May 9, 2018
On May 4, former Black Panther Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald agreed to a five-year denial of parole instead of insisting on a parole hearing, even though he has served more time than any former Black Panther still behind bars: 49 years. Chip is now 67 years old and living with the consequences of a stroke; his friends and family fear he will die in prison. He has been moved from one state prison to another over the years and is currently in the California State Prison-Los Angeles. I spoke to his lawyer, Charles Carbone, whose office is in San Francisco.
May 1, 2018
On April 26, former Black Panther Herman Bell was released from prison in New York State after 45 years. That leaves at least 10 surviving members of the Black Panther Party behind bars, including Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, who is currently held at the California State Prison-Los Angeles. His next parole hearing is scheduled for May 4. I spoke to his friend Arthur League, a former Panther who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
April 27, 2018
Most of the dialogue regarding sentencing reform centers on nonviolent offenses. Yet it is not necessary to limit reforms to those convicted of nonviolent or minor offenses. In order to truly address our nation’s prison problem, policymakers should also substantially revise policies affecting those serving long sentences, including life with and without parole. There are important legal, moral, fiscal and public safety reasons to do so.
March 7, 2018
Imagine for a moment the faces, emotions and mind-set of teenagers and/or young adults from all walks of life who suddenly find, as I had, that because you are closely associated with someone or provided something to someone who committed murder, you too, under the law, are now just as responsible for capital murder without ever having such intent or a clue that anyone would be seriously injured or killed.
January 29, 2018
In 2017, Federal District Court Judge Charles Breyer denied the habeas appeal of DeWayne Ewing, an innocent man, based on the timeliness of his appeal rather than on the facts of the case, because of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), passed in 1996 – the Senate voted 91-8 – and signed by Bill Clinton. Part of the way Congress tried to make the death penalty “more effective” was to limit the ability of prisoners to appeal, especially to have multiple appeals.
January 4, 2018
The following message is from a group of prisoners who are spread throughout the Florida Department of Corrections. It was sent anonymously and compiled from a series of letters received on Nov. 26 and 27. According to their statement, these prisoners plan to initiate a work stoppage or “laydown” beginning Monday, Jan. 15, coinciding with Martin Luther King Day, in nonviolent protest of conditions in Florida prisons. They are calling it Operation PUSH.
December 18, 2017
So tell your little neo-fascist friends – who have no life outside of what revolves around these prison plantations – that they’re right. As long as we have sick individuals who have lost touch with their own sense of humanity, who play with and destroy our lives, who refuse to see us as human beings deserving of respect, I’m going to keep on so-called snitching! Now, go tell, gossip, chat about that!
November 20, 2017
Soon the Supreme Court will decide whether to hear a case with the potential to end this nation’s abominably long and freakish experimentation with the death penalty. That’s right, drum roll, please. Because, if it grants certiorari in Hidalgo v. Arizona – a case Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe describes as emblematic of “the problems with our [country’s] current capital punishment regimes” – America’s broken and vile “machinery of death” can finally be trashed in the junkyard of our dark, wayward humanity. Implore the Supreme Court to wipe capital punishment’s bloody stain away. Forever.
March 25, 2017
The top prosecutor in Orlando, Florida, took to a podium outside the Orange County courthouse last week to outline a new policy: Her office would no longer seek the death penalty in any capital case. The prosecutor, State Attorney Aramis Ayala, told assembled reporters that seeking the death penalty is “not in the best interests of this community or in the interest of justice.” Ayala’s decision to stop seeking the death penalty was bound to be controversial. But the announcement has kicked off a fire storm.
March 22, 2017
When a person dies, the living find it hard sometimes to carry on. The loss of a loved one is something one never gets over, and when the death is violent and the victim young, the bitterness is that much harder to swallow. In Patricia Milton’s new play, “Without Mercy,” closing this weekend, Thursday-Saturday, March 23 and 25, 8 p.m., at the Off Broadway West Theatre Company, we meet a grieving mother and daughter, Joanna Parks and Bethany Matthews.
October 28, 2016
Last June, an inspiring and thought provoking art exhibition took place in London, in the UK. From June 24 to July 6, 2016, approximately 20 inmates from San Quentin’s death row showcased their work alongside mine; I make collages and sculptures from discarded objects I pick up along the banks of the River Thames. The name of the exhibition was ArtReach (reaching out with art), and the aim of it was to enable prisoners to share their work with the outside world.
September 18, 2016
In a society where peaceful resistance is purported to be the correct method of protest, we must ask ourselves why these thousands of prisoners, engaging in peaceful methods of protest, are being retaliated against and punished in the most brutal and inhumane ways? The answer is simple. The actions of these courageous prisoners – however peaceful – are not constitutionally protected.
April 1, 2016
I spend countless hours reading and scanning alternative newspapers, journals and magazines that provide a platform for prisoners who write. I don’t see many revolutionary essays or articles being written by female Texas prisoners. I know you all can’t be content with the conditions you are being housed under, and I know for a fact you are not being given the dignity and respect you deserve. So I must ask: “Why aren’t we hearing from you?”
March 28, 2016
The Community Coalition Concerned for Black Life convened a town hall-style meeting with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at the historic Olivet Institutional Baptist Church on Cleveland’s majority Black east side on Saturday, March 5. Organizers said that the overall purpose of the meeting at Olivet was to discuss issues affecting the Black community and how Sanders would address such issues if ultimately elected president.
December 26, 2015
In the wake of the brutal police execution of Mario Woods by San Francisco police in Bayview Hunters Point, many are asking where is California state Attorney General Kamala Harris? She was elected with the hope and expectation, naive as it may be, that she of all people would be out there weighing in and demanding justice for Mario. Sadly Harris has thus far been pretty much absent from the fight.
September 16, 2015
Mumia’s attorneys have filed a lawsuit charging the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections with medical neglect. On Sept. 5, prison staff boxed up all Mumia’s personal effects from his cell while he was in the prison infirmary trying to recover from the prison’s medical malfeasance and neglect that nearly killed him. A retaliatory transfer to some other prison would be a new blow against Mumia’s health, and would steep him and his family in greater fear and uncertainty.
July 1, 2015
During the recent events surrounding the murder of unarmed Black males by white police officers in this country, it has been pointed out, and correctly so, that America has a steep and tortured history concerning the murders of Blacks by whites – legally and illegally! But what has for the most part been left out of this real life and death conversation is the fact that Black police officers have done, and are still doing, the same thing as their white police partners.
June 24, 2015
Early reports revealed that Dylann Roof, a high school dropout, had a seldom used Facebook page and many Black friends. Then the Facebook photo of Roof sitting on his car with a Confederate flag license plate was revealed and another of Roof wearing a jacket with the flags of Apartheid South Africa and White-run Rhodesia, indicating that Roof was capable of tragically putting into practice what had been preached to him.
December 6, 2014
Rwandan Dutch citizens and political asylum seekers in the Netherlands demonstrated in The Hague, the country’s capital, on Saturday, Nov. 29. They called on the Dutch government to stop supporting the dictatorship of Paul Kagame and stop deporting Rwandans at Kagame’s request. After watching the video of the demonstration, I spoke to Jean Flammé, a Belgian attorney for a Rwandan facing extradition for supporting Victoire Ingabire.
July 30, 2014
Life is like a game of chess and checkers. Many of us play checkers. And many of us think we’re playing chess, but, in practice, we’re actually playing checkers. So it should be of no surprise to any of you when I say, most poor people play checkers, prisoners in particular. Now what does this analogy imply? Most people make decisions in life without thinking ahead or assessing the ramifications of their decisions, especially prisoners!