[Pnews] Prison officials turn away thousands of petitions for Mumia Abu Jamal

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 31 11:55:24 EDT 2019


https://www.workers.org/2019/07/30/prison-officials-turn-away-thousands-of-petitions-for-mumia/ 



  Prison officials turn away thousands of petitions for Mumia

By Joe Piette <https://www.workers.org/author/joepiette/> posted on July 
30, 2019
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dozens of community activists traveled hundreds of miles from four 
states to Mechanicsburg, Penn., on July 24 to deliver petitions signed 
by 3,000 people from around the world, simply requesting the right to 
proper vision care for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. They expected 
at the very least that someone with authority in the Pennsylvania 
Department of Corrections would step out to accept the petitions.

The PA DOC instead placed several burly Capitol District cops and a 
couple of DOC staff members outside the front doors to “greet” the 
community representatives.

The activists fighting for Abu-Jamal’s freedom — representing a global 
movement for the freedom of all political prisoners — insisted on their 
right to speak to John Wetzel, head of the state prison authority or one 
of his near-equals, before handing over the signatures from thousands of 
Mumia supporters.

*Agreement to meet*

Outside the main doors of the state facility, the first of two 
non-uniformed men to speak to the activists was a Mr. Barnacle. When Pam 
Africa, representing the International Concerned Family and Friends of 
Mumia Abu-Jamal, asked who he was, he pulled out a badge marked “staff,” 
dated 2018. When told someone with real authority and current 
identification was needed, Barnacle eventually agreed to allow three 
participants to enter the building to deliver the petitions to a DOC 
official.

While the assembled activists waited to be joined by people in two 
additional vehicles from New York City, Megan Malachi, from REAL 
Justice, read the petition to the press titled “Act Now to Save Mumia’s 
Eyesight and to Demand His Release.” (tinyurl.com/y4s3ekpr)

Aminata Sandra Calhoun, from Mobilization4Mumia, followed with a 
statement from Mumia’s medical proxy, Rev. Mark Taylor, a professor at 
Princeton Theological Seminary, serving presently as Mumia’s “spiritual 
advisor.” The statement read in part:

“So far, the prison officials are discouraging and making complicated 
the eye-doctor’s ability to share with me the medical information that 
Mumia wants me to have. They have not scheduled his surgery. Every 
cooperative effort on these matters is being made by Mumia’s family and 
friends; still there is too much stalling by prison officials.

“We insist that SCI-Mahanoy and the PA DOC honor every legal step that 
Mumia needs to be taken, so that he receives quality eye-care 
immediately. He must no longer be subject to medical neglect or to any 
withholding of full information about his medical condition.

“The abuse Mumia suffered in the past nearly killed him, and even when 
finally addressed left him with cirrhosis of the liver. There is time 
for PA officials to turn a new corner.” (tinyurl.com/yxvmabkr)

Abu Jamal has a lot of trouble reading and doing other tasks that 
require good eyesight. His eyesight is seriously threatened by glaucoma, 
a vitreous detachment and cataracts in both eyes. These jeopardize his 
quality of life and wellbeing, as well as his journalistic profession.

The ophthalmologist whom Abu-Jamal was taken to see outside Mahanoy 
Prison recommends surgical procedures to remove the cataracts on both eyes.

But months of delays echo the years of delays Abu-Jamal experienced 
before the DOC was finally forced by a federal court to treat him with 
the cure for hepatitis C in 2018.

*DOC reneges on agreement*

When three designated activists — Dr. Suzanne Ross, Rev. Keith Collins 
and a videographer — later tried to enter the DOC state headquarters, 
they were met by another DOC staff member, Ken Smith, who claimed he was 
a Major in “Special Operations,” but would not show any valid 
identification to that effect.

Smith then reneged on the earlier agreement and said he would take the 
petitions, but would not allow the representatives to enter the building 
and meet with a DOC official.

