[Ppnews] "Life, Health Care, Prisons & Cutting Costs" by Sundiata Acoli
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Oct 8 12:25:51 EDT 2009
Life, health care, prisons and cutting costs
By Sundiata Acoli
Health care costs are soaring and have become
unaffordable for many families. It is no
different for the Prison Industrial Complex
(PIC), except theyre required by law to provide medical care to their wards.
Although much of prison health care is
inadequate, many of its youthful captives can at
least squeak by on whats presently provided. Not
so for those over 50 years of age, most of whom
are beset by the common old age infirmities: high
blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes, clogged
arteries, heart disease, cancer and the need for body part replacements.
California has the largest prison population in
the U.S. plus the highest health care costs and
spends $98,000 to $138,000 per year for each
prisoner over 50. (See Study Finds Record
Numbers of Inmates Serving Life by Solomon
Moore, New York Times, July 2009, page A20.) An
Aug. 11, 2009, New York Times editorial noted
that just days before a Chino, California, prison
riot, a three-judge panel ordered the state to
reduce its 150,000-plus prison population by
about 40,000 in the next two years as the only
way to bring its prison health care system up to constitutional standards.
The editorial concluded: The riot at Chino and
the federal courts ruling contain the same
message for states everywhere: They must come up
with a smart way to reduce prison populations and they must do it quickly.
More prisoners today are serving life sentences
than ever before. They are called Lifers, their
numbers have quadrupled since 1984 to over
140,000 and theyve become a major driving force
behind the explosion of health care costs in
prisons. Many Lifers are over 50 and most are
parole eligible, while the remainder are doing life without parole (LWOP.)
One reason for the ballooning of life sentences
is the Three Strikes Youre Out mandatory
minimums, 100 to 1 ratio of crack to powder
cocaine sentences, children sentenced to LWOP
in clear violation of international law and
other harsh edicts of the law and order climate of the last several decades.
The other reason for the balloon is the
unrectified racial residue that has accompanied
Americas justice system since antebellum days.
Two thirds of prisoners serving life sentences
are Latino and Black and nearly half of those
serving life are Black. In 13 states Blacks make
up 60 percent of the Lifers. In New York state,
only 17 percent of prisoners serving life are White.
Many Lifers over 50 have already done 20, even 30
years or more and some are 60, even 70 years old
and more. Crime has been decreasing for the last
decade or two and ALL indicators show that
elderly prisoners, once released, rarely commit
another crime and are least likely to return to prison.
So it is self-evident that the smartest and
quickest way to begin reducing prison health care
costs and prison overcrowding is to release aged
and infirmed Lifers and LWOPs whose age plus
years served equal a fixed number say 70 years,
for example which could be further reduced in
proportion to the seriousness of the Lifers illness.
Such a release process would not only be smart
but ethical and prisoners families, loved ones
and the public would be even wiser to urge their
Congress member to put such a prison cost cutting bill into effect immediately.
Sundiata Acoli is a 72-year-old prisoner at FCI
Otisville, New York, who is sentenced to life
with the possibility of parole, afflicted with
common old age infirmities and has been
imprisoned 36 years to date. He was arrested for
the May 2, 1973, New Jersey Turnpike shooting
incident in which he shot no one but merely
managed to survive but in which his passenger,
Zayd Shakur, and a New Jersey trooper, Werner
Foerster, were killed and another trooper, James
Harper, was wounded as was Sundiatas other
passenger, Assata Shakur, who was at the time the
object of a nationwide woman hunt and she was
captured. Sundiata was also wounded, then
captured 40 hours later. Sundiata and both his
passengers were members of the Black Panther Party at the time.
Sundiata has endured some of the harshest
treatment a prisoner could experience. Still, he
maintains a favorable prison record. He is a
talented painter and has written numerous
published articles about the prison industrial
complex. He is a beloved father, grandfather,
brother and elder to many with a rich history of
making invaluable contributions to his community.
In the 60s Sundiata left a promising career at
NASA as a computer programmer to travel to the
South to help register Blacks to vote. During his
activism with the New York Chapter of the Black
Panther Party, Sundiata contributed to various
programs providing the city of Harlem with
community control of schools, tenant control of
slum housing, free breakfast for school children,
free health care, legal clinics and political
education classes. He also worked on community
programs against drug dealers and police
brutality. Numerous Panthers are still
languishing in prison and have repeatedly been
denied parole despite clear support for their release.
For those reasons and because Assata escaped
prison long ago, the Parole Board has twice
denied Sundiata parole claiming hes likely to
commit another crime. Sundiata comes up for
parole hearing again in February 2010 and people
concerned about justice are urged to send
letters, cards and signature petitions.
As the attorneys will present your letters
formally and keep record of the number of letters
received, please do not mail them to the Parole
Board directly. Instead mail your letters to:
Attorney Florence Morgan, 120-46 Queens Blvd., Kew Gardens, NY 11415.
Letters should be addressed to: Chairwoman
Volette C. Ross, New Jersey State Parole Board,
P.O. Box 862, Trenton NJ 08625, saying in effect
that 36 years is enough. Sundiata Acoli, New
Jersey No. 54859 and federal No. 39794-066, has
long ago fulfilled all requirements for parole
and is too old, infirm and highly unlikely to
commit another crime, so I urge you to release Sundiata Acoli on parole.
To join the Sundiata Acoli Freedom Campaign
(SAFC) email list or request additional
information, feel free to contact SAFC by email
at <mailto:TheSAFC at gmail.com>TheSAFC at gmail.com.
More info on Sundiata at: <http://www.sundiataacoli.org>www.sundiataacoli.org
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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