Category Archives: Legal Updates

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!

2021 Health and Legal Update

On October 14th, the stem cell irrigation started. On October 20th, I had a mandatory parole hearing, which I was again denied. I was notified of this denial on January 12th, and my next hearing will be in 2022. The final stage of the stem cell transplant took place from October 28th until November 14th, during which I was hospitalized. Upon my return from the stem cell procedure in November, I received the denial of compassionate release by the sentencing judge. Two days later, I was infected with COVID-19, in light of my immune system being compromised from stem cell replacement. I was put in quarantine in an unfavorable isolated area of the unit. I survived and won the battle to overcome the virus– now I am in the recovery period.

We are still waiting on a district Judge ruling on the Ninth Circuit habeas corpus petition and a response from the BOP on the renewed compassionate release petition in light of COVID-19. Not surprisingly, all past decisions have referred to a pre-trial motion filed in 1988 as a consideration in denying my release. This I believe is contrary to the spirit and intent of pre-trial motions, but more importantly offers no facts or law pertaining to the relief requested, from the manipulation of constitutional right filed in 3 federal jurisdictions over the 30-odd years of carrying out this sentence. Again I want to thank you all. There are still some avenues for release to explore available and I’m requesting your support.

I continue to hope that you are all healthy and using your wisdom to stay so. This virus is no joke, and clearly apolitical.

Mud and Water,
Dr. Mutulu Shakur


Read the Family & Friends of Mutulu Shakur newsletter version. Sign up on the homepage to receive the newsletter directly.

December 2019 Medical and Legal Update

Dear Friends and Comrades –

Dr. Shakur received a diagnosis of life-threatening bone marrow cancer in October, 2019. Until now, he has requested that this information be kept private. For over a year he had experienced pain in his bones, but he was not even x-rayed until April 2019. Although the prison doctor probably suspected cancer and called for a CT scan, the scan was delayed for four months. After a year of delay, we know now that Mutulu is suffering from extensive painful bone lesions, caused by a rapidly growing bone marrow cancer. He is 69 years old, and aging in prison after 33 years of incarceration. In 2014, he suffered from a stroke, which required several months for recovery. He has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and vision problems from glaucoma. We fear for his survival and his life.

Dr. Shakur’s legal team has filed a compassionate release petition, because now Dr. Shakur’s very survival depends on his release. He meets the conditions for compassionate release under federal law. He is a recognized advocate for human and civil rights who poses no danger of committing any crimes against anyone. As evidenced by widespread support for his parole, he will be welcomed back into a community that will also provide for his financial and medical support. However, on December 5th he was denied compassionate release by the Central office of the BOP. He is currently receiving chemotherapy, but the BOP has not told him or his lawyer the exact type of treatment he is getting.  He has been able to talk with his newest lawyer Mark Kleiman and may receive a family visit from his son. Most importantly, Mutulu says that he is managing the treatment and his spirit is strong.

Our next steps are two-fold: Mutulu will petition his original judge, Judge Haight in the Southern District of New York, to modify his sentence so he can be released immediately based on his current medical condition.  Dr. Shakur also has a habeas petition in front of Judge Wilson in federal court in Los Angeles, detailing the parole commission’s abuse of discretion through their politically-driven denials of parole. We will move to expedite that petition based on the newest information about his life-threatening medical condition.

What you can do to help:

Please send letters of support and love to Mutulu directly.

We are asking his comrades and supporters to give money for medical, legal defense, commissary, and more. The quickest way to send financial support is through the Family and Friends of Mutulu Shakur paypal (go to mutulushakur.com and click on the red and white DONATE button in the right sidebar if this direct link doesn’t work). For your contribution to be tax deductible, FFMS has a partnership with Community Aid and Development (CAD) (cadnational.org) that allows for tax deductible donations via the Paypal button on their website. For a check or money order to be tax-deductible, make it payable to CAD, P.O. Box 361270, Decatur, GA 30036-1270 with “FFMS” in the memo line.

 

At Dr. Shakur’s request, we are not creating a public campaign for his release at this time.  We will update this information as we move into federal court.

 

— Family and Friends of Dr. Mutulu Shakur

January 2019 Update from Dr. Shakur

January, 2019

Firstly, I wish you all the very best of holidays in which you celebrate. I have been remiss by not sending out a strong Kwanzaa recognition and new years greeting. I want to acknowledge receipt of your letters, cards, and concerns. I’m humbled by your continued efforts that acknowledge my circumstances year after year. You have been steadfast since our introduction providing me with encouragement, inspiration and determination for which I’m grateful. Let me assure you that I still have gas in the tank to see this through to the end, hoping to demonstrate the morals and principles that your support demands.

I have had my head down preparing for and attending a parole hearing, which was denied again for 6th time. My attorneys have filed a Complaint in Federal Court in Los Angeles against the Federal Parole Commission for violating my rights and refusing to release me at my maximum out date. Arguments will be held in Federal Court in Los Angeles February 11, 2019.

The stages available that remain post-litigation are, Clemency, release on Parole, and termination of the sentence. I and others I am incarcerated with have begun to develop research on the treatment of “old law prisoners” by the Parole Commission using new law guidelines. We will further our research to determine if this can be litigated.

I understand that some Federal prisoners will be impacted by the “First Step Act” due to the nature of the bill. However, by drawing the line between violent and non-violent prisoners based on their convictions and the long list of exclusions, none of us whose charges are related to the “Old Law” status from the Civil Rights era will be affected. There are hundreds of prisoners still incarcerated in Federal Prison since 1987– Thirty-Two years and counting. Our search for a judicial level playing field still goes on against their tendency to abuse.

Over the past year, I have watched how celebrities have become involved in the just release of individual prisoners. It helps stimulate changes in the culture to become more socially responsible, and there has been a recognition of the excesses of Mass Incarceration. We cannot deny that Meek Mill’s freedom from gross injustice, advocated by a cross-section of celebrities, activists and fans has made the collective consciousness a trending topic.

It would be unprincipled to not acknowledge Kim Kardashian’s persistent, specific advocacy for justice for Ms. Alice Marie Johnson, Ms. Cyntoia Brown, and Matthew Charles, who were prisoners not known by mainstream media. In fact, they were of the have-nots, and there was no other mainstream attention on their cases. The freedom of these individuals is a great thing. But it was not these celebrities that helped to free the political prisoners. We are happy that the 40-year journey to freedom has arrived for Mike Africa, Debbie Africa as well as Herman Bell, and Seth Hayes, after four long decades plus.

I do not underestimate the long consistent work by supporters and advocates who have carried the burden of exposing and advocating for this class of prisoners. I give them the utmost respect and pay homage, for without them the light would have been long burned out on our conditions. For that continued support, I thank all of you.

The grassroots activists should know that I am indebted to and understand what these years of sacrifices have meant to your own personal lives. After 40 years, the impact is unimaginable. I am honored that you have held me and all of us in your hearts; Thank you.

It’s is certain that my family continues to suffer and sometimes has questioned the lack of my presence in their lives, or rather the extent of it. I am terribly aware of my shifting status. I am holding on for engagement upon release, I love them all dearly, and am emboldened by the love they give me.

So here we are, another year later, celebrating the victories of 2018 for prisoners, with a long road still to go stimulated by willingness and demands to continue to learn. THANKFUL, and ENCOURAGE are the only words that fit for this new year’s resolution. I’m smiling at this stage in my life recognizing my many faults and errors. I hope that my growth has been recognized; it’s so good to know that you can still learn at this age!

Even when the road is hard
keep your head up -Tupac Shakur

_______________________
Dr. Mutulu Shakur