2 October 2015

Mumia’s Life in Danger

Court Blocks Medical Treatment—Free Him Now!

On September 18, federal magistrate judge Karoline Mehalchick issued a recommendation that the district court deny the urgent medical treatment requested by Mumia Abu-Jamal, America’s foremost class-war prisoner. Mumia has been gravely ill since March, when he was rushed to the hospital on the verge of a diabetic coma. For months prior, he suffered debilitating skin rashes over 70 percent of his body. Ever since, prison officials have resisted Mumia’s efforts to obtain adequate medical treatment—including testing for obvious underlying conditions. Mumia had tested positive for the hepatitis C antibody over three years ago, but nothing was done to determine whether the infection was active. When blood tests were finally performed in July, they revealed a diagnosis of active hepatitis C, a condition that can be fatal if not treated, but prison officials continue to deny him the necessary care.

The capitalist state has targeted Mumia since his teenage years in the 1960s, when he was a spokesman for the Black Panther Party. In the 1970s, Mumia worked as a journalist in Philadelphia, where he was known as the “voice of the voiceless” and 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, Mumia was sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. The courts have time and again refused to consider evidence proving Mumia’s innocence, including the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner. In 2011, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office dropped its longstanding effort to legally lynch Mumia, instead condemning him to the “slow death row” of life without parole.

In the recommendation, Mehalchick declared with stunning cruelty that Mumia will not be “irreparably harmed” by withholding treatment. She further stated that the interests of the Department of Corrections would be damaged because ordering the treatment Mumia has requested would deny his jailers “an opportunity to treat Abu-Jamal’s hepatitis C in accordance with their own established protocols.” But as prison staff told Mumia in July, they have no protocol for treating hepatitis C!

According to the judge, immediate treatment is not warranted, “especially given the fact that it often takes significant time for hepatitis C to progress.” In Mumia’s case, the disease has already progressed: tests performed over the last several months have revealed “significant fibrosis” (scarring) and deteriorated function of the liver. Other long-term effects of the disease, some of which Abu-Jamal has already experienced, include skin sores, inflammation of the kidneys and type 2 diabetes. He has also reportedly lost 25 pounds in recent months and is confined to the SCI Mahanoy prison infirmary. The state seems intent to allow the disease to “progress” until Mumia is dead.

Medical neglect of those incarcerated in America’s dungeons is widespread. One in six prison inmates is infected with hepatitis C. Although a drug regimen approved by the Food and Drug Administration has a success rate of 95 percent, prison officials are reluctant to shell out for the costly drugs. This grotesque treatment of prisoners is exacerbated many times over for those, like Mumia, locked away for fighting against this racist capitalist order.

The Partisan Defense Committee, a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League, has long fought for his freedom. Key to Mumia’s defense is the support of organized labor. Unions including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, the Oakland Education Association, the New York Metro Area Postal Union and the National Writers Union have recently issued statements demanding that Mumia be given the medical treatment he desperately needs.

In a September 16 letter to the Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections, the PDC declared: “As this is a matter of life and death, we demand that Mumia Abu-Jamal be released immediately so that he can secure appropriate treatment.” We urge union militants, fighters for black freedom and student activists to demand freedom now for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Send letters of protest to Secretary John Wetzel, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1075, 2 October 2015)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.