Thursday, February 09, 2012

Legal Update on How Mumia Got Removed From the Hole

Note below how at the final stage of this protracted battle with the state to get Mumia out of the hole, Mumia was pressured to sign an outrageous agreement he refused to sign.  He was then told he would therefore not be released into general population. But with the escalating struggle of the movement he was nonetheless released the following ay.  The powers that be had to back down.  All Power to the People!

The Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition


PA Department of Corrections Gives Up, For Now!

Mumia Abu-Jamal Moved Out of Administrative Custody!

Free Mumia from the Hell Hole of Prison!

By Rachel Wolkenstein

Fifty days after the Philadelphia District Attorney conceded defeat in its attempt to legally lynch Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) was compelled to abandon its efforts to keep Mumia in the tortuous conditions of Administrative Custody (AC) (more commonly known as solitary or "the hole"). In the face of an ever-growing international protest campaign, the threat of legal action and Mumia's courage and political integrity, on Friday morning, January 27, 2012, Mumia was moved into general population at SCI Mahanoy.

For weeks the DOC insisted that Mumia would be held in AC until it received the "paper work" stating he is resentenced to life imprisonment. This bogus rationale is representative of the arbitrariness and abuse of power exercised by the DOC, since its own documents state that the District Attorney agreed Mumia no longer had a death sentence. When Philadelphia District Attorney, Seth Williams, with the backing of the FOP, agreed to life imprisonment rather than trying again for an execution, they threatened to make Mumia's life imprisonment as restrictive and difficult as possible.

Once Mumia was taken off death row on December 8, 2011, he should have been transferred to general population. Instead, days later, Mumia was taken from his cell at 4 a.m. shackled and driven for seven hours across the state with rifles pointed at him and then thrown into the hole at SCI Mahanoy. This precipitous transfer was in response to the howl of rage by the FOP to Mumia's address to an over 1000-strong gathering at Philadelphia's Constitution Center, at which supporters vowed not to accept a life sentence for Mumia, but instead demanded his freedom from prison.

As soon as it was learned that Mumia was in the hole at Mahanoy, without phone calls, his writing materials, books and other property, or adequate commissary, protests flooded the phone lines, fax machines and emails at DOC, SCI Mahanoy and the District Attorney's office.  Mumia appealed his AC confinement stating that the conditions were worse than what he suffered on death row. Legal demands to immediately transfer Mumia to general population were sent to the DOC Secretary John Wetzel stating that Mumia's AC confinement violated his protected liberty interests and his human and civil rights.  Preparation was made to file a federal civil rights lawsuit on Mumia's behalf challenging his continued imprisonment in Administrative Custody.

On Thursday January 26, unbeknownst to each other, two separate struggles were taking place, one inside and the other outside the prison.  Mumia had his weekly Program Review Committee (PRC) hearing, headed up by a Deputy Superintendent at SCI Mahanoy. Before that morning review, Mumia was informed that he would be released into general population. But then a last minute condition was tacked on: signing a "security agreement" that stated (1) Mumia is a former capital case prisoner and therefore an institutional security risk and (2) consent that Mumia would go straight back to the hole if a disciplinary complaint is filed against him.

Mumia rejected this latest coercive measure. Instead he countered that he was being labeled a security risk based on his politics and exercise of constitutionally protected activities.  He maintained that during 30 years of incarceration his only prison infractions were based on his exercise of First Amendment rights. Mumia fought those disciplinary actions using what legal redress was available in the prison and in the courts. In Jamal v Price (1998), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that Mumia has a constitutional right publish his writings from death row free for censorship of its content.  Additionally, during his last five years on death row Mumia was a block worker, given and using tools like shovels in the yard. This would not have been allowed if Mumia was considered a "security risk."  Nonetheless, prison officials told Mumia at the morning PRC meeting and again at a second specially convened meeting in the afternoon that his counter agreement was not acceptable and he would not be moved into general population unless he signed the "security agreement."

During the course of that same day, Mumia's supporters held a Philadelphia press conference demanding his release into general population and highlighting the condition of tens of thousands of prisoners in these torture blocs in the U.S.  Then a delegation drove to DOC headquarters in Camp Hill, PA to present Secretary of Corrections, John Wetzel over 5500 petitions and notice of a complaint filed with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. Despite previous notice of the delegation, Secretary Wetzel refused to meet with them. But the presence of the delegation—and the international support they represented— was unquestionably felt.

The DOC did a complete about-face.  Early Friday morning, January 27, Mumia was brought in from the yard and without being given any explanation, was moved into general population.

This was a confirmation, by the DOC's own actions, that Mumia's confinement in AC, under daily conditions more onerous than death row, was punitive and retaliatory, fed by the Philadelphia District Attorney's office and the FOP, for defeating his death sentence and not bending as "the voice of the voiceless."  It is also confirmation, in the words of Frederick Douglas, that "power cedes nothing without a demand, it never did and it never will."

No comments: