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Jalil Muntaqim: The 13th Amendment – prison slavery and mass incarceration

July 20, 2016

by Jalil Muntaqim

Since the publication of Michelle Alexander’s excellent “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” the issue of prison and parole reform has been raised as far as Obama’s White House. In the national debate ensuing from Michelle Alexander’s book, some have not given credit to Angela Davis forging national interest in prison abolition with her organizing Critical Resistance campaigns across the country. With the nominal success of the Pelican Bay prisoners’ hunger strike in California, we recognize that when we organize a national determination, we can collectively force institutional change.

Jalil Muntaqim founded the Jericho Movement, which supports political prisoners, fighting for their recognition and amnesty, creating graphics similar to this for each one.

Jalil Muntaqim founded the Jericho Movement, which supports political prisoners, fighting for their recognition and amnesty, creating graphics similar to this for each one.

With the advent of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, there is a new generation of activists who have included a challenge to mass incarceration as part of their national debate and agenda for institutional change. However, it is extremely important that BLM and other prison and parole reform advocates have a profound historical foundation in their understanding of the prison industrial complex. In my recent book, “Escaping the Prism: Fade to Black,” I included an essay, “The 13th Amendment – Prison Slavery and Mass Incarceration,” hoping to offer more insight on how to formulate talking points to persuade others, particularly faith-based communities, to join and advocate for change.

This struggle is not new to me; in fact, my frustration is that it is often necessary to repeat and reiterate the need for a national determination that actually challenges the very foundation of the institution of prison slavery. In this regard, I am offering a legal argument that two other former prisoners and I prepared and fought in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (up to the U.S. Supreme Court and including petitioning the United Nations), stating the “exception clause” in the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is in violation of international law and U.S. treaties with the United Nations and the international community.

On Nov. 19, 1979, I and two other former prisoners filed a civil rights complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleging that the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is in violation of international law and general principles of human rights. The complaint was docketed as 79 CIV 6228 and sent to federal Judge Pierce for consideration. Copies of the complaint were sent to various legal groups and organizations, such as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, American Civil Liberties Union etc., in an effort to win their support for the petition.

With the nominal success of the Pelican Bay prisoners’ hunger strike in California, we recognize that when we organize a national determination, we can collectively force institutional change.

Unfortunately, they declined to respond to our overtures to support this case by providing legal representation. As novice pro se litigants, we pursued the complaint to the best of our abilities, ultimately being denied certiorari by the U.S. Supreme Court. We then sought to win the attention of United Nations subcommittees, to no avail.

It was obvious to us then, as it should be to activists today that, without a serious national organizational determination, it was improbable for us to win. However, we were adherent to the principle of Frederick Douglass that “power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will,” and our audacious attitude was what we needed to challenge the system of prison slavery, no matter how implausible the possibility of success.

Jalil Muntaqim is known and loved far and wide. Here, his photo adorns the wall of the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center in Richmond, California.

Jalil Muntaqim is known and loved far and wide. Here, his photo adorns the wall of the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center in Richmond, California.

In 2016, it is believed that the potential exists to build the kind of national and international campaign to demand the 13th Amendment be amended to excise and omit the clause that permits involuntary servitude and slavery of prisoners. Therefore, I am posting the Memorandum of Law that we prepared in 1979, as I believe it provides today’s activists and advocates of prison and parole reform both a historical and legal foundation to build a substantial movement to once and for all end all forms of involuntary servitude and slavery in the United States.

To download the Memorandum of Law, click here. (For those without internet access, the Bay View will print and mail the 30-page memorandum to you on request.)

It is my sincere hope this document will be widely read and studied, especially by law students, professors and legal groups involved and associated with prison and parole reform advocacy. My aspiration is to offer the overall movement broader talking points to persuade and evolve an informed national campaign capable of organizing a durable prison slavery abolition movement.

Certainly, the Black Lives Matter movement, Critical Resistance, Jericho Amnesty Movement etc., can achieve more in the educational agit-propaganda determinations with this information as part of their pamphlets, brochures and other outreach materials, including social media posting.

My aspiration is to offer the overall movement broader talking points to persuade and evolve an informed national campaign capable of organizing a durable prison slavery abolition movement.

I firmly believe there cannot be any significant discussion about prison and parole reform absent a challenge to the very foundation of the prison slave system. The economic and racial implications of prison involuntary servitude and slavery are based on the historical reality of African chattel slavery. Who can deny that the slavery abolition battles that resulted in the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment were incomplete and are unfinished business?

