'People Power' Pries Abu-Jamal from Punitive Administrative Custody
Credit ‘people power’ for getting internationally known inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal sprung from his apparently punitive, seven-week placement in ‘The Hole.’
For the first time since receiving a controversial death sentence in 1982 for killing a Philadelphia policeman, the widely acclaimed author-activist finds himself in general population, a prison housing status far less restrictive than the solitary confinement of death row.
Inmates in general population have full privileges to visitation, telephone and commissary, along with access to all prison programs and services, all things denied or severely limited to convicts on death row waiting to be killed by the state.
In early December 2011, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections officials, after the federal courts had removed his death penalty and the Philadelphia District Attorney opted not to attempt to re-try the penalty phase in hopes of winning a new death sentence, placed Abu-Jamal in Administrative Custody (a/k/a ‘The Hole’).
Administrative Custody is confinement in a Spartan isolation cell where conditions are more draconian than even death row.
The release of Abu-Jamal from Administrative Custody into general population on Friday, January 27, 2012 followed with a multi-layered protest campaign by his supporters worldwide that included flooding Pennsylvania prison authorities with telephone calls, collecting petitions containing over 5,000 signatures and a complaint filed with United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.
Supporters condemned the Administrative Custody placement, calling it retaliation for Abu-Jamal's having successfully defeated the state's efforts to execute him. Abu-Jamal, a model prisoner, did not meet any of the 11 specific circumstances listed in Pennsylvania DoC regulations dictating administrative custody placement.
Prison staff evaluations of Abu-Jamal since his December death row removal, sources said, listed him as “polite [and] respectful.” Those positive evaluations did not evidence any of the incorrigibility or other serious misbehaviors that usually trigger AC placement.
“When people are united around an issue they have power. This is the power of the people all races in many places,” said Pam Africa, director of the Philadelphia-based International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Abu-Jamal, in a statement released through his wife Wadiya Jamal, thanked his supporters for their hard work. “I am no longer on death row, no longer in the hole, I’m in population,” Abu-Jamal’s statement noted. “This is only Part One and I thank you for the work you’ve done. But the struggle is for freedom!”