A new law in Pennsylvania will silence Mumia Abu-Jamal, but we are fighting back in a Federal Lawsuit to protect prisoners right to speak, and our right to hear them.
"A prophetic writer. Mumia refuses to allow his spirit to be broken by the forces of injustice; his language glows with an affirming flame." -Jonathan Kozol, educator and author
Pennsylvania legislators are trying to stop prisoners from speaking about their ideas and experiences. In October, PA Representative Mike Vereb introduced a bill (HB2533) called the "Revictimization Relief Act," which would allow victims, District Attorneys, and the Attorney General to sue people who have been convicted of "personal injury" crimes for speaking out publicly if it causes the victim of the crime "mental anguish."
The bill was written in response to political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal's commencement speech at Goddard College, and is a clear attempt to silence Mumia and other prisoners and formerly incarcerated people.
We believe that this legislation is not actually an attempt to help victims, but a cynical move by legislators to stop people in prison from speaking out against an unjust system. While to us this seems like a clear violation of the first amendment, unfortunately the PA General Assembly doesn't appear to agree, and they fast-tracked the bill for approval and amended another bill (SB508) to include the same language.
PA Governor, Tom Corbett, signed the bill, effective immediately. It allows the state Attorney General or a District Attorney to prevent prisoners from speaking publicly. It is a huge blow to the movement against mass incarceration.
People inside prisons play a leading role in these struggles, and their perspectives, analysis, and strategies are essential to our work. Incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people who write books, contribute to newspapers, or even write for our Voices from the Inside section would run the risk of legal consequences just for sharing their ideas.
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(Article changed on December 11, 2014 at 13:37)