“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.
Humans are such an amazingly adaptable species. We can collectively adjust and even grow accustomed to almost unimaginably challenging and calamitous circumstances, even as our comrades, friends, families and ourselves are adversely affected. As the pandemic rages throughout overfull prisons, jails and detention centers nationwide, and the increasing disasters of climate change disproportionately affect communities intentionally ‘disadvantaged’ by state capitalism, perhaps it’s time to adapt less and resist more. Resistance can come in many forms, including mutual aid and tangible acts of solidarity. One simple such act is to write a letter to a political prisoner.
So please join us and Page One Collective this week in writing to Black liberation political prisoner Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, the longest confined former member of the Black Panther Party, who has spent 51 years behind bars. Though Chip has been eligible for parole for decades, and was declared “a low risk of committing offenses” by the BOP’s own psychologists, he remains locked up in a California prison. There is a petition campaign for his release, and more information available here.
Please take the time to write a letter to Chip (and share a photo of your completed envelopes with us online):
Chip can be written to at this address: Chip Fitzgerald* #B-27527 California State Prison – LAC Post Office Box 4490B-4-150 Lancaster, California 93539 *Address envelope to Romaine Fitzgerald.
We are excited to release issue #1 of our newly restarted newspaper. The Jamal Journal was last published in the mid-1990s by the uncompromising International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (ICFFMAJ).
We have begun a 48 hour fundraising to print as many newspapers as we can. If we can raise $3000, we will be able to print 15,000 copies this week and still have over $500 for postage costs. If you donate $10 we will send you a newspaper. If you donate $50 or more, we will also send you a gift copy of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s new book, Murder Incorporated, Vol. 3: Perfecting Tyranny.
Philly ABC is hosting a letter writing event for Doug Wright of the Cleveland 4 Monday February 22nd 6:30-8:30pm EST
Doug Wright left home at age fourteen and became involved in radical leftist activities and anti-war rallies in California. Shortly thereafter, Doug picked up train hopping and made his way all over the country. On one occasion he accidentally found himself in Anderson, Indiana where he met people with a music company that hosted all-age punk rock shows. These folks became Doug’s new family for the next five years.
Doug was then in Cleveland during the Occupy movement and became the target, along with three other activists, of an elaborate FBI setup operation. They were accused of plotting a series of bombings, including that of an area bridge. However the real story is that the FBI, working with an informant, created the scheme, produced the explosives, and coerced the four of them into participating. Doug received the longest sentence of all the Cleveland 4 – 11.5 years.
Doug’s life has been a series of tests, trials, and tribulations. Prison has been no different. He is luckily entering the last year of imprisonment, but his struggle is not over. Because he will be on lifetime probation, he will be unable to travel and live nomadically in the way that he loves again. Please join us in sending some heartfelt messages of solidarity to him.
This event will be held on Jitsi – we’ll post the meet link on social media the day of. You can also message us to get the link beforehand. If you are unable to join us on Monday drop Doug a line at:
Slow Burn: From Seattle to Syria, from Russia to an arrest in Cuba, an ecosaboteur and 12-year fugitive now awaits sentencing by a Eugene judge.
En route to Havana, Cuba, on May 21, 2018, a man identifying himself as “Yousef Deba” was stopped by El Salvadorian authorities after he showed his passport and travel documents. He was photographed, his eye was scanned, he was twice fingerprinted and his electronics were searched.
His biometric data matched information on an outstanding warrant from Oregon for a Joseph Dibee. He was allowed to board a plane to Havana, where he was arrested by Cuban agents, who contacted the U.S. and agreed to turn him over to federal authorities.
The U.S. had finally captured one of the last remaining fugitives from the Northwest ecowars of the late 1990s, an outbreak of fires and other sabotage that gripped the region’s attention. In previous years 15 other people surrendered or were caught by federal agents who branded the young activists as “terrorists,” though they never injured or killed anyone.
This is the story of Dibee’s years on the run, a complex tale of international intrigue and betrayal. Except where noted, it’s based on court documents obtained by Eugene Weekly.