30 January 2009

Outrage! Hugo Pinell Denied Parole

On January 14, the California Board of Parole denied Hugo Pinell parole for the ninth time—and declared that he will not have another parole board hearing for 15 years! Pinell, the last of the San Quentin Six still in prison, is 63 years old and has been in prison since he was 19. Despite having no disciplinary write-ups for 27 years, he has spent the last 39 years in solitary confinement, 19 of them in the notoriously brutal Security Housing Unit of the Pelican Bay dungeon, where he is subjected to high-tech sensory deprivation: 23 to 24 hours a day in a small cell, no windows, no natural light, no contact visits and prolonged isolation. The capitalist rulers have kept Pinell locked down because he remains true to his vision of a society finally rid of racist repression.

Pinell, who immigrated from Nicaragua at age 12, was locked up in 1965. In the late ’60s he became a leader of a developing movement in the California prisons against wretched conditions and racist abuse. He was a student and close comrade of George Jackson, the imprisoned Black Panther spokesman. The prisoners’ movement, which was met with heavy repression, reflected the intense struggles taking place outside the prison walls, from the “black power” movement to radical protests against the war in Vietnam. Pinell and five others—the San Quentin Six—were framed up on charges of conspiracy murder stemming from the killing of three prison guards in the protests that erupted after the assassination of Jackson in the San Quentin prison yard on 21 August 1971. Pinell represented himself at the 18-month-long trial and was convicted of two counts of assault.

The parole board’s decision to deny Pinell parole for another 15 years was made possible by the grotesquely reactionary Proposition 9, passed in the November 2008 elections. Under previous California law, Pinell would have to be given another hearing within two years. Proposition 9, dubbed a “victims’ bill of rights,” rewrote a whole section of the state constitution, as well as state penal law, in order to bolster the repressive powers of the state and further eviscerate the rights of those charged or convicted by the racist capitalist criminal injustice system. The ballot initiative was bankrolled with $4.8 million by sleazy billionaire Henry Nicholas III, who last year was indicted on securities fraud and other charges, such as drugging his customers’ representatives. In 2004, Nicholas also pumped in $3.5 million in a last-minute campaign to defeat Proposition 66, which would have rolled back some of the provisions of California’s notorious, draconian 1994 “Three Strikes” law.

For over 20 years, Hugo Pinell has been one of the class-war prisoners supported by the Partisan Defense Committee’s monthly stipend program. As the PDC noted in a recent letter to the California parole board, in 2006 “a commissioner berated Mr. Pinell saying ‘you continue to show no remorse...’. This is a common ruse for denying parole for political prisoners. Mr. Pinell has no reason for ‘remorse’ for his commendable political convictions.” The fight to free Pinell and all the other class-war prisoners is part of the fight against the whole system of exploitation and repression inherent in capitalist rule. Free Hugo Pinell now!

* * *

(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 929, 30 January 2009)

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