Remember: We are our own liberators!

Jalil A. Muntaqim

Political prisoner and prison movement leader Jalil Muntaqim denied parole for the ninth time

Dear family, friends and supporters:

As many of you have learned, I was interviewed on June 21, 2016, by the parole board for the ninth time. On June 27, 2016, I received their decision (below) denying my release, basically reiterating all that has been said the previous eight times I was denied parole.

Illustrating the cover of Jalil’s book is a photo of Jalil at a Black Panther Party meeting two months before his arrest in 1971.

Illustrating the cover of Jalil’s book is a photo of Jalil at a Black Panther Party meeting two months before his arrest in 1971.

The denial is based primarily on the “nature of the crime” and “criminal history” – something that will never change. Reading this denial, we can see they doubled down on attempting to characterize me as an unremorseful “cop killer,” absent any evidence to support their position after 44 years of imprisonment.

As previously mentioned, Edward Sharkey, one of the parole commissioners who conducted this hearing, was the same parole commissioner who conducted the hearing in 2012 and was on the panel denying parole in 2014. This 2016 parole hearing is the third consecutive time he was present on the panel and voted to deny release.

Although in 2014 one commissioner voted for my release, notably an African-American woman, this time all three commissioners denied my release. Significantly, one of the commissioners, Ellen Alexander, was on the March 2016 panel of my co-defendant Herman Bell and denied his release on parole.

It has become ever more apparent that a fair and impartial parole hearing is not possible, despite 44 years of having done everything necessary to be granted parole.

For example, in the parole hearing of 2014, one of the commissioners raised that I received a disciplinary report in 2013 (for having two stamps on my way to the library), and that the COMPAS Risk Assessment reported “Prison Misconduct – High.” The 2014 parole decision denying release stated in part: “You have multiple prior disciplinary violations during this term and your risk because of prison misconduct is scored as ‘HIGH’ … You need to improve your behavior to demonstrate the ability to comply with rules, which will be necessary when in the community.”

However, the 2014 COMPAS Risk Assessment reports: “Prison Misconduct – Low,” having demonstrated the correction of the previous report and behavior. Furthermore, previous assessments of 2014 read: Risk of Felony Violence 2 Low; Arrest Risk 2 Low; Abscond Risk 4 Low.

It has become ever more apparent that a fair and impartial parole hearing is not possible, despite 44 years of having done everything necessary to be granted parole.

The 2016 COMPAS Risk Assessment reads in these same areas: Risk of Felony Violence 1 Low; Arrest Risk 1 Low; Abscond Risk 1 Low. Therefore, I not only addressed and lowered the Prison Misconduct issue used to deny release in 2014; all other concerns which were low in 2014 are lower in 2016.

In essence, there is no risk of felony violence, arrest risk, abscond risk, and prison misconduct as a reason to deny release. So, what did they rely on to deny release? History of Violence – a history that is subject to the history and nature of the crime from 1971, 45 years ago when I was originally arrested. Something that will never change!

Black history-makers Abdul Majid, Nandi Majid, Robert Seth Hayes, Deborah Brown, Saladum of the Last Poets, Jalil Muntaqim and Brother Saludeen at Green Haven Prison in 1982

Black history-makers Abdul Majid, Nandi Majid, Robert Seth Hayes, Deborah Brown, Saladum of the Last Poets, Jalil Muntaqim and Brother Saludeen at Green Haven Prison in 1982

Given the fact that I am unable to obtain a fair and impartial parole hearing, I am urging family, friends and supporters to initiate a national campaign directed to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, persuading him to grant “commutation of sentence to time served.” Gov. Cuomo has the authority to commute this 25-to-life sentence to time served, giving consideration to all that I have accomplished in 45 years of imprisonment, the degree of family and community support, and the fact that the original sentence has for all intents and purposes been served.

I am asking everyone who recognizes the New York State Parole Board is biased as a law enforcement agency in cahoots with the PBA’s opposition to my release, to initiate a national campaign calling and writing to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, urging that he commute my sentence to time served.

In closing, I need to extend my gratitude to all those who wrote letters and signed petitions in support of my release on parole. It has been your support that has strengthened my resolve and kept me determined to continue to fight for freedom.

Over the years, we have witnessed the release of Marshall Eddie Conway, Albert Woodfox and Sekou Odinga, all of which leads to the reality that, with a solid tenacious determination, we can win over the injustice of repression. This is extremely upsetting to me and my family, especially when knowing there is absolutely nothing I can do alone, having already done everything asked of me by the parole board, to persuade them to grant parole.

