There are 2.3 million people in U.S. prisons and jails, and 67% of those are people of color. Many are there as a result of widespread prosecutorial misconduct. Episode 26 is the first of a two-part webinar examining this issue. Joining us is Curtis Flowers, a Black man from Mississippi who spent 23 years fighting for his freedom because of a racist prosecution. His disturbing story was covered in depth in season 2 of the popular podcast, “In the Dark.”
Joining him will be Alan Bean, Executive Director of Friends of Justice, which advocated to free Flowers for more than 12 years.
Finally, Jeffrey Deskovic, another exoneree, attorney, and founder of the Deskovic Foundation will speak about efforts to end prosecutorial misconduct and how to get involved.
Though a short month, much indeed went down in February. We mourn the passing of activist and musician Anne Feeney as well as former Chicago 7 defendant Rennie Davis, both of whom fought tirelessly to create a better world. In early February, detainees at the St. Louis “Justice Center” took control of the facility for several hours, while reports emerged of officers at a jail in Oregon pepper-spraying prisoners who were being isolated for possible COVID-19 exposure. It was revealed in early February that political prisoner Bill Dunne had contracted COVID-19, and in the last days of February it was publicized that Mumia Abu-Jamal has also contracted the virus. Meanwhile, the crisis in Texas prisons and jails—and in Connecticut—continues to deteriorate, with important and tragic details here and here.
Greetings everyone: Mail going into and out of the prison seems to be subject to long delays. After a month in transit, we received a health and legal update from Dr. Shakur that you can read on his website. As always, he cannot personally respond to every letter, but he is receiving mail. Everyone in his prison was also just given a memo about new mail restrictions, initiated by the Trump administration, that are to go into effect in all federal prisons. The essential difference is that all mail will be sent to an outside ‘Smart Communications’ facility where it is scanned and it will have to read on kiosks in the prison. We hope that this change is reversed by the current administration before it is initiated, but if it is not Dr. Shakur might soon not be able to receive photos and greeting cards.
The legal and health update in sum is that he was notified last month that he was denied parole after the hearing in October. Our legal team immediately appealed the decision on multiple grounds, and is actively exploring other avenues to argue for Dr. Shakur’s release. He seems to have mostly recovered from both the stem cell transplant for the stage 4 bone cancer as well as from COVID that he contracted shortly thereafter. He is a strong man! Unfortunately, we know that this cancer is incurable and COVID can recur, so we are continuing the struggle to free him from prison just as hard if not moreso. We appreciate that people are moved by the film ‘Dope is Death’ and want to know how to lend support! We thank everyone who has been donating online as it helps us make sure that all of Mutulu’s needs, legal and otherwise, are met. Another way to support him right now is to share this graphic on social media with your thoughts on the film, how learning about his case affected you, etc. If you are unable to download the image from this email you can do so on the website:
Lastly, we want to share the news with our extended family that Sid Wilson, close friend of Mutulu and former director of FFMS, has joined the ancestors. He passed in peace in Ghana, as he wanted to transition. Contributions to aid his journey may be sent by PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org or CashApp to $wonderfulbless.
Stay in the struggle, Family & Friends of Mutulu Shakur
URGENT! Please call these 4 phone numbers now, and tell them: The prison must immediately test Mumia Abu-Jamal, and provide him with treatment, monitoring of his oxygen levels, and hospitalization if his oxygen falls below safe levels.
Yesterday Mumia Abu-Jamal called from his cell block at SCI Mahanoy, reaching Pam Africa , and letting all of us know that he is seriously ill. He has had difficulty breathing and chest pain, symptoms of COVID. We will continue to closely monitor his health, and provide updates.
At a demonstration this afternoon, his grandson spoke: “We have to each one teach one, and we when we teach one we teach more. They are trying to bury my grandfather… freedom is the only solution in Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case’. They have have built careers off of trying to convict and kill Mumia Abu-Jamal. I need Larry Krasner to do what he was elected to do, give Mumia a fair trial, and let the evidence be heard in court. We have to shout from the roof tops.”
As a survivor of chronic hepatitis C, and medical neglect, Mumia Abu-Jamal is an elder and at a heightened risk for serious complications.
The prison must immediately test Mumia Abu-Jamal, and it must provide him with treatment, monitoring of his oxygen levels, and hospitalization if his oxygen falls below safe levels.
Every action matters. It is time for our political prisoners and elders to return home to their families.
“Paper mail is precious,” Black and Pink Massachusetts Communications and Outreach Coordinator Elijah Patterson testified on February 4 against rules proposed by the Massachusetts Department of Correction (MADOC). The rules would, if approved, formally substitute physical mail for an electronic, scanned copy or photocopy through a third-party vendor.
“It means so much to me to touch the same paper as people suffering in prisons, and when I trace my hand and they place theirs over it, it means a lot for them, too. In that moment, we are together,” Patterson said during the Zoom hearing.
Prison mail serves as a primary lifeline between the two worlds separated by barbed-wired walls and guard towers. Handwritten letters, oftentimes made special by imperfections or a doodle, are cherished and highly anticipated by many incarcerated people, particularly in the era of pandemic-inspired visitation bans.
Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 1982 conviction is a travesty of justice, obtained through a combination of police, prosecutorial, and judicial misconduct, as documented by Amnesty International. Abu-Jamal has suffered from extreme injustice at all levels of the criminal justice system. These numerous improprieties have tainted Abu-Jamal’s conviction beyond repair.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is currently represented by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. We the petitioners are not his lawyers and do not speak for them. Instead, we are the grassroots movement of people united by the fact that we care about the fate of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
We are outraged by the many different ways that racism and institutionalized white supremacy have irreparably harmed Mumia Abu-Jamal’s civil and human rights, and his rights to the fair adjudication of his case. The District Attorney’s continued defense of the 1982 conviction & subsequent appeals process only affirms the longstanding racial injustice that has marred this case.”
A pilot program initiated under Trump converts mail to electronic scans. Biden hasn’t reversed it, and critics call it abusive and harmful to inmates and families.
In his first-week blitz of executive actions, Joe Biden directed the Justice Department to not renew federal contracts with the private prison industry. “[W]e must reduce profit-based incentives to incarcerate by phasing out the Federal Government’s reliance on privately operated criminal detention facilities,” the order stated.
But the profit motive will still exist in the federal prison system, even after private prison operations contracts are exhausted. Food, medicine, telecommunications, banking, and practically every other service for incarcerated people are almost entirely privatized, through a network of subcontractors. Critics charge that these contractors prioritize their own balance sheets over the well-being of prisoners and their families, and that the services they provide are often exploitative, of low quality, and infringe on inmates’ civil rights.
One such contractor is poised to gain control of the means by which people communicate with those in the federal prison system. A company called Smart Communications has an exclusive pilot program with the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) called MailGuard, which eliminates nonlegal physical mail in federal prison facilities and transfers it to either crude paper printouts or electronic files accessed through tablets or kiosks.
NYC ABC, along with several other individuals and prisoner support crews, now send hard copies to all political prisoners and prisoners of war we support.
If you consistently mail the latest updates to a specific prisoner, please let us know so we can insure there’s no overlap. The goal is to have copies sent to all of the prisoners we list.
We’ve also been told that some prisoners are not receiving the copies sent in, yet we aren’t getting rejection notices. If you are in steady contact with a prisoner, please ask them whether or not they are receiving the updates and let us know.