When I was invited to speak on behalf of Mumia, one of the first things that came to mind was how long he’s been in prison. How many years of his life had been stolen away from him, his community and his loved ones. He’s been incarcerated for 38 years. Mumia has been in prison longer than I’ve been alive.
When I first spoke with Mumia on the phone, I did very little talking. I just listened. Hearing him speak was a reminder of why we must continue to fight. Earlier this year, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner issued a statement, noting that prolonged solitary confinement, the precise type often used in the United States amounts to psychological torture – Mumia Abu Jamal has spent roughly 30 out of his 38 years in solitary confinement.
In his book, Live From Death Row, Mumia wrote that prison is “a second-by-second assault on the soul, a day-to-day degradation of the self, an oppressive steel and brick umbrella that transforms seconds into hours and hours into days.” He has had to endure this second-by-second assault on his soul for 38 years.
He had no record before he was arrested and framed for the death of a Philadelphia police officer. Since 1981, Mumia has maintained his innocence. His story has not changed. When Mumia was shot, [he was] brutalized, arrested, and chained to a hospital bed. The first police officer assigned to him wrote in a report that “the Negro male made no comment,” as cited in Philly mag. Yet 64 days into the investigation, another officer testified that Mumia had confessed to the killing. Mumia’s story has not changed, but we’re talking about the same Philadelphia police department whose behavior shocks the conscience. According to a 1979 DOJ report, [these] behaviors [include] shooting nonviolent suspects, abusing handcuffed prisoners, and tampering with evidence…
Read the complete remarks or listen to the audio at PrisonRadio.org