Category Archives: Legal Updates

Mutulu Granted Parole

Today, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, a 72-year-old grandfather and respected healer and elder was granted parole by the US Parole Commission. The Parole Commission has recognized that his release poses no risk, particularly in light of his medical condition. He will be released shortly. Mutulu is one of thousands of incarcerated older people in federal and state prisons who has been repeatedly denied parole for over a decade after completing his minimum sentence.

Mutulu is deeply grateful and thankful for the broad expression of trust and support, and thanks everyone who has helped him over the years. We ask that he have space and time to be with family when he is released and to continue receiving medical treatment.

We welcome him home with great joy.


Many people have asked what they can do to support him. Family & Friends of Mutulu Shakur is continuing to collect donations that will go to support his transition to life outside prison. The only official ways to donate are listed on our Ways to Support page.

September Health and Legal Update

Healthwise, Dr. Shakur’s condition is changing on a weekly basis. He did gain a few pounds in early August and was able to go back on chemotherapy. However, shortly thereafter, he developed an infection in his knee and had to stop chemo in order to treat that infection. The legal team continues to monitor the care that he is receiving to advocate for him in the best possible way.

On the legal front, Judge Haight again denied the motion for compassionate release. However, unlike his 2021 denial claiming that Mutulu was not sick enough at that time to be granted compassionate release, this time he denied the motion on procedural grounds saying that the court does not have the authority to grant his compassionate release [see the Ruling]. This contention is because Dr. Shakur is an ‘Old Law’ prisoner, and, therefore, the Bureau of Prisons would need to grant compassionate release. This ‘Old Law’ status is somewhat of a legal grey area that unfortunately Dr. Shakur and other aging prisoners are caught in. The legal team is submitting a new compassionate release request to the BOP based on Haight’s decision and updated medical information. Also this week, the legal team was notified that Dr. Shakur will be scheduled for another parole hearing the week of October 10th. We anxiously await news from the BOP as we prepare for this hearing.

Please continue to keep Mutulu in your thoughts and prayers. He is conserving his energy for the rest and healing he needs, so he is for the most part not reading mail or corresponding with people. He can feel the love y’all are sending through the walls though, and he is sending it right back!

August 2022 Health & Legal Update

Today is Mutulu’s 72nd birthday.

The fact that he is held in prison at this stage in his life and with his current medical condition is a clear violation of his rights. His legal team is filing a habeas petition in Kentucky to challenge his continuing imprisonment in that state. This is a lawsuit against the warden at FMC Lexington, the Chair of the Parole Commission and the Hearing Examiner who conducted the latest parole hearing because denying him release is “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.”

Mutulu’s health continues to be dire, and Bureau of Prison doctors have given him less than six months to live. Multiple myeloma is incurable, and Mutulu was diagnosed with this in 2019. That diagnosis probably would have come sooner had it not been for bureaucratic delays in diagnostic testing of the bone pain he had been experiencing for some time. Now, despite radiation, different types of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, the cancer continues to grow. ‘Compassionate release’ or reduction of sentence exists to allow for people to spend their final days outside the confines of prison. It is inhumane that the Bureau of Prisons and the Parole Commission continue to deny him release, yet the sentencing judge Charles Haight still has the power to grant him compassionate release. We thank everyone for signing the online petition to show not only the Bureau of Prisons and the Parole Commission, but also Judge Haight, that there are over 60,000 people supporting his release.

Join us tonight to commemorate Mutulu’s 72nd birthday with a call to action for his release.

We will gather online at 7:20 PM EST for a 72-minute program to hear from those who love Mutulu and are fighting for his freedom.

Register at: https://bit.ly/mutulubdayaction

New article in the Intercept on Dr. Shakur’s current plight

From: https://theintercept.com/2022/06/22/mutulu-shakur-dying-prison-cancer/

When Mutulu Shakur applied for compassionate release in 2020, the presiding judge told the Black liberation elder that he was not close enough to death. At the time, Shakur was 70 and had spent nearly half his life in federal prison, where a moribund parole system created interminable barriers for his release.

