According to his attorneys and advocates, Mumia Abu-Jamal has been moved from Pennsylvania’s Death Row to a solitary confinement cell at the State Correctional Institute at Mahanoy, in rural Frackville. After 30 years on death row, his death sentence was overturned by the federal courts.
A statement and call to action being circulated by Prison Radio and the Human Rights Coalition describes Mumia’s conditions. It also notes that he hopes to use his status as perhaps the nation’s best-known prisoner to draw attention to the plight of the tens of thousands of other inmates being held in solitary confinement.
Mumia is being kept in solitary in SCI Mahanoy’s dungeon. Its restrictions and conditions belie its modern construction. Mumia just told us on Friday that he wants all of his supporters to broaden this call, to not just focus on his case, but to understand that all torture units must be shut down…
Mumia Abu-Jamal is being held in extremely repressive conditions. And like thousands of prisoners, residents of solitary confinement and isolation units in every hole in every prison across the country, Mumia is being subject to draconian, dehumanizing and brutal conditions. Solitary confinement. He is shackled whenever he is outside his cell, even to the shower. He is shackled around his ankles, waist and wrist. He is shackled while behind Plexiglas during visits. Subject to strip searches before and after visits. Unable to walk freely. Having bits of paper to write notes on, with a rubber flex pen. No shelves, 4 books. No access to news reports, letters delayed. Restricted visiting. Glaring lights on 24 hours a day. Only one brief phone call to his wife. No access to adequate food or commissary. These conditions are worse than death row.
Attorney Rachel Wolkenstein argues that “There is no legal basis for Mumia to be confined in AC. At the point he was no longer under a death sentence, he should have been transferred into general population. This is not dependent on a court date for Mumia to be formally resentenced to life imprisonment.” In response to her inquiries, the Department of Corrections said that ”Mumia is in AC pending resentencing and further evaluations.” But Wolkenstein points out that “The District Attorney has stated there will be no trial to obtain a new death sentence..nor is there a reason or basis for “further evaluation.” Mumia has been confined in Pennsylvania prisons for some thirty years. The DOC unquestionably knows his history, conduct and behavior. There is nothing in Mumia’s personal record to justify holding him in Administrative Custody.”
Conditions for the 2,500 other inmates currently in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania’s “Restricted Housing Units” has been well documented in reports from the Human Rights Coalition; they can be read here, here, and here.
Update: Attorney Rachel Wolkenstein reported last night: “Mumia informed me tonight in a legal phone call that today he was given a new, additional reason for being held in AC status — his long dreadlocks. For over eight years Mumia had been held in disciplinary custody on death row for no stated reason except his hair. DC [disciplinary custody] is yet one step below AC in the prison’s torture blocks. No books at all, no outside communication. No commissary. It has taken over five weeks for the DOC to come up with this.”