Family and friends of former Black Panther and political activist Mumia Abu-Jamal delivered a letter of demands to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections on Friday, with supporters alleging the prison is deliberately attempting to kill the former death row inmate through neglect and medical malpractice that equates to torture.
Among the group were Mumia’s brother Keith Cook, Pam Africa, Ramona Africa, Dr. Suzanne Ross, and Johanna Fernandez.
“Everybody that is made aware of it is responsible,” MOVE bombing survivor, Ramona Africa stated. “We are serious. We are not going to stand by and watch you kill an innocent man.”
Abu-Jamal is an activist, journalist, and author originally sentenced to death for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. His death sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole in 2011, after an appeals court determined the jury that convicted him was improperly instructed. He and his supporters have long maintained his innocence. He spent nearly 30 years in solitary confinement on death row, despite posing no threat to others.
The United Nations has stated that even just a few days in solitary can leave lasting mental damage and has called for a prohibition on placing prisoners in solitary in excess of 15 days.
On March 30, Abu-Jamal went into diabetic shock and was hospitalized with life-threatening high blood sugar. His blood sugar level was at 779 and a diabetic coma occurs at 800. His sodium level was also alarmingly high at 168, another condition which could have resulted in his death.
Only two days after his hospitalization, Mumia was transferred to the infirmary at the same prison that failed to diagnose or treat him for the three months leading up to his near death.
On April 1, family reported that the imprisoned journalist was “shaking uncontrollably,” was having difficulty breathing, and had lost over 80 pounds over the course of three months.
Family and friends were initially denied access to visit Abu-Jamal, a decision that was overturned after a massive social media campaign to call the prison. Visitors were finally allowed access to see him on Friday, April 3, at the prison.
Supporters and family now say that Mumia is being tortured by being denied proper medical treatment and are fighting tooth and nail to stop it.
The demands presented by the group on Friday are as follows:
1. Allow daily visits by Mumia’s family, friends, and attorneys.
2. Allow Mumia’s choice of specialist doctors to examine and schedule treatment for him – NOW.
3. Provide Mumia with a diet that meets his particular medical needs.
4. Launch a full investigation of prison healthcare in Pennsylvania.
5. Mumia is innocent and should never have been incarcerated. Release him immediately!
The group has also asked for a meeting with Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel. It is unclear whether Wetzel has agreed to speak with them.
“At some point you have to stand on the side of humanity and say this is unjust,” asserted Johanna Fernandez, writer and producer of Justice On Trail: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.