In 2020, he was sick with hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, glaucoma, and the aftereffects of a 2013 stroke while in solitary confinement. He also faced high risks of severe Covid-19 complications. The cancer in his bone marrow, though, was not yet killing him fast enough. It was understood to be terminal, but chemotherapy treatment had been successful in keeping it at bay.

As such, according to then-90-year-old Judge Charles Haight Jr. — the very same judge who had sentenced Shakur to prison over three decades before — the respected and beloved elder, who posed zero risk to society and held an impeccable institutional record, was not eligible for compassion.

“Should it develop that Shakur’s condition deteriorates further, to the point of approaching death, he may apply again to the Court, for a release that in those circumstances could be justified as ‘compassionate,’” the judge wrote in his decision.

The judge is still alive and, astoundingly, on the bench. Shakur, meanwhile, is on the very edge of death.

Two years later, Haight is still alive and, astoundingly, on the bench. Shakur, meanwhile, is on the very edge of death, cancer disabling his every bodily capacity.

Bureau of Prisons-contracted doctors have given him less than six months. The prison chaplain has advised his family members to come “very soon” to say their final goodbyes. Shakur may not even be able to recognize them.

According to reports from prison staff, he is “hallucinating,” “confused,” at times “unintelligible,” needs assistance with all so-called “Activities of Daily Living,” and is “frequently incontinent.” The details of his condition were revealed by medical professionals and Shakur’s family members in an emergency motion for compassionate release, which was filed by his lawyers on Sunday,

Shakur weighs 125 pounds and is unable to get out of bed. His support team told me that he currently resides in the federal prison hospital at FMC Lexington, where “he is too ill to have visitors as his white blood count is too low and he is completely immune-compromised.” (In response to my request for comment on Shakur’s condition, a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson wrote, “For privacy, safety, and security reasons, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) does not discuss information on any individual inmate’s conditions of confinement including medical care.”)

The time for true compassion — or anything close to justice — has long passed for Shakur, well-known as rapper Tupac’s stepfather and celebrated for bringing holistic health care and self-determination to the Bronx’s Black community in the 1970s. Like most Black liberation elders, the circumstances of Shakur’s conviction were colored by the government’s decades-long, all-out war on the movement. This should not be forgotten, but it is also not relevant to the current grounds for Shakur’s long overdue release.

The question now is simply whether the federal punishment system will, against its own purported standards, force a dying man to expire behind bars out of ideological intransigence.

Shakur was a member of the Black nationalist organization Republic of New Afrika, which worked closely with Black Panther Party members and New Left activists. He was convicted of racketeering conspiracy charges alongside several Black liberationists and leftist allies for his involvement in the 1981 robbery of an armored truck during which a guard and two police officers were killed. He was also convicted for aiding in the prison escape of Assata Shakur. He has taken responsibility for his crimes and repeatedly expressed remorse for the lives lost and pain caused. All of his co-defendants have been released or have died.

Co-defendant Marilyn Buck, who was convicted on the same charges as Shakur, was granted compassionate release by the Bureau of Prisons on July 15, 2010. She died of uterine cancer on August 3 that year.

The harsh standard applied in Buck’s case was the same one that the judge used in denying Shakur’s release two years ago: Come back only when, like Buck, your only activity outside of prison walls will be dying. Shakur has now arrived at this tragic place. Anything but immediate release constitutes an abundance of cruelty.

Shakur’s release has been blocked by layer upon layer of institutional intransigence and procedural arcana. Even while a number former Black Panthers and other liberation elders — all incarcerated for all too many decades in state prison systems — have finally been released on parole in recent years, the strange vagaries of outdated federal rules, abuses of discretion, and administrative failures have foreclosed such relief for Shakur.

Shakur’s legal team has sought every avenue for his release, including the superannuated federal parole system, the Bureau of Prisons’ compassionate release process, the calculation of Shakur’s earned “good time” in prison, and even the unlikely route of presidential clemency — all to no avail.

