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Sadism in the Cell: Thanks to a Vindictive Prison System, Abu-Jamal is Still in 'The Hole'

By       Message Linn Washington     Permalink
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opednews.com Headlined to H4 1/18/12

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Those intent on tormenting now ex-death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal have done it again, this time perhaps even exceeding their past efforts to painfully harass this man widely perceived as a political prisoner.

The latest punitive slap involves Pennsylvania prison authorities throwing Abu-Jamal into "Administrative Custody" more commonly known as "The Hole.'

The draconian constraints of AC placement surpass the harsh restrictions of the death row isolation Abu-Jamal's endured for over a quarter century.

A jury sentenced Abu-Jamal to death following a controversial July 1982 conviction for killing a Philadelphia policeman.

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No surprise that this latest punitive assault against Abu-Jamal has his worldwide support movement in an uproar. Supporters see AC placement as retaliation from those incensed at Abu-Jamal no longer facing execution.

Energizing supporters is the opposite of what Philadelphia's District Attorney Seth Williams desired when announcing last month that his office would not seek reinstitution of Abu-Jamal's death sentence. At the time, DA Williams said he hoped avoiding a rehearing on the death sentence would reduce Abu-Jamal to obscurity.

Pennsylvania's governor and the president of Philadelphia's police union also used the word obscurity when voicing their hopes that the life sentence for Abu-Jamal would decimate his cause ce'lèbre status among death penalty abolitions worldwide.

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Prison authorities removed Abu-Jamal from death row hours after the Philadelphia DA's December announcement, transferring him to an Administrative Custody cell block inside the death row housing Greene maximum security prison located more than 300-miles from Philadelphia in southwest Pennsylvania.  

Prison officials rejected the standard procedure of placing Abu-Jamal in general population, the status for all inmates not sentenced to death.

Significantly, inmates in general population have full privileges to visitation (contact, not conjugal contact), telephone and commissary, along with access to all prison programs and services.

Administrative Custody restrictions, on the other hand, are punitive in nature, including a limited number of visits, no telephone calls (except legal or emergency) and limitations on access to legal materials needed for appeals.

Sue Bensinger, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, declined comment on Abu-Jamal's case citing the Department's "security and privacy" regulations.

Bensinger did confirm that authorities now hold Abu-Jamal in Mahanoy, a medium security prison about 100 miles from Philadelphia in central Pennsylvania. Mahanoy cannot hold death row prisoners according to DoC regulation.

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DoC personnel moved Abu-Jamal to Mahanoy from Greene during an unannounced pre-dawn transfer on December 14, 2011.

Abu-Jamal's December removal from death row was in belated compliance with federal court rulings voiding Abu-Jamal's death sentence. That sentence launched Abu-Jamal's decade's long grind on Pennsylvania's death row -- an ordeal federal court rulings (trial and appellate) stated was illegal.

When a federal District Court judge voided Abu-Jamal's death sentence in December 2001, converting it to a life sentence, Pennsylvania prison authorities refused to remove him from death row. Authorities justified their refusal to transfer Abu-Jamal into general population from death row in 2001 as extending a "courtesy" to Philadelphia's District Attorney's Office, to that city's police union (the Fraternal Order of Police) and to the widow of the slain officer.

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Linn Washington is a weekly columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune and This Can't Be Happening. Washington writes frequently on inequities in the criminal justice system, ills in society and failings of the news media. He teaches multi-media urban (more...)
 

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