by the Human Rights Coalition

Kerry Shakaboona Marshall

On May 17, 2018, Kerry “Shakaboona” Marshall, a renowned incarcerated human rights activist and juvenile life-without-parole prisoner, was re-sentenced at the Criminal Justice Center (CJC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to a prison term of 29 years to life – “time served” – for a murder he committed in 1988 when he was 17 years old.

As a prelude to Shakaboona’s re-sentencing hearing, an interactive exhibit and assembly titled “People Change, People Change the World” was held on March 24 at the Mosaic Community Church in West Philly. It was organized by the Human Rights Coalition, the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration, Global Women’s Strike, Abolitionist Law Center, Amistad Law Project and The Redemption Project.

Almost 100 people gathered at the exhibit and assembly to talk about redemption and celebrate the inspiration of currently incarcerated human rights activist Kerry “Shakaboona” Marshall. The exhibit traced Shakaboona’s life as a teenager growing up in the streets of West Philly, and in prison and the “tough on crime” policies that sought to punish, rather than heal Black and Latino communities impacted by crack cocaine and violence.

Former Pennsylvania juvenile lifer and human rights activist Kempis “Ghani” Songster, who also has been recently re-sentenced and released from Pennsylvania prison after serving 30 years of incarceration, attended the assembly and said of Shakaboona, “This human rights activist, this brilliant mind, this person defied all odds and transformed himself against and in defiance of everything within the prison system and in his prison experience that wanted to corrupt him and drag him into the prison culture. He fought against that and is a shining example of the human capacity for transformation and redemption.”

On May 17, Shakaboona’s resentencing hearing was held before the Honorable Judge Jeffrey L. Minehart at CJC, where almost 150 people – including a squad of recently re-sentenced and parole-released Juvenile lifers – came out in a show of support for Shakaboona and overwhelmed the court. Some people came from as far as Massachusetts and Ohio to support Shakaboona at his re-sentencing hearing.

The diverse rainbow of Black, white, Latino, and Asian people packed the courtroom to the walls, with people sitting on the laps of others just to see Shakaboona and witness the court hearing, while about 100 supporters filled the court’s hallways awaiting the outcome of the hearing. Philly’s sheriff’s deputies were so afraid of the huge multi-ethnic group of people they commenced to tighten security in the courthouse.

On May 17, Shakaboona’s resentencing hearing was held before the Honorable Judge Jeffrey L. Minehart at CJC, where almost 150 people – including a squad of recently re-sentenced and parole-released Juvenile lifers – came out in a show of support for Shakaboona and overwhelmed the court.

The re-sentencing hearing was emotionally charged from the beginning, with Shakaboona’s legal defense team calling one expert witness and four character witnesses on his behalf. Each gave moving testimony about the transformative and redemptive life of Shakaboona.

Then, the court gave Shakaboona the opportunity to speak, at which time he gave a powerful, ministerial speech addressing the court, the deceased victim’s family, and his own family. His testimony was so emotionally impactful that it had nearly the entire courtroom full of spectators literally in tears.

The re-sentencing hearing was emotionally charged from the beginning, with Shakaboona’s legal defense team calling one expert witness and four character witnesses on his behalf. Each gave moving testimony about the transformative and redemptive life of Shakaboona.

Judge Minehart then re-sentenced Shakaboona to a term of 29-to-life – time served – making him immediately eligible for parole release.

Shakaboona’s fight for freedom is not yet over. He now awaits parole release to a federal detainer sentence, which his legal defense team will immediately appeal for time-served and his immediate release from the federal sentence. No matter the outcome, Shakaboona now has a short walk to freedom.

Congratulations, Shakaboona. Victory is near!

Brother Shakaboona is a co-founder of the Human Rights Coalition (HRC) and the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration (CADBI), founder and editor of The Movement human rights magazine, correspondent and social commentator for PrisonRadio.org, and is an advisory council member of Decarcerate PA and other community activist organizations in Philadelphia. Send our brother some love and light: Kerry Shakaboona Marshall, BE-7826, SCI Graterford, P.O. Box 244, Graterford PA 19426.

The Human Rights Coalition is a group of predominately prisoners’ families, ex-prisoners and some supporters, whose ultimate goal is to abolish prisons. Contact them at HRC- Philly Chapter, c/o LAVA Space, 4134 Lancaster Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 267-293-9169; or Info@hrcoalition.

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