As a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson wrote in response to my request for comment on its process for compassionate release motions, “At all times, the decision on whether to grant such a motion — whether brought on behalf of the Director of the BOP, or the inmate themselves — lies with the sentencing court.”

In the federal system, compassionate release rulings are determined by the very court —the very judge — that sentenced a defendant in the first place. Shakur’s fate is once again in his sentencing judge’s hands. Yet there is hope in the fact that Haight himself previously wrote that in circumstances of “imminent” death, compassionate release “could be justified.” As Shakur’s lawyers note in their motion, “It is now imminent.”

Both prior to and during his incarceration, Shakur has been respected as a mentor and a healer. In the emergency motion for his release, numerous men incarcerated alongside Shakur are cited, attesting to his profound positive influence on their lives.

“I recognize Dr. Mutulu Shakur not only as my father, but as the man who changed my way of thinking and saved my life,” wrote Ra’ Sekou P’tah, who was serving a double-life sentence plus 30 years for a nonviolent drug offense when he met Shakur. President Barack Obama commuted P’tah’s sentence after he had served 20 years. When reporting on Shakur’s case last year, I heard several similar stories of mentorship and care from men formerly incarcerated with the Black liberation elder.

The time has passed for Shakur to continue his healing community work as a free man. He will not live to see his mandatory release date in 2024. He is, as his lawyers note in their motion, “on the downward side of an end-of life trajectory.”

The least — and it is the very least — Haight, the judge, can do now in the name of decency would be to allow Shakur to die in the California home of his son and daughter-in-law, in the presence of loved ones, uncaged.

June 2022 Health and Legal Update

We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support for Mutulu – and we want to update his friends and supporters with information from Mutulu himself, and from the medical records. We understand that people want to share information on social media, but we respectfully ask that people share only information that Mutulu and his support team have consented to be shared publicly.

We learned last Friday that Mutulu’s health had taken a turn for the worse. The chemotherapy drugs and other medications that Mutulu is on are very strong and have side effects that can be difficult to manage, particularly within the confines of prison. His legal team is closely monitoring the medical records every week with the help of outside medical practitioners. The hospital where he has been receiving treatment for the last 2 and a half years is already planning on starting a different form of cancer treatment, another kind of chemotherapy. Depending on his test results and whether he is strong enough, he may get a newer form of treatment that has a higher chance of succeeding – but which can also make him feel sicker. We want to get him home to his family – and Mutulu and his team are also still looking for treatments that will give him as much time as possible to be with his family and friends.

The legal team is actively pursuing all avenues for Mutulu’s immediate release, including compassionate release and parole. Please keep Mutulu in your thoughts and prayers and stay tuned for further updates.

2022 Parole Denial

On May 16, 2022, Dr. Mutulu Shakur was denied mandatory parole by the U.S.
Parole Commission. This is the ninth time Dr. Shakur has been denied parole by the
USPC, and the second time he has been denied mandatory parole.

Dr. Shakur received support for his parole from former Bureau of Prison staff,
sitting Members of Congress, and religious and community leaders. Despite this
extensive support for his release and his dire medical condition, the USPC
determined that:

“After consideration of all factors and information presented, at this time, the
Commission is denying your release under the standards at 18 U.S.C. §4206(d) for
the following reasons: The Commission finds that there is a reasonable probability
that you will commit a Federal, State, or local crime if released.”

Dr. Shakur’s legal team will be appealing this decision, and along with Dr. Shakur Families and Friends of Mutulu Shakur will be exploring all possible next steps in the struggle for his immediate release. This is a protracted effort and we will continue to work for his release until we win.

May 2022 Legal and Health Update

Mutulu recently had a parole hearing on April 27th. This hearing took place due to an order issued by a federal judge in California, which directed the US Parole Commission to rehear his case within 90 days. The order resulted from a petition for habeas corpus filed by members of Mutulu’s legal team.

