Open letter to Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Wolf and Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel

Re: Urgent need for independent medical treatment for Mumia Abu-Jamal

April 10 was a National Day of Action for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Protests were held around the U.S. and in several other countries to support this internationally revered journalist and political prisoner whose life is being endangered by medical neglect.
April 10 was a National Day of Action for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Protests were held around the U.S. and in several other countries to support this internationally revered journalist and political prisoner whose life is being endangered by medical neglect.

Internationally renowned political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal is seriously ill. He is currently suffering from life threatening diabetes, full body skin disease, weight loss – 80 pounds in the last two to three months – extreme dehydration, multiple neurological symptoms – uncontrollable shaking, slurred speech, loss of memory with fugue states – and is wheelchair bound.

He was initially placed in the prison infirmary for the severe skin problem, released back into general population only to become sicker, very possibly as a result of inappropriate treatment for the skin problem. Most serious, despite three blood tests during his stay in the infirmary, he was not diagnosed for the diabetes he had developed, which only weeks later led to his going into diabetic shock.

He was rushed to the ICU at the closest hospital and had his sugar level somewhat stabilized only to be returned to the prison two days later while still very sick, causing more medical crises. Mr. Abu-Jamal is in immediate need of medical help from outside the prison system as the neglect and malpractice of the Department of Corrections is directly responsible for the inadequately addressed and alarming deterioration of his health.

We, the undersigned, call on Governor Thomas Wolf and Secretary John Wetzel to promptly authorize the independent doctors Mr. Abu-Jamal has chosen to coordinate his diagnosis and treatment plan, and to involve the specialists needed to address his many medical challenges. This would require allowing those doctors 1) to have regular phone access with Mr. Abu-Jamal while he is in the infirmary, 2) to be able to communicate freely and regularly with the prison infirmary physicians who are overseeing Mr. Abu-Jamal’s care, and 3) to schedule an immediate independent medical examination.

The horrific medical care Mr. Abu-Jamal has received at SCI Mahanoy with life threatening consequences is by no means unique to him. The epidemic level of diabetes throughout Pennsylvania’s prisons and the skin problems and hepatitis infections many of the prisoners experience speak volumes about the vulnerability to serious disease that simply entering the prison system causes.

We, therefore, call for an independent investigation of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections medical system. In particular, this investigation must focus on profit-making organizations hired by the Department of Corrections that place priority on cost cutting rather than the quality of care provided to prisoners, resulting in fewer referrals to hospitals when needed and more deaths.

Finally, given the extensive evidence of Mr. Abu-Jamal’s innocence, long prevented from being addressed fairly in the courts, and now the evidence that Mr. Abu-Jamal’s very life is in danger while in the prison system, we call for his immediate release from prison.

SIGNERS

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Minister Louis Farrakhan

Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General of the United States

Cornel West, Emeritus Professor, Princeton University; Professor, Union Theological Seminary

Chris Hedges, author, Pulitzer prize winning journalist

Lynne Stewart, former attorney and political prisoner

Charles Barron, New York State Assemblyman

Professor Vijay Prashad, George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History; Professor of International Studies, Trinity College

Robin D.G. Kelley, Distinguished Professor of History, UCLA

Farah Jasmine Griffin, Professor, English, Comparative Literature, and African-American Studies, Columbia University

Lisa Guenther, Professor, Philosophy, Vanderbilt University

Thomas Hansen, Mexico Solidarity Organization, runs an immigrant justice advocacy university

Joy James, Professor, Humanities and Political Science, Williams College

Mark Lewis Taylor, Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Theology and Culture, Princeton Theological Seminary

Dr. Sabine Kebir, Privatdozentin, author of political and cultural studies, Board Member, German PEN

Farhang Jahanpour, Former Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Languages at the University of Isfahan, Tutor, Middle Eastern Studies, Department of Continuing Education, University of Oxford

If you would like to add your name to the list of signers, please write your full name and how you would like to be identified, using the above as guidelines, and send it to suzannewross@aol.com.

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