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Two tributes to John ‘J-Rock’ Carter, murdered by Pennsylvania prison guards

September 10, 2012

One by Mumia Abu-Jamal, the other by J-Rock’s friend and comrade, S. Muhammad Hyland

The real John Carter

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

John “J-Rock” Carter
Several months ago, a movie was released: a science-fiction flick featuring a superhuman fighting nasty aliens on a forbidding planet somewhere in the cosmos.

As a sci-fi fan I confess interest, but I never heard of the title character, John Carter. (I later learned that the story was based on the lesser-known works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, known for the “Tarzan” books.)

In fact, as the movie was seeking an audience, another John Carter was facing a deadly force of prison guards, armed with weapons of mayhem. Carter was locked in a prison cell as it was being pumped full of pepper spray.

This John Carter had spent over half his life in Pennsylvania prison cells following a robbery-murder conviction after he was certified by the courts as an adult despite his juvenile age.

Irony over irony abounds, for this John Carter seems to have predicted his own demise in a letter he wrote to members of the U.S. Congress seeking passage of a bill outlawing juvenile life terms.

In his June 2009 letter, John Carter wrote the following: “Now years go by as I struggle to evolve and mature within a cell I now view as my casket. Some days I’m hopeless … some days I’m focused. But every day I realize that after 14 years I am no longer growing …. I am deteriorating … emotionally … physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Instead of living, I simply exist until my heart stops beating, my lungs stop breathing, and my soul is called into the next life. I ask myself on occasion – is this the form of damnation other human beings wish upon troubled youth? Are we in a society that believes in a forgiving God, but the same society will turn around and be UNFORGIVING to a child’s trespass?”

SCI Rockview is an old prison, built in 1912. This 1940 view was printed as a postcard.
Witnesses from the hole at Rockview Prison say John Carter barricaded himself in his cell, and armored guards attacked the cell, pumping at least three canisters of pepper spray into the windowless, enclosed area – not only burning his eyes, mouth and nose, but depriving him of any usable oxygen.

When the door was breached, guards rushed in using electrified stun shields to subdue him, repeatedly.

Those in view said the 35-year-old man was carried out, his knees and head dragging on the ground.

His friends called him “J-Rock.”

But his name was John Carter on state records recording his death on April 26, 2012.

“Instead of living, I simply exist until my heart stops beating, my lungs stop breathing, and my soul is called into the next life. I ask myself on occasion – is this the form of damnation other human beings wish upon troubled youth? Are we in a society that believes in a forgiving God, but the same society will turn around and be UNFORGIVING to a child’s trespass?”

The real John Carter was a juvenile lifer who was sentenced at 16 years old under a law that the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled was unconstitutional in Alabama v. Miller.

Irony of Ironies. J-Rock never lived to see it.

Source: “In Memory of John Carter,” The Movement (official newsletter of the Human Rights Coalition, Philadelphia) Summer 2012: #151, p.47

© Copyright 2012 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Read Mumia’s latest book, “The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black Life in America,” co-authored by Columbia University professor Marc Lamont Hill, available from Third World Press, TWPBooks.com. Keep updated at www.freemumia.com. For Mumia’s commentaries, visit www.prisonradio.org. For recent interviews with Mumia, visit www.blockreportradio.com. Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews. Send our brotha some love and light: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Mahanoy, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932.

 

Remembering the contributions of a dedicated soldier

by S. Muhammad Hyland

SCI Rockview, known as Pennsylvania’s “Big House,” was the first prison in the state to use the electric chair. This is the main building.
“Now years go by as I struggle to evolve and mature within a cell I now view as my casket. Some days I’m hopeless … some days I’m focused. But every day I realize that after 14 years I am no longer growing … I am deteriorating – emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually. Instead of living, I simply exist, until my heart stops beating, my lungs stop breathing, and my soul is called to the next life.”

Those words were part of a letter written by my friend and comrade John “J-Rock” Carter. He sent that letter to members of the United States Congress in 2009, attempting to appeal to their humanity, by asking them to support H.R. 2289, a bill that would grant relief to juveniles sentenced to serve life sentences without the possibility of parole. At the time, he was only 29 years old, already entering his 14th year behind the walls of a state penitentiary. At the age of 16, he was sentenced to serve a life term without the possibility of parole.

And the racist, fascist, pig prison patrol at SCI Rockview made sure that he completed that sentence.

“Now years go by as I struggle to evolve and mature within a cell I now view as my casket. Some days I’m hopeless … some days I’m focused. But every day I realize that after 14 years I am no longer growing … I am deteriorating – emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually.”

My sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of J-Rock, who was the latest victim of fascist Amerika’s unchecked brutality against prisoners – specifically minority prisoners – all across Amerika.

Prisoners are sent to “the hole” – solitary confinement – like this unit in a Pennsylvania prison most often, they say, for protesting prison conditions, especially if they’re Black or Brown.
During a cell extraction, J-Rock was murdered by racist pigs for allegedly refusing to cuff up and exit his cell. A number of reports reveal that he did agree to be handcuffed, but the pigs – looking for some “action” – refused to follow protocol and opted for the more inhumane extraction. The Vietnam-raid, SWAT-style techniques to extract a “piece of shit murderer” from his cell proved to be too appealing to a bunch of bloodthirsty racists.

For the record, John Carter was a victim. He was sentenced to serve life without parole for participating in a robbery where an innocent man was killed. He always took responsibility for his actions. Still, his case put on full display two – of many – components of Amerikan society that have been neglected over and over.

First, Amerika’s readiness to send juvenile offenders away to rot inside of modernized dungeons for the rest of their lives, without the possibility of parole, or any chance to redeem themselves for a mistake they made at a time in their lives when every doctor on earth agrees that their brains weren’t developed enough to appreciate the consequences of their actions.

Secondly, as the Prison Industrial Complex has become big business, the incentive to rehabilitate has long been abandoned, replaced by longer sentences, harsher conditions and tough guy overseer pigs, whose job it is to intimidate, harass, brutalize and terrorize prisoners who openly take issue with this abuse and act against it. J-Rock was one of those people!

Prisoners in SCI Rockview who are not in solitary confinement work in the Big House Products factory manufacturing products used throughout the state. – Photo: Dave Bonta
The Amerikan public is ignorant to the goings-on behind prison walls, and that ignorance has plenty of purpose. If the public had knowledge of the injustices taking place inside of these Amerikan torture camps, they would work to destroy this $70 billion per year industry.

The problem is that they don’t know. They don’t know that prisoners are commodities – exactly as slaves were. They don’t know that educational and vocational programming has been eliminated, replaced with service-style jobs in maintenance and plumbing, paying prisoners 19 cents per hour – a ploy to keep prison operational costs low.

They don’t know that if you refuse to be a slave, you’re automatically labeled as a “trouble maker” and targeted throughout your incarceration – ultimately landing in the Restricted Housing Unit, or “hole,” just like J-Rock was. And the “hole” has one purpose and one purpose only: to break the minds, bodies and souls of the women, children and men placed in them! The hope is that a rebellious prisoner can be forced into submission and compliance through the terrorist tactics that are sanctioned all throughout DOC policy.

Some fight back, and live to tell about it.

Others end up like my comrade J-Rock.

A guard patrols one of the tiers at SCI Rockview. – Photo: Daily Collegian
It’s much more common than people think. My little brother, Walter Rushing, was a victim of SCI Rockview’s “no tolerance” policy when he was “found” dead in his cell in the “hole.” Of “natural causes.” At age 24. He, like J-Rock, was unwilling to accept Rockview’s brutality.

This system within prison reflects a violent societal norm – less subtle, much more intense – and willingly kept out of view of the only people who possess the power and ability to change it. It reflects capitalism’s need to ride the backs of the under-represented in order to keep the “fat cats” on Wall Street in a position of power.

Without these tentacles of intimidation, the “fat cats” wouldn’t exist. And until we confront this power, everybody will continue to suffer – the incarcerated and the “free” – but especially the youth. And since the media is part of the conspiracy to keep the public out of the loop, think about this:

Up until a short while ago – until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to serve a sentence of life without the possibility of parole – the only other nation on this planet to sentence juveniles to serve life was Somalia.

It’s time for the public to be educated about the realities of prison and the criminal injustice system. This education will save tons of money and, more importantly, lives.

S. Muhammad Hyland
J-Rock fought for justice. He put himself on the front line of the struggle against inhumanity – and paid for it with his life. But his contribution will never be overlooked, ignored or down-played.

Many people deserve credit for the Supreme Court’s ruling. He is one of them. I just wish that he was still alive so he could one day enjoy the fruits of his labor, along with his family.

It’s time for the public to be educated about the realities of prison and the criminal injustice system.

The struggle to abolish prisons will continue. The court’s ruling was just the first step. But myself and my comrades – in and out of prison – will continue to move forward in the spirit and memory of a truly dedicated soldier and humanitarian.

Rest in peace, John J-Rock Carter, March 5, 1979-April 26, 2012.

Send our brother some love and light: S. Muhammad Hyland, FX1537, SCI Greene, 175 Progress Drive, Waynesburg, PA 15370. Read more at www.facebook.com/rebelnotes.

 

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