The Parole Commission has not yet issued a decision and we will provide further updates once they are available. Mutulu, his legal team and Friends and Family of Mutulu Shakur greatly appreciate everyone who has advocated for Mutulu’s release and we value your ongoing support. 

In terms of his health, since the early relapse in bone marrow cancer, he has to receive weekly chemotherapy infusions that come with serious side effects. On top of this, he has already contracted COVID three times. One of those times he developed pneumonia, so we are doing everything we can to support his release to help protect him from future exposures and other unnecessary health risks.

Please stay tuned for further updates and keep him in your thoughts!

February 2022 Health and Legal Update

First, we thank everyone for the outpouring of support for Dr. Shakur as he continues to battle stage 3 bone marrow cancer from prison. He did have a stem cell transplant, but then experienced an early relapse necessitating a new and highly dangerous chemotherapy that still only delays the cancer’s progress. Leaving him in prison while the chemotherapy suppresses his immune system places his life in further jeopardy– Dr. Shakur’s immediate compassionate release is the only humane response. Despite all this, in January 2022, he was denied compassionate release for the third time by the Central office of the BOP! He is currently recovering from his third infection with COVID-19, and consequent COVID pneumonia.

Earlier this month, Dr. Shakur won a significant legal victory. For years, he has been litigating a habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court of California, challenging the U.S Parole Commission’s 2016 decision denying him mandatory parole. In denying parole, the Parole Commission relied on a disciplinary ticket Dr. Shakur received for making a telephone call to an approved phone number, where a professor put him on speakerphone to talk to her class. The court found that Dr. Shakur’s conduct had not violated the regulation and ruled that it was a due process violation for the Parole Commission to rely on this incident in its decision to deny parole. The court ordered that he receive the “good time” lost for this incident (27 days) and ordered a new mandatory parole hearing where the Parole Commission cannot consider this incident.

Family and Friends of Mutulu Shakur and the legal team continue to double down on our efforts. We are asking that everyone continue to sign and share the online petition to help us reach 75,000 signatures. If you are in contact with any members of Congress who may be willing to support Dr. Shakur’s release, reach out to us at [email protected] so that we can connect.

The Intercept Covers the BOP Failure to Release Dr. Shakur

by Natasha Lennard

See full article at The Intercept.

Eligible for Release in 2016, Mutulu Shakur Remains Behind Bars With Worsening Cancer

Judicial discretion and an antiquated parole system are turning the Black liberation leader’s illness into a death sentence.

Mutulu Shakur was not sentenced to die in prison, but die in prison he may. The 71-year-old icon of Black liberation struggle has been incarcerated for over three decades. The rules governing his 1988 sentencing set his presumed release date for 2016. Yet, despite an impeccable institutional record, he has been denied release by the federal parole commission nine times. He remains behind bars, while an incurable cancer is now spreading through his bone marrow.

Reforms and policy shifts in certain state parole systems, including New York’s, have seen the long overdue release of a number of aging former Black Panthers like Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim in recent years. Held in the federal system, however, longtime prisoners like Shakur face further layers of institutional intransigence and procedural arcana.

Shakur, the stepfather of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, was convicted of racketeering conspiracy charges alongside a number of Black liberationists and leftist allies for his involvement in the 1981 robbery of a Brink’s armored truck during which a guard and two police officers were killed. He was also convicted for aiding in the prison escape of Assata Shakur.“He has been praised by current and former Bureau of Prisons staff, and BOP’s own assessment tools establish that he poses absolutely no risk.”

A member of the Black nationalist organization Republic of New Afrika who worked closely with Black Panther Party members and New Left activists, Shakur was at the forefront of liberatory struggle. As a renowned acupuncturist, he was a central figure in the movement to bring holistic health care and self-determination to Black residents in the Bronx in the 1970s, blighted as the New York City borough was by police violence, poverty, and heroin addiction. That landed Shakur in the crosshairs of the federal government’s malicious COINTELPRO campaign to decimate racial and social justice movements.

