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October 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the historic and remarkable organizing initiative to boycott the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Dr. Harry Edwards led the boycott efforts, as well as the creation of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, in which he involved countless Black activists from throughout the country, including H. Rap Brown. On Oct. 21, 2018, I was fortunate to interview Dr. Edwards about his 1968 organizing efforts and his affiliation with H. Rap Brown (now Jamil Al-Amin) who also played a leading and inspirational role in this historic 1968 event.
I’m a published writer, author of “Before Orange was the New Black: The Camp Hill Story.” What I’ve written could be the motivation for the excessive brutality aimed at me lately. Since October of 2017 I have endured the worst, most cruel, inhumane conditions on the highest level, from beatings to excessive force and misuse of authority. I filed complaints on several occasions. My complaints have not been taken into consideration. I’m speaking out on such conditions not only for myself but also for inmates who have endured similar or worse conditions that may not have a voice or support.
His name is Veronza Bowers Jr., a former member and captain of the original Black Panther Party. After more than 44 years in prison, 14 years beyond his mandatory release date, Veronza has faith that with his Freedom Team of top lawyers and the love of multitudes of supporters around the world, he will win his freedom soon. Political prisoners are kept in prison when the “law enforcers” they opposed decades ago carry grudges they pass down the generations, vowing those prisoners will die in prison. But the words of little Pharoah Dawson, who wrote, “Veronza, don’t die in prison!” are more powerful.
At the modern intersection of Islamophobia and the Black Lives Matter movement resides Jamil Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown), the now forgotten civil rights activist and revolutionary leader who, 16 years ago this year, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Fulton County, Ga., Sheriff’s Deputy Ricky Leon Kinchen and the wounding of his partner, then-Sheriff’s Deputy Aldranon English, during a March 2000 gunfight.
How you can help Imam Jamil: Yahya Abdussabur, a leading supporter of Iman Jamil Al-Amin, in distributing this letter by email, writes: The letter is part of the continuing effort to gain freedom for our beloved Imam Jamil Al-Amin. As Allaah has enjoined on us, “Enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil” and as the Holy Prophet has said, “Want for your brother what you want for yourself.” Please sign this letter and encourage your jamaat, friends and associates to do the same.”
Six California prisoners wrote to me in 2015 to ask about the Hepatitis C cure, shortly after the San Francisco Bay View newspaper published my interview with activist attorney Peter Erlinder titled “US prisoners sue for constitutional right to lifesaving Hep C cure.” They’d been able to read it because the Bay View sends a print edition to prisons all over the country every month. I tried and failed to answer those letters and I’ve felt bad about it ever since. I would have swiftly responded to all the prisoners who wrote to me about the Hep C cure if I’d been able to send electronic mail.
I left CDCr wondering how PBSP could remain in shambles after 22 years of court oversight. As I started educating myself about prison reform, I stumbled upon Keramet Reiter’s 2016 book, “23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement.” Within those pages, I found validation and some disturbing answers. I wish this book had been available to me before I started working in CDCr.
A new day has dawned, pregnant with opportunity. For the first time, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has granted the status of “pilot program” to a prisoner-created, prisoner-run rehabilitation and reentry program, effectively offering prisoners an opportunity to control their own destiny. For many of us who have spent decades in federal prison, the Young Men Incorporated (YMI) program is a reality few could have imagined.
Pastor Kenneth Glasgow was one of roughly 500 people who convened in Oakland, California, last weekend for the first national conference of the Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People and Families Movement. Hailing from more than 30 states, it was a shared fact of life among participants that the change they need – including fundamental civil rights – will not simply be handed to them by people in power. They must fight for it themselves.
Senior White House officials, city leaders, educators, community residents and inmates gathered inside the All Faith Chapel at the Atlanta federal prison on May 9 to hear a debate team of three inmates with lengthy custodial sentences challenge a team of three Morehouse College undergraduates. The highly anticipated event was themed The Great Debate and Reentry Forum: Everyone Deserves a Fair and Second Chance.
Protest Big Pharma’s price gouging that threatens Hep-C patients, including Mumia, on Monday, Jan. 11, 12 noon, at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference for Big Pharma executives and investors at Westin St. Francis Hotel, 335 Powell St., Union Square, in San Francisco. Gilead Sciences sells the curative Harvoni pill in Egypt for 10 cents each, and Gilead does not lose money at this price. In the U.S., Gilead is price-gouging at about 10,000 times the cost of production!
Attorneys filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts this week on behalf of prisoners who say they’re being denied new lifesaving treatment for Hepatitis C because of the cost of the drugs. Gilead Sciences manufactures two versions of the cure, Harvoni and Sovaldi. Abbvie Pharmaceutical Limited, formerly Abbot Labs, manufactures another, Viekira Pak. The cost of any one of the three is roughly $90,000.
We as prisoners did not forfeit our citizenship when we came to prison or the laws which are designed to protect our basic human rights and dignity. The implementation and enforcement of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act was a clear procedural deprivation of our rights under the Fifth and 14th Amendments. The Fairness and Restoration Act 2015 is about restoring fairness and justice to those who were denied it.
In the South Carolina prison system, accessing Facebook is an offense on par with murder, rape, rioting, escape and hostage-taking. Back in 2012, the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) made “Creating and/or Assisting With a Social Networking Site” a Level 1 offense, a category reserved for the most violent violations of prison conduct policies. It’s one of the most common Level 1 offense charges brought against inmates.
Claiming the need for emergency passage of new visiting policies, the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) is proposing the use of canines and ION scanners that would subject visitors to prisons to humiliating and traumatizing strip searches. The move has brought swift condemnation from prisoner advocacy organizations and groups that work with prisoners, including the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).
The fiery H. Rap Brown, chairperson of SNCC, minister of justice for the Black Panther Party and one of the original four targets of the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO to neutralize Black power, is presently entombed in the federal prison at Florence, Colorado, one of the world’s 10 worst prisons. Pursued relentlessly since the ‘60s, he was wrongfully convicted in 2002 – the prosecutor bragging that they finally got him after trying for 24 years. His wife, attorney Karima Al-Amin, tells his story on the Block Report.
Only by reducing the amount of time inmates spend behind federal prison bars – by eliminating harsh mandatory minimum sentences and resurrecting federal parole – will much of the unnecessary suffering caused by prison overcrowding and budgetary financial strain be alleviated. There is currently a federal parole proposal pending before Congress and President Obama. Your signature as well as your support is needed.
Solitary confinement does little or nothing to promote public safety or prison safety. It is not only harmful but unnecessary and incredibly costly. Violence levels plummeted by 70 percent of previous levels when the commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections reduced the number of prisoners held in solitary confinement by 85 percent.
The continuing campaign to gain compassionate release for Lynne Stewart – the grievously ill, imprisoned human rights attorney – is headed to Washington, D.C. with a continuing vigil in front of the White House starting on Monday, June 17. Despite being approved for compassionate release, Stewart continues to be held in Carswell Federal Prison in seriously deteriorating health.
The battle over the future of Tamms became the most visible and contentious example of a phenomenon seen around the country: Otherwise progressive unions are taking reactionary positions when it comes to prisons, supporting addiction to mass incarceration. And when it comes to issues of prisoners’ rights in general, and solitary confinement in particular, they are seen as a major obstacle to reform.
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