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Dr. Mutulu Shakur – It is time for his release
Dr. Mutulu Shakur has been a federal prisoner since 1986. He has been denied parole eight times, has taken full responsibility for his actions, has served as a force for good and anti-violence throughout his decades of incarceration, is an elder and has multiple health complications, has a loving family that needs him, and upon release will continue to inspire people to seek self-improvement through peaceful and constructive means, as he has done while incarcerated.
The acts of which Dr. Shakur was convicted some thirty years ago were committed in the context of a movement seeking equal opportunities for black people who, it is widely conceded, were suffering catastrophically from disenfranchisement, segregation, poverty and exclusion from many of the fundamental necessities that make life worth living.
Dr. Shakur participated in civil rights, black liberation and alternative health care all as part of movements of the late 1960’s to the 1980’s. It was a period of civil conflict in which millions of Americans participated in social movements for justice and freedom.
In 1988 Dr. Shakur was convicted of RICO conspiracy, armed bank robbery and bank robbery killings and sentenced to 60 years in prison. At no time did the evidence show that Dr. Shakur killed anyone. At two trials the evidence indicated others (who became Government witnesses in return for greatly reduced sentencing deals) were responsible for the killings. At the time Dr. Shakur was a well-known acupuncturist using his skills to address rampant drug addiction among young black people. He was a co-founder of the Republic of New Afrika movement, participated in presentations to the United Nations on discrimination experienced by black communities throughout the U.S. and by 1970 was a subject of the FBI’s illegal COINTELPRO infiltration program.
Dr. Shakur has accepted full responsibility for the acts that resulted in his conviction and for many years has expressed the deepest remorse for those who were killed and their families. For over twenty-five years, Dr. Shakur has been a leading voice in the black community calling for peace, reconciliation and healing.
Dr. Shakur has for many years publicly suggested that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“TRC”) of elected officials, faith based and community activists and experts be convened to explore racial disparities and how to seriously address these issues through peaceful and democratic processes.
Dr. Shakur is currently scheduled for mandatory release on May 26, 2026. The Parole Commission most recently denied parole for the eighth time on April 20, 2016. A Petition for Reconsideration is now pending before the Parole Commission and a Petition for Clemency has been submitted for consideration by President Obama. The Parole Commission’s denial of release is based on several faulty considerations including –
• Mutulu has not accepted responsibility for the crimes of which he was convicted. However, Mutulu has clearly stated to the Parole Commission: “I accept full responsibility for the crimes involved in my conviction over thirty years ago. I was part of the conspiracy that resulted in those crimes and I deeply regret the loss of life involved … I have for several decades totally rejected the use of violence.”
• Mutulu often signs off his letters with the words “Stiff Resistance” and this indicates he may once again engage in violent crimes if released. Mutulu responds that the sign off “Stiff Resistance” is intended to convey a message of resistance to injustice, discrimination, gang recruitment, etc. and is in no way intended as an incitement to anti-Government violence. It means to never give up, to be true to your beliefs, to be true to yourself even when the odds are against you.
• Mutulu has referred to himself as a “political prisoner” and this shows he is likely to commit violent crimes if released on parole. Mutulu responds that the crimes of which he was convicted were “politically motivated,” not motivated by greed or revenge. The indictment and the trial judge both acknowledge the political motivations of those charged in the indictment. It is in this sense that he has referred to himself (and others refer to him) as a political prisoner.
• Mutulu has referred to himself as a victim of the FBI’s former COINTELPRO infiltration and spying program and this shows he is likely to reoffend if released. In fact, documents released many years ago under the Freedom of Information Act show that Mutulu clearly was a victim of the COINTELPRO program and the trial judge so acknowledged in several written decisions.
• In 2013 Mutulu violated a prison rule by telephoning a professor who placed the call on a speaker phone so other faculty and students could listen to Mutulu’s comments. Mutulu responds that he knows of no rule that was violated by the phone call and more importantly his underlying message to the students and faculty was one of pursuing social change through peaceful means.
Documents recently released by the Parole Commission in response to a Freedom of Information Act request show that in the past two years no other federal prisoner has been denied parole because of the types of infrequent non-serious prison rule violations Mutulu has been charged with while incarcerated for thirty years . He has had no serious rule violations in over 25 years and only four non-serious violations, none involving violence or the threat of violence.
The Parole Commission may issue a decision on Mutulu’s request for reconsideration in late October, 2016.
Please follow the link to the right to sign a petition in support of the request for clemency for Dr. Mutulu Shakur.
For updates about the status of Mutulu’s case or copies of his pending clemency petition or petition for reconsideration addressed to the Parole Commission, please email Peter Schey, President, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, pschey@centerforhumanrights.
U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
“There is a need for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the U.S. to resolve the history of slavery, oppression, racism, segregation, lynching and the issues of political prisoners of the Civil Rights Black Liberation Struggle who fought against these gross human rights abuses…
We seek restorative justice and the immediate release of all of those who put their lives on the line for freedom and justice and thus have been languishing in prisons across America due to their political activities, associations and views…
A process that is developed on a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and/or the tribunals, has been the model used around the world. It allows for open discussion on the issue of resistance versus the state; it allows for a definition of terrorism that does not criminalize legitimate forms of resistance against oppression. It equally provides an avenue for healing and rebuilding, or at the very least, it provides a starting point post-conflict…”
– Dr. Mutulu Shakur
“All of the political prisoner cases from the ’60s are a concern. Closing the unsolved lynchings is something that we’re still working on. It makes you wonder if the country isn’t coming to a place where we need some sort of truth and reconciliation commission to help us deal with what are very painful moments.” – Ben Jealous, NAACP President (2013) Contine Reading »