Therefore, we need to up the ante in our demand for fair and impartial parole hearings by putting the onus for change in parole and my freedom in the hands of New York Gov. Cuomo. Please call and write often demanding commutation of sentence to time served and my immediate release from prison.

Sincerely yours, in struggle,

Jalil Muntaqim

Parole decision: DENIED – HOLD FOR 24 MONTHS, NEXT APPEARANCE DATE; 06/2018

Conditions of Release/Staff Instructions/Reasons for Denial:

Three generations of Jalil’s family line up in 2000: Jalil, his daughter Antoinette and his granddaughter Shacari.

Three generations of Jalil’s family line up in 2000: Jalil, his daughter Antoinette and his granddaughter Shacari.

After review of the record and interview, the panel has determined that if released at this time, there is a reasonable probability that you would not live and remain at liberty without again violating the law and your release would be incompatible with the welfare of society and would so deprecate the serious nature of the crime as to undermine respect for the law.

The panel has considered your institutional adjustment including discipline and program participation. Required statutory factors have been considered, including your risk to society, rehabilitation efforts and your needs for successful re-entry into the community. Your release plans have also been considered, as well as your COMPAS Risk and Needs Assessment, case plan and sentencing minutes, which are in the file.

Your instant offense, murder (two counts), involved you, acting in concert, shooting and killing two police officers. You admit to firing a weapon during the crime. You have engaged in other unlawful actions which resulted in probation and serving state time in California state prison. You are a multistate offender with offenses committed in California as well as New York.

You do have a juvenile history and conviction in the federal system. Due consideration given to your document submissions, program accomplishments, and letters of support from defense attorney and official sources and program completions. Due consideration was given to packet of National Lawyers Guild.

This panel remains concerned about your history of unlawful and violent conduct, and your COMPAS Risk Assessment is “High” for history of violence. Your conduct could be viewed as an assassination of two unsuspecting police officers who were merely walking toward their car and reflects a disregard for human life.

There is significant community opposition to you release. You also expressed limited remorse for the death of the two police officers who were merely doing their jobs. Accordingly, discretionary release at this time is not warranted. PAROLE IS DENIED.

Parole commissioners conducting the hearing: Edward Sharkey, Ellen Alexander, Marc Coppola

In 2007, Jalil and his co-defendant, Herman Bell, were snatched out of prison in New York, destination the San Francisco County Jail, where they and six other former Black Panthers faced cop-killing charges dredged up from 1971. After a huge court battle and countless demonstrations by a small army of supporters of the men who had become known as the San Francisco 8, the others’ charges were dropped and Jalil and Herman shipped back to prison in New York. It was ultimately Jalil’s strategy that denied the San Francisco police the vengeance they sought. This rally, on Sept. 23, 2007, celebrated the release of six of the SF 8 on bail, which had been set initially at $3-$5 million each.

In 2007, Jalil and his co-defendant, Herman Bell, were snatched out of prison in New York, destination the San Francisco County Jail, where they and six other former Black Panthers faced cop-killing charges dredged up from 1971. After a huge court battle and countless demonstrations by a small army of supporters of the men who had become known as the San Francisco 8, the others’ charges were dropped and Jalil and Herman shipped back to prison in New York. It was ultimately Jalil’s strategy that denied the San Francisco police the vengeance they sought. This rally, on Sept. 23, 2007, celebrated the release of six of the SF 8 on bail, which had been set initially at $3-$5 million each.

Ancestors roll call! What did they think?

What did they think?

Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Akai

Gurley, Trayvon Martin, Michael

Brown, life precious blood spilled

in the mud. FREEDOM …

Jalil Muntaqim in 2009

Jalil Muntaqim in 2009

When will it come?

What did they think?

Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Sean

Bell, Amadou Diallo whose life

breath echoed the dreams deferred

from Afrikan ancestors through

the Middle Passage, to Denmark

Vesey and Nat Turner, do you

hear it, are you listening?

Micah heard the torturous

mourning echoing over

the ages forcing us to

remember Shaka Zulu, Queen

Nzinga, the Mau Mau to Steve

Biko and Nelson Mandela.

What did they think?

Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Medgar

Evers, Huey P. Newton, Fred

Hampton, George Jackson, from

the African Blood Brotherhood,

to the Deacons for Defense,

the Black Panther Party and

the Black Liberation Army, a

history of noble resistance.

What did they think?

