’s Appeals Failed to Bring Him Relief?
Three factors are often pointed to:
(1) New laws of judicial review, passed during both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies, protect state decision-making on death penalty cases from thorough scrutiny by higher courts at the Federal level.
(2) The Philadelphia and Pennsylvania criminal justice systems – from police officers on the street, to District Attorney Seth Williams, Mayor Michael Nutter, and Governor Ed Rendell (the Philadelphia D.A. during Mumia’s 1982 trial), to elected justices on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court who are supported by the Fraternal Order of Police – all of these, maintain an intense and unquestioned advocacy and application of the death penalty and routinely convey their beliefs to decision-makers in power.
(3) An exceptional politics of judicial review seems at work in Mumia’s case when courts repeatedly rule against Mumia, especially when those same courts have found in favor of identical appeals by other death row inmates. This has been analyzed in detail as “The Mumia Exception” by award-winning journalist, Linn Washington, Jr. of the Philadelphia Tribune, also Professor of Journalism, Temple University. (Washington’s essential article is available at the EMAJ web site.)
Why is Mumia’s Case and Struggle So Important? (After all, there are so many others on US death rows – over 3200 – and thousands more have suffered similar violations of due process.)
(1) Mumia’s Humanity. Mumia is a human being, with a family and a network of friends and family who value his life. His case and struggle is important, first of all, because of the threat to the life and dignity he bears simply as a human being. He is a husband, father and grandfather who, despite his isolation from his own family has maintained an extraordinary sense of humane care and advocacy for them and many others.
(2) Mumia’s Writings are Remarkably Inclusive. With hundreds of columns, prison radio commentaries, six books, and essays in venues as distinct from one another as the homeless Street News to Forbes Magazine, to the Yale Law Review, Mumia has foregrounded the struggle of many peoples. These have included advocacy, at times, even for prison guards and police officers, but especially for persons who routinely are rendered voiceless – whether they are African-American, Latino/a, Asian-American, Native American, Arab-American, white American, or the often detained from immigrant populations today.
(3) Mumia’s Notoriety. Mumia’s skillful journalistic writings regularly reach both national and worldwide audiences – in Europe and throughout many sites of the global South – and this notoriety has made him a human face and story of US death row and its prisons. In the context of the namelessness and dehumanization suffered by most death row inmates and prisoners and prisoners, the notoriety of his story and struggle is an important way of keeping national and international pressure on US incarceration and execution practices.
(4) Mumia’s Case as “Primer.”  Mumia’s case is frequently cited as offering  a “primer” on the many problems that attend US criminal justice systems in the US: runaway prison construction and mass incarceration, police use of excessive force, prosecutorial and judicial misconduct, inadequate defense counsel for poor defendants, excessively long sentences race, class and gender imapcts on imprisonment and execution in the US.
(5) Mumia’s Case Links Issues: For many, Mumia’s political analyses “connect the dots,” stimulating valuable reflection on connections between US mass incarceration, the US military industrial complex, and its wars abroad (overt and covert), US economic policies, the so-called “drug war” and “war on terror” – all of whch bring to the fore issues of empire and of the coloniality of power at work in US policies. Recently, he has addressed the tragedy in Haiti, the struggle for health care in the U.S., and the war in Afghanistan – all with unusual clarity, acumen and artistic skill.
(6) Mumia in Pennsylvania. As confined among the 225 men and women on death row in Pennsylvania (nicknamed “the Texas of the North” for having the largest number on death row among northerly US states), organizing around Mumia’s case is a way to challenge a criminal justice and judicial system in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia that has routinely been found corrupted by racialized and adversarial politics. The struggle for Mumia, thus, takes the struggle for political justice in the US to one of the most hotly contested sites in the nation.
How Can I Stay Informed and Involved?
The best way is to consult frequently the key web sites on Mumia’s case. Bookmark them now! EMAJ maintains a web site of its own at http://www.emajonline.com. But other web sites are also essential for keeping you informed about the broader national and international movement. The EMAJ site and others, particularly of the Free Mumia Coalition in New York City, should be consulted (http://www.freemumia.com/. Nearly all the other sites are given under “LINKS” at the EMAJ site. Follow us at Facebook, search “Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal.” Follow us on Twitter @emajonline.com.

Web Sites on Mumia

(in German, but has some valuable documents in English)