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
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?”
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.