Mark Essex, Zayd Shakur, Frank

Fields, Twyman Meyers, Anthony

“Kimu” White did not forget

Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth

or Rosa Parks, reminiscent of the

fugitive slave laws, Black Codes

and Jim Crow, while Martin L.

King Jr., revered by all except

J. Edgar Hoover and James Earl Ray.

Jalil gets a visit from Malcolm X Grassroots Movement comrades, in November 2009.

Jalil gets a visit from Malcolm X Grassroots Movement comrades, in November 2009.

What did they think?

Freddy Gray, Antwon Shumpert,

Alton Sterling, Philando Castile

Let’s not forget Chicago teenager

McDonald, 17 hot bullets spun

him like a drunken ballerina,

with Blue arrogance and hubris,

all around the world the same

song. Yet, they call the oppressed

terrorists when they fight back.

What did they think?

Yes, suffering is universal, it knows

no color, race, ethnicity, class or

status. No, they are not immune

to pain and loss, it does not

discriminate, despite their belief

in white supremacy. The racial

divide cannot hide the common

blood inside us all, flowing scarlet

red life, they dismiss by the white

heat of hate.

What did they think?

After 430 years of racial strife

and mass incarceration, the 13th

Amendment, a violation of international

law, in America – slavery still exists!

What did they think?

Time will absolve the evil within.

But we know time absolves nothing

without sacrifice. So, they trot

out apologetic House Negroes,

talking heads lacking historical

facts, to track the racial divide

that leads to the loss of Black

lives.

Micah destroyed the myth of Tarzan,

Captain America and Superman.

Jalil, whose given name is Anthony Bottom, is overjoyed at a visit from his mother, Billie Bottom-Brown, in 2014. She lives too far away to visit often.

Jalil, whose given name is Anthony Bottom, is overjoyed at a visit from his mother, Billie Bottom-Brown, in 2014. She lives too far away to visit often.

What did he think?

That Black Lives Mattered?

They have demeaned you and call

you demented, saying you’re

delusional and insane; but didn’t

they say the same about Nat Turner

and Nelson Mandela? Aren’t we all

a product of our environment? So,

isn’t suffering a racist environment

demented and insane? They called

the Panthers terrorists when they

fed our children with one hand

and fought Cointelpro with the

other. When Black people fight

back, they automatically become

crazy; when Black people stand up,

demand justice, they are called

extremist.

What did they think?

White supremacy in all of its subtle

and overt manifestations must prevail

to dispel Black Lives Matter. They

have to blow up this idea, Micah,

like the bomb on MOVE, and the

bomb on the L.A. office of the

BPP. But Chairman Fred said, you

can kill a revolutionary, but you

can’t kill the revolution. You can

imprison a freedom fighter but you

can’t imprison freedom.

What did they think?

We do not celebrate the loss of

life, we mourn as you mourn, we

lament as you lament. We salute

and honor the brave and courageous

whose ultimate sacrifice demands

recognition. It is our collective

shame, we meet at this crossroad, on

the divide of class and race. Yet,

the slow pace for healing is revealing,

our continuing to live a lie, that

Blue blood is more precious than

Black blood.

Jalil Muntaqim

Jalil Muntaqim

What did they think?

I urge you to read, to understand

my sensitivity to the matters at

hand, “Hands Up Don’t Shoot,” “When

Police Die,” “A Mother’s Loss,”

expressing our collective anguish

of a seemingly unrelenting war.

We need not keep score, death

is death, and we should not rest

until hate and racism are cast into

the abyss, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!

Remember: We are our own liberators!

Jalil A. Muntaqim

Send our brother some love and light: Anthony J. Bottom, 77A4283, Attica CF, P.O. Box 149, Attica, NY 14011-0149. If you want to help Jalil with commissary, send a postal money order to that address. Visit his website, FreeJalil.com and email him at info@freejalil.com.

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2 thoughts on “Jalil Muntaqim: The 13th Amendment – prison slavery and mass incarceration

  1. Lee Wood

    Comrade Abolitionist Brother, all these years, your Prison Slavery Abolitionist work and struggle has a strong presentation within this Bay View article. Salute! Here's CAPS' UN Petition while learning about UN Treaties providing for Prison Slavery. It's similar to the "Yes, But", "Rapo" 13th Amendment Exception 'structure'. ("YES, BUT…; NO, BUT…"!) UN treaties provide for International Prison Slavery. So, that's State, National and International Prison Slavery – both Inside & Outside Communities!

    Reply

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