13 April 2015
Mumia’s Life in Danger—Free Him Now!
On March 30, class-war prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal was rushed from the SCI-Mahanoy, Pennsylvania state prison to the Schuylkill Medical Center Intensive Care Unit, verging on a diabetic coma. With consummate cruelty, prison authorities initially not only prevented his wife, Wadiya, and other family members from seeing Mumia but also refused to divulge information about his condition. Pam Africa, Mumia’s designated emergency contact, was denied visitation as well. When prison officials relented after numerous protests, Wadiya, Mumia’s son Jamal Hart and his older brother Keith were granted just 30 minutes with Mumia. They found him with an insulin drip in one arm and handcuffs on the other, barely able to sit up, shaking and in pain, his breathing labored. Wadiya described being “shocked at his condition.” On April 1, a frail Mumia was sent back to the same Mahanoy prison where the contempt and medical neglect of his jailers had brought him to the threshold of death.
It is no secret that leading government officials, not just in Pennsylvania but across the country, want Mumia dead. This latest emergency highlights that Mumia’s life is in danger every day he remains in the clutches of the state authorities that for 30 years sought his legal lynching. With the overturning of his frame-up death sentence in 2011, they are determined that Mumia’s prison cot be his deathbed.
Three months ago, Mumia reported a full-body outbreak of eczema with bloody sores and blisters. Mumia’s skin erupted in reaction to treatment by prison doctors. Since then, Mumia has lost over 50 pounds. Results of three blood tests performed in February were reportedly withheld from him. Even the most incompetent medical personnel would have recognized something was awry—but Mumia was left to waste away while his blood sugar hit the roof. Not passing up any opportunity, prison authorities disciplined Mumia for missing roll call in early January because he had fallen into a trance-like sleep induced by his condition.
The shroud that prison authorities placed over Mumia’s condition recalls the mysterious death of his comrade Phil Africa at the State Correctional Institution in Dallas, Pennsylvania, on January 10. Phil was held in total isolation in the hospital for five days, during which time his wife of 44 years, Janine, was denied the right to speak to him until two days before he died. To this day, prison officials have never revealed the cause of Phil’s death.
We have long championed freedom for Mumia, an innocent man. Now the elementary demand for adequate medical treatment requires his immediate release. Free Mumia now!
Mumia has been in the crosshairs of the capitalist state since his days as a teenage Black Panther Party spokesman in the 1960s. That enmity toward him grew in the 1970s when, as a journalist known as the “voice of the voiceless,” Mumia exposed the racist Philly police vendetta against MOVE, the largely black back-to-nature group he came to support. Mumia was framed up for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer, Daniel Faulkner. Police and prosecutors manufactured evidence to convict him, including by terrorizing witnesses and concocting a fake confession two months after his arrest. Following a 1982 trial in which Mumia was denied the right to represent himself and was repeatedly ejected from the courtroom, he was sentenced to death explicitly for his political views, primarily his Black Panther membership. Federal and state courts have time and again refused to consider evidence proving Mumia’s innocence, especially the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner.
Mumia’s unwavering dedication to the cause of the oppressed can be seen in his delivering, despite his debilitated condition, a radio commentary on April 10 about the cold-blooded racist cop killing of 50-year-old black man Walter Scott by a white cop in South Carolina six days earlier. In their vendetta against Mumia, the forces of racist “law and order,” led by the Fraternal Order of Police, have fought to silence Mumia and vilify just about anyone—from union and student activists to liberal celebrities and an occasional politician—who in any way expresses support for Mumia’s rights. The same day Mumia was rushed to the hospital, hearings opened in a Pennsylvania court on his lawsuit challenging the “Revictimization Relief Act” enacted last October with the express aim of shutting down Mumia’s prison commentaries and suppressing his books.
Following an outcry in the bourgeois press, Marilyn Zuniga, a third-grade teacher in Orange, New Jersey, was suspended on April 10 without pay for the honorable act of encouraging students to send “get well” messages to Mumia. The PDC has sent a protest letter demanding Zuniga’s immediate reinstatement with no loss in pay.
Medical neglect of those incarcerated in America’s dungeons is epidemic. While the absence of care for those suffering from severe psychiatric problems has drawn some attention, most recently thanks to the torture chambers of New York City’s Rikers Island detention center, the denial of necessary medical attention to those, largely black and Latino, behind bars has been overwhelmingly ignored.
The medical neglect of those in prison hell has been exacerbated by the privatization of prison health care to penny-pinching concerns such as Corizon Health Inc., which alone covers nearly 350,000 inmates in 27 states. Corizon is the subject of numerous lawsuits, including one filed by the family of Javon Frazier, who was an inmate in a county jail in Florida. After four months of complaints of left shoulder pain, which were answered only with Tylenol, Frazier was ultimately hospitalized and diagnosed with bone cancer and his arm amputated. Frazier died just months after his release, at the age of 21.
The grotesque treatment of prisoners is exacerbated many times over for those, like Mumia, locked away for fighting against this racist capitalist order. The PDC has contributed to Mumia’s medical care, and urges union militants, fighters for black freedom and student activists to demand freedom now for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Readers who want to help defray Mumia’s expenses can make contributions at www.indiegogo.com/projects/mumia-abu-jamal-needs-medical-care-now. To correspond with Mumia, write to: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI Mahanoy, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932.