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Advocates for Mumia Abu-Jamal are outraged that Pennsylvania prison personnel are not allowing him to join general population, even though his death sentence was vacated over a month ago.
Excuses given by the Department of Corrections (DOC) for the delay range from slow paperwork to "awaiting official resentencing" and "further evaluations"; the most recent is their insistence that he cut his crown and allow his blood to be drawn prior to his release from transitional solitary confinement.
In a statement dated Jan. 12, Abu-Jamal's attorney, Rachel Wolkenstein, claimed, "Mumia informed me tonight in a legal phone call that today he was given a new, additional reason for being held in AC [administrative custody] status-his long dreadlocks. For over eight years, Mumia had been held in disciplinary custody [DC] on death row for no stated reason except his hair.
DC is yet one step below AC in the prison's torture blocks: no books at all, no outside communication, no commissary. It has taken over five weeks for the DOC to come up with this."
After the Philadelphia district attorney's office conceded, announcing on Dec. 7 last year that they would no longer pursue their efforts to legally lynch him, Abu-Jamal was removed from death row and relocated to a lower classification cellblock the following day.
Then, on Dec. 14, the political prisoner was transferred from his residence for the past 16-plus years, the supermax State Correctional Institute Green in western Pennsylvania, to the medium-security SCI Mahanoy in Frackville, about 100 miles outside Philadelphia.
Upon his arrival, he was immediately placed in AC rather than in the general population as anticipated. Abu-Jamal now languishes in solitary confinement, enduring the glare of 24-hour lighting, with limited access to books, envelopes, stamps, phone calls and visitors. His commissary, radio and typewriter privileges have been revoked.
"There is no legal basis for Mumia to be confined in AC," argued Wolkenstein. "This is not dependent on a court date for Mumia to be formally resentenced to life imprisonment."
Whenever outside his cell, Abu-Jamal's ankles, waist and wrists are shackled together, even when showering. All of his visits are conducted behind Plexiglas and are limited to an hour.
"Once the district attorney announced that its office would not seek a new sentencing trial, Mr. Abu-Jamal should have been transferred into general population," a recent National Lawyers' Guild letter reads. "Such a transfer is not dependent on a judge's formal resentencing to life imprisonment. Given that, and given his exemplary disciplinary record, we can only conclude that Mr. Abu-Jamal's prolonged detainment in solitary confinement is in retaliation for his highly publicized and internationally supported efforts to secure a new trial, and is intended to placate those who have been demanding his execution."
Authorities claim that the prolific penman will be contained in the Restricted Housing Unit on DC until he complies with the demand to cut his locks.
"The DOC's treatment of Mumia is punishment for depriving the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police] and Philadelphia district attorney of his execution. This is the latest attempt by this frame-up system to silence Mumia, an innocent man, and to subject him to tortuous, punitive conditions in the hole," contended Wolkenstein.
Supporters plan to deliver a petition endorsed by over 5,000 signatures to DOC Secretary John Wetzel's office the morning of Jan. 26, demanding Abu-Jamal's immediate removal from solitary confinement and placement in general population.
To voice your support, write to Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI Mahanoy, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932. For more information, visit freemumia.com.