World renowned political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal has contracted COVID-19. His life is in imminent danger, not only from the deadly illness, but from Pennsylvania prison officials known to deny prisoners effective and lifesaving medical treatment.
Mumia is particularly vulnerable. He is 66-years-old with underlying medical conditions. As such, his life is in acute danger if he is not provided with urgent hospital care. However, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections response thus far when prisoners contract COVID-19 is to lock them in solitary confinement.
This is not the first time Mumia has been subjected to medical neglect. When he contracted Hepatitis C around 2015, the DOC intentionally denied treatment. If left untreated, Hep C can lead to liver failure, liver cancer, and death. Mumia was only able to access lifesaving antiviral medication after a two-year legal battle which resulted in a federal court order against the prison. By then, the disease had already advanced to cirrhosis of his liver.
That was a grotesque and obvious attempt to use medical neglect as a means to carry out a stealth execution. Mumia’s death sentence was ruled unconstitutional in 2001 and the state of Pennsylvania’s efforts to reinstate it failed once and for all in 2011. Frustrated, prison officials have come to view the broad array of epidemic diseases that run rampant in overcrowded U.S. prisons as a lethal weapon at their disposal.
Now, Mumia has contracted COVID-19. This virus has had a devastating impact on the 2.3 million people held captive in the U.S. prison system. One in five state and federal prisoners has caught COVID and it continues to rage uncontrollably due to inhumane prison conditions.
Within 24-hours of learning of Mumia’s condition, nearly 100 protesters mobilized outside the office of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, demanding Mumia receive immediate treatment at a hospital or medical facility. Given the current pandemic crisis and the denial of vaccinations to prisoners en masse, protesters called for the immediate release of Mumia and all elder prisoners, as well as those who are medically vulnerable.
Mumia is innocent
This crisis is only the latest outrage against Mumia, now in his 40th year of unjust imprisonment. In 1982, Mumia was framed and convicted of the killing of a white police officer. The entire legal process from beginning to end has become an internationally known racist scandal. Philadelphia journalist Dave Lindorff, author of a book on the case called Killing Time, recently wrote that Mumia’s conviction “followed a trial that featured coached and lying prosecution witnesses (including police officers), prosecutorial misconduct, withheld exculpatory evidence, racial bias in the jury selection. … “The judge in Mumia’s initial trial was overheard referring to him with a racial slur and vowing to assist in his killing.
Philadelphia during the 1970s and 1980s was the scene of intense police repression against African Americans speaking out against racism and injustice. Black activists were routinely beaten and bloodied. Predominantly Black organizations came under attack, for instance during the infamous 1985 police bombing of a residential block where members of the MOVE organization lived. Six adults and five children perished in the flames. Police fired on individuals attempting to escape the blaze. Because the fire chief ordered emergency responders to “let the fire burn,” 250 people in the neighborhood were left homeless
Mumia was ultimately swept up in this campaign of political repression. He had been a youth activist in the Black Panther Party and later became feared by Philadelphia’s racist political establishment for his radical journalism.
As a prison journalist, Mumia’s writings and short audio tapes continue to be heard around the world. Mumia’s eloquent and prescient critiques of U.S. capitalism have inspired generations of activists.
We cannot allow Pennsylvania prison authorities to murder Mumia! His supporters are calling on everyone to call the following officials as frequently as possible to demand his release and his immediate hospitalization so he can receive adequate medical attention.
- Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner: 267-456-1000
- Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel: 717-728-2573
- SCI Mahanoy (prison where Mumia is being held) Superintendent Bernadette Mason: 570-773-2158