Picture: Mumia Abu-Jamal, sentenced to death in 1982, is the former President of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and was member of the Black Panther Party until the late 70's.
With around 2.4 million incarcerated, America has by far the world's largest prison system. Two-thirds in it are Black or Latino.
Most held are non-violent. Over half are for drug related charges. Around 75% are Blacks or Latinos. On all charges, many are persecuted political prisoners.
In her book titled, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,"Michelle Alexander called today's Jim Crow a modern-day elitist-designed racial caste system. Believing poor Blacks (and Latinos) are dangerous and economically superfluous, America's gulag became an instrument of social control. According to Alexander:
"Any movement to end mass incarceration must deal with (it) as a racial caste system, not (a method) of crime control. We need an effective system of crime prevention and control in our communities, but that is not what the current system is. (It's) better designed to create crime, and a perpetual class of people labeled criminals, rather than to eliminate crime or reduce the number of criminals."
America's most vulnerable are victimized by racism, poverty, judicial unfairness, get tough on crime policies, a guilty unless proved innocent mentality, three strikes and you're out, bigoted drug laws, and advocacy for social justice issues challenging repressive state policies.
An earlier article called America's gulag the shame of the nation. It reflects mercilessly persecuting its own. At the same time, it wages imperial wars, lets banks commit grand theft, frees other corporate predators to operate extrajudicially, and punishes society's most vulnerable for resisting. It also targets Muslims to facilitate America’s global war on terror.
Russell Maroon Shoats
A self-designated "New African Political Prisoner of War," he's serving life/plus for alleged 1970 involvement in a policeman's death and wounding of another.
Incarcerated in 1972, he's spent 40 years in over a dozen federal, state, and local prisons and jails, including over 21 years in solitary confinement locked down 23 or more hours daily. More on that below.
In 1979, he was in maximum security confinement, during which time he was "forcibly drugged and on one occasion hospitalized from a hospital induced overdose...."
In the 1960s, he became politically active. He joined the African liberation movement, and was a Philadelphia-based Black Unity Council founding member. In 1969, it merged with Black Panther Party's Philadelphia chapter.
Compromised of prisoners' families, former inmates, and supporters, the Human Rights Coalition(HRC) calls America's prison system exploitive, punitive and corrupt. It says:
Most people "in prisons are poor, (black or) brown, urban, functionally illiterate, unemployed or under-employed before they were locked down, and are there for (alleged) non-violent crimes. The prison system reflects all inequalities in our society...."
As a result, it wants the current system abolished. It's racist and unjust. Shoats co-founded HRC.
Together with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), National Lawyers Guild and others, HRC's campaigning to free Shoats from isolation and return him to the general prison population.
On his behalf, a letter-writing/petition campaign was launched. Support him bysigning the petition for humane treatment. Now 68, he's held at Pennsylvania's:
State Correctional Institution (SCI) Greene
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370
Prison authorities call him a security threat because of past attempted and successful escapes. In fact, he's kept isolated based on false allegations about planning a 1980 prison takeover. He's also persecuted for his activism, leadership, and human rights support.
America's Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. It's prison system commits it ruthlessly with impunity. Shoats is one of many victims. Locked up, they're out of sight and mind.
Everyone deserves justice. America's most vulnerable get none, especially those in the maw of a racist, brutalizing, dehumanizing prison system.
Comments on Two Other Prisoners
On February 16, the FBI Detroit Division announced "underwear bomber" Uman Farouk Abdulmutallab's life sentence for conviction on charges of:
conspiracy to commit terrorism;
willfully placing a destructive device on an aircraft;
attempting to use "a weapon of mass destruction;"
attempting to destroy a civil aircraft; and