The activists were unbending in their demand that a valid DOC person of 
authority formally accept, “on the record,” the inch-think bundle at a 
location inside the building.

Dr. Ross, designated as one of the petition delivery trio, told Smith: 
“The DOC has already failed from 2015 to 2017 to make available to Mumia 
the cure that was available for hep C at that time. The two-year delay 
left Mumia with cirrhosis of the liver [and other hep C-related damage]. 
Mumia supporters are determined to prevent the damage that could be 
caused by a comparable delay in treating his visual problems … . We’ve 
been here before and met with people. One time it was with the head of 
the press office. Send us the press officer.”

Rev. Keith Collins, who visited Mumia on July 4 and was also appointed 
to deliver the petitions, said: “I’m a pastor, a decorated veteran, a 
paratrooper, also an ex-cop … . We just want to deliver these petitions 
… . Mumia told me he can see to get around but not to read and that’s 
very important — for a journalist to read and to study … . So we’re here 
… to get him access to the doctor … and to let him come home. He’s 
served forty years for a crime he did not commit.”

Despite arguing for over an hour, the activists could not get the DOC to 
relent. Because of the commotion and locked doors, when a FedEx worker 
tried to deliver a package, no one on the outside would sign for it, and 
he was told to come back another time.

Yet the DOC wanted petitions from 3,000 people to be handed over to 
undesignated staff, off the record, with no way of tracking the 
petitions, which could immediately be trashed.

Finally, Abu-Jamal’s supporters marched away, but not before Pam Africa 
said: “We’re leaving now, but it’s not over. Wetzel, we’re going to find 
out wherever you be at, cause there ain’t no power like the power of the 
people.” The group left chanting, with the petitions in Rev. Collins’ 
hands, undelivered.

*Legal struggle continues*

The DOC’s refusal to meet with community representatives comes less than 
a week after the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower-court 
decision that Corrections Department employees could be sued for their 
decisions regarding the 65-year-old Mumia. Abu-Jamal asserts his initial 
denial of treatment with two antiviral drugs for hepatitis C violated 
his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. 
In an unprecedented January 2017 decision, Federal District Court Judge 
Robert Mariani used that argument to order the DOC to treat Abu-Jamal 
with direct-acting antiviral medications for his hep C infection.

Abu-Jamal’s supporters argue that because deliberate delay resulted in 
Mumia’s cirrhosis of the liver and because the current delay in cataract 
surgery may cause further deterioration in his overall health, he should 
immediately be released to seek treatment that the DOC refuses to make 
readily available to him.

Abu-Jamal is not alone in enduring these cruel and unusual assaults on 
his health. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of 
state prisoners age 55 or older increased 400 percent between 1993 and 
2013. Across the nation elderly prisoners experience a torturous journey 
toward the end of their lives, suffering from life-threatening illnesses 
without adequate treatment or any “compassionate release.” Abu-Jamal’s 
appeals for his right to treatment and for his release could result in 
increased rights for the freedom of all prisoners experiencing cruel and 
unusual conditions.

Abu-Jamal is serving a life sentence in the Pennsylvania prison system. 
The sentence, for the alleged 1981 murder of a Philadelphia policeman, 
came down in the context of a corruption-ridden and racist police 
department. That sentence has been declared unfair by human rights 
organizations and prison activists the world over.

Although Abu-Jamal has suffered a travesty of justice in the denial of 
his many appeals over the years, now both the Philadelphia District 
Attorney and the courts have recognized his right to have his appeals 
re-argued. This was determined by a momentous decision by Common Pleas 
Court Judge Leon Tucker in December 2018. Abu-Jamal is currently waiting 
for his Post Conviction Relief Act appeals to be reheard before a new 
panel of Pennsylvania Superior Court judges.

While the PA DOC remains resistant to giving Abu-Jamal his full rights 
to timely health care, and while the political powers in Pennsylvania 
continue to vilify him, Abu-Jamal and his supporters remain strong and 
energized by his recent court victories.


-- 
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