Supporters of political prisoner-of-war Jalil Muntaqim (s/n Anthony Bottom), are urging New York officials to grant his release from prison, citing age, health and time served. Incarcerated since 1971, Muntaqim was eligible for parole in 2002, however has been repeatedly denied. Last week it was learned that he tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized.

“For months, public health experts, faith leaders, advocates, and hundreds of others have warned NYS officials that the prisons are potential death traps in the COVID-19 pandemic,” explained Black Panther comrade, Sekou Odinga. “Recognizing this reality, a NYS judge on April 27th ordered Mr. Muntaqim released from Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, NY, based on his high-level of vulnerability to the virus. He’s 68-years-old and suffers from serious chronic health conditions including chronic bronchitis, heart disease, and hypertension. The judge agreed that his age, combined with these conditions, places him squarely in three of the highest-risk categories, as defined by CDC, for serious complications, illness, and death from the novel coronavirus, and ordered his immediate release.”

Odinga noted that Jalil has a strong support system awaiting his release, and that he’s met all parole eligibility criteria, including having an “exemplary prison record,” “expressing sincere remorse for his actions,” and “poses the lowest possible risk of committing another offense if released.”

Adding: “New York Attorney General Letitia James appealed the judge’s decision and prevented Jalil from being released while he waited for the appeal to be heard. [Meanwhile], Jalil contracted the virus and is now fighting for his life. Jalil’s current circumstance is the direct result of the callous decision by the A.G.’s office to spend time, money and resources during the pandemic fighting the release of a vulnerable elder who has already served nearly 50 years in prison. As former Public Advocate of NY, Ms. James should understand that her office has the power either to protect or damage community health, welfare, and safety. Regrettably, she has chosen to contribute to damage.”

The Amsterdam News reached out, but did not get a response from A.G. James’ office by press time.

There have been 16 COVID-related deaths of older New York prisoners since early April.

“The continued confinement of older and/or health compromised prisoners fuels the pandemic, not only among incarcerated people, but also in the communities where prison staff live,” Odinga states. “It also brings suffering and pain to the family members who daily worry that their incarcerated loved ones are rendered powerless to resist the virus, due to the callous disregard of elected officials. Ms. James has the enviable power to do something to correct one example of this human rights crisis. She could and should drop her appeal of Mr. Muntaqim’s release, allowing him to return to his community after recovery, where he will have access to excellent care and be able to protect himself against re-infection with COVID-19. Tish James has taken the position that she don’t work for the people, that she works for the governor and the Dept. of Correction.”

Constitutional and Civil Rights attorney, Joan Gibbs, concludes: “It’s outrageous that he, and other prisoners with the virus, are being detained still. Jalil was incarcerated at 19 years old, and spent virtually all his life imprisoned. He wasn’t given a death-sentence and he shouldn’t die in prison, but in essence, the state is killing him by keeping him in there.”

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