Yet the demand for his release now has nothing to do with the political underpinnings of his arrest, trial, and conviction. If any party is displaying ideological excesses, it is the federal justice system apparently acting against its own standards in the case of a Black liberation elder.

“Dr. Shakur is a 71-year-old man who has been imprisoned for over 35 years, undergoing treatment for bone marrow cancer,” Shakur’s attorney, Brad Thomson of People’s Law Office, told me. “He has been praised by current and former Bureau of Prisons staff, and BOP’s own assessment tools establish that he poses absolutely no risk, should he be released.”

Shakur is aging and ill. He has served his extensive prison time and has accepted full responsibility for his actions. Like other long-imprisoned Black liberation elders, including Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli, the alleged grounds for Shakur’s continued incarceration are without merit, even according to the purported logics of our brutal criminal legal system. The Department of Justice’s own risk assessment tool categorizes Shakur at the absolute lowest risk of recidivism; the rates of reoffending for people in his age group are already vanishingly small.

A top oncologist’s recent medical declaration on the state of Shakur’s health stated that, even with ameliorative cancer treatment, he would likely die within two to three years; in the highly possible event that treatment fails, Shakur is expected to live fewer than 11 months. His mandatory release date is in 2024, but his family, friends, and supporters believe he cannot survive that long. With an accordant sense of urgency, Shakur’s legal team is currently trying every available legal, statutory, and bureaucratic avenue to see him released.

“Due to bureaucratic and administrative failures, arbitrary abuses of discretion, and inconsistent applications of the law, Mutulu and most others in his position have been denied the relief that were designed for them,” said Thomson.

Shakur was incarcerated in the federal system under a set of harsher sentencing guidelines, known as “old law,” because he was convicted for crimes that took place before 1987, when the guidelines changed.

Those convicted under “old law” and eligible for parole remain beholden to a moribund body known as the U.S. Parole Commission. The commission was intended to be phased out decades ago: The new sentencing guidelines eliminated parole for defendants convicted of post-1987 federal crimes, dramatically decreasing the need for the federal commission.

The cases of fewer than 200 people sentenced under “old law” and eligible for parole — all of whom are aging and many of whom, like Shakur, are infirm — remain under the discretion of the commission. Only two federal parole commissioners make all the decisions, and they do so with a vested interest in keeping those imprisoned under “old law” inside to justify the commission’s very existence.

Their stated reasons for denying Shakur parole have been no less than absurd. They said, for example, that Shakur lacked the appropriate remorse for his actions and remained a threat to the general public because he had signed off letters to friends and supporters with the phrase “stiff resistance” — the very resistance to injustice that has made Shakur a trusted mentor to dozens of formerly incarcerated men.

Steven Hinshaw, one of the numerous men who found a mentor in Shakur while imprisoned alongside him, told me how Shakur was unique in his ability to break through the extreme race-based gang segregation encouraged in federal prisons. Hinshaw, who is white and has mixed-race children, now works as a truck driver and owes his determination to Shakur’s inspiration. “Anyone who has been in the yard with him knows that he solves problems and builds bridges,” Hinshaw told me. “He has a gift for helping people see themselves.”

The commissioners also cited an alleged “serious” violation: He was put on loudspeaker during a call with a professor and her class in 2013. It’s not clear why this constituted a violation, let alone a serious one. That the subject of the class was Shakur’s support for the founding of a truth and reconciliation commission in the United States — to reckon, through peaceful conflict resolution, with histories of racism — made for a grim irony.

A letter signed by numerous civil rights organizations urging President Joe Biden to grant “corrective clemency” to “old law” federal prisoners described the U.S. Parole Commission as “an abusive and insurmountable barrier to any hope of due process or release.”

“‘Old law’ prisoners like Dr. Shakur have essentially fallen through the cracks,” Shakur’s attorney, Thomson, told me. “Due to administrative failures, the laws establishing how and when ‘old law’ prisoners should be released are not being followed, and there is almost no accountability for these failures. Meanwhile, many new reforms are not being retroactively applied to prisoners sentenced under the ‘old law.’”

