by Johanna Fernandez is a professor at Baruch College, a member of Educators for Mumia, and producer of the film, “Justice on Trial: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.”
I visited Mumia yesterday, Dec. 15, in the new prison that houses him, SCI Mahanoy. Even though he has been released from death row, he remains in Administrative Custody while he awaits transfer to general population. Because he is still in Administrative Custody and not yet in general population, visits still take place behind the plexiglass barrier characteristic of the no-contact visits to prisoners on death row.
Mumia boarded a vehicle to SCI Mahanoy in the early morning hours of Dec. 14 at 4 a.m. Despite the dehumanizing character of the heavily armored vehicle that transported him from SCI Greene to SCI Mahanoy, Mumia delighted in the opportunity to see cows, horses, and Pennsylvania’s beautiful landscape during the 7-hour ride to Frackville, PA.
He described the last number of days as a “crazy whirlwind.” Last Friday alone, he spent 6 hours packing up books, letters, and other belongings in preparation for what he believed was a move into general population at SCI Greene. But the Department of Corrections had other plans in mind. As you know, that same day, Dec. 9, his call came through at the National Constitution Center [in Philadelphia]. At the prompting of Pam Africa, the last 30 seconds of that call turned into a rousing ovation to Mumia by the 1100 people in attendance. This is what he wrote in a letter about his experience that very same night on Dec. 9, “It’s been minutes since I’ve hung up the phone, and I’m still buzzing from the loving vibes zapping through the phone. It’s really electric!”
While in Administrative Custody at Mahanoy, Mumia is technically in “the hole.” This means that he has absolutely no human contact; absolutely no belongings in his cell other than a rubber pen, 8 sheets of paper and 8 envelopes (4 of which he has used to write letters to family and friends); he gets only one hour in the yard and one visitor a week; and at night the lights in his small cell are dimmed only slightly, and otherwise remain on all day.
Mumia noted that he missed the knock of his next door neighbor on the Row at SCI Greene, Sugarbear, who called for him through a knock on the wall “at least 20 times a day.” Mumia noted that as he was being escorted to his cell at Mahanoy, the majority of prisoners he saw in “the hole” were black and he immediately thought of Michelle Alexander’s evocative analysis and descriptions of mass black imprisonment nationwide.
Mumia is committed to remaining mindful of the challenges of this new period. He remains strong and hopeful about the possibilities of this next phase of struggle, both in his personal day-to-day life and in the movement. He welcomes and is prepared for the change. Below please also note a special note he dictated to OWS. Mumia reiterated that despite his isolation and the alienating character of his transfer to Mahanoy, he feels vibrations of love around him.
We await, impatiently, Mumia’s transfer to general population and call on the DA’s office to complete the transfer immediately. PLEASE NOTE: The DA’s number and address is below.
Let us remind the DA that Mumia should have been in general population since 2001 when Judge Yohn overturned the death penalty in his case; but the DA’s office held him on death row for a decade while it filed losing appeals. By law, Mumia should be in general population, not in “the hole.” We demand his immediate transfer.
With love and solidarity,
Seth Williams, Philadelphia DA, Three South Penn Square, Philadelphia, PA 19107-3499. Phone : (215) 686-8000. www.phila.gov/districtattorney/contac