An antiquated parole commission has not been Shakur’s only barrier to freedom. Alongside his numerous parole denials, an application for Shakur’s compassionate release was rejected by a judge last year. At the time, the judge noted that Shakur had “tolerated chemotherapy with no adverse effects,” but his body was nonetheless ailing: hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, glaucoma, and the aftereffects of a 2013 stroke, not to mention the high risk of contracting Covid-19 in prison. Studies have found that longtime incarceration ages a person by a decade. Shakur did indeed contract Covid-19 last year, from which he recovered. His cancer, though, once in remission, has returned.

The judge who denied Shakur’s compassionate release in effect told the aging prisoner to reapply only when he was at death’s door. These were the conditions, after all, under which Shakur’s co-defendant Marilyn Buck, who was convicted on the same charges, was released on July 15, 2010. She died of uterine cancer on August 3 that year.

“Should it develop that Shakur’s condition deteriorates further, to the point of approaching death, he may apply again to the Court, for a release that in those circumstances could be justified as ‘compassionate,’” wrote Judge Charles Haight Jr. in his decision.

Haight was no impartial arbiter: Thanks to the vagaries of the federal system, the judge tasked with ruling over Shakur’s compassionate release request was the very same judge who sentenced him to prison over three decades ago. Haight was 90 years old when he last ruled against Shakur’s release.

Following the return of Shakur’s cancer, his legal team has again applied for compassionate release, but they are not relying on this single avenue for his freedom.Shakur has been denied a staggering 976 days of earned good time, which he is owed.

Shakur’s attorneys and several legal scholars also believe that he could be freed without relying on the unbounded discretion of the parole commission or the judge. He should, they argue, be released immediately based on no more than the correct calculation of so-called good time credit to reduce time served.

Shakur is an “old law” prisoner but has not been credited with the appropriate “good time” days as required by “old law” rules. According to his legal team, Shakur has been denied a staggering 976 days of earned good time, which he is owed. Once properly accorded to him, he would be eligible for immediate release. Shakur is in an administrative remedy process to get this time restored.

A spokesperson from the Bureau of Prisons told me by email that “any inmate who believes their ‘good time’ is inaccurately calculated, may file a formal complaint on the matter” but declined to comment on any specifics regarding Shakur’s case.

Shakur and his team have yet to hear back about either his “good time” calculations or his request for compassionate release.

“I don’t see what they’re not seeing. They’re disregarding him as a person,” said another of Shakur’s numerous formerly incarcerated mentees, Anthony Jordan, of the authorities keeping his mentor behind bars. For eight years, 33-year-old Jordan was imprisoned in the same unit as Shakur, whom he describes as an “inspiration, an uplifting spirit beyond words.” Jordan added, “He’s been incarcerated my whole life. I can’t comprehend it. I can’t imagine how that must feel.”

No one, least of all a community healer like Shakur, should have to.

August 2021 Legal and Health Update

We deeply appreciate everyone’s ongoing concern and actions in support of Mutulu. His situation is extremely urgent and his health is deteriorating rapidly. Family & Friends of Mutulu Shakur and the legal team are actively working to secure his freedom through compassionate release, clemency and all other administrative and legal avenues. Please sign the online clemency petition if you haven’t already and share it with others! We filed yet another compassionate release petition to the Bureau of Prisons on August 12th. He needs more attention and advocacy for the BOP to grant his petition.

A member of Dr. Shakur’s legal team who has known him for decades visited recently. He was shocked to find him in constant pain from the bone marrow cancer with nothing offered him for pain except highly addictive oxycodone, which he refuses to take so he can stay as focused and strong as possible under these circumstances. It is sad that the only pain medication being offered to him is a dangerous opioid not dissimilar to the opioids he developed acupuncture protocols to detox people from.

All across the nation, human rights and social justice organizers and the acupuncture and healing community are calling for the release of Dr. Shakur! Stay tuned to the Family & Friends of Mutulu Shakur social media accounts (links in sidebar) for updates!