Federal Lawsuit Against the Parole Commission and Bureau of Prisons


Shakur v. David Shinn et al.


On August 21, 2018, in response to his repeated denial of parole, Mutulu Shakur, represented by the Los Angeles-based Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Bar Association, and the Post-Conviction Justice Program, filed a legal challenge in Federal District Court alleging that the U.S. Parole Commission violated its regulations in adjudicating his case and that Parole Commission’s regulations as written violate the federal law as enacted by Congress dealing with release on parole. The complaint (available through this link) alleges:

  1. The Parole Commission routinely in all “old prisoner” cases misinterprets the parole law in the Parole Commission and Reorganization Act (18 U.S.C. § 4206(D) as interpreted in 28 C.F.R. § 2.53 making what Congress called a more “liberal” route to release into a far more difficult and often impossible route to release.
  2. The Parole Commission routinely denies release because it finds that the prisoner has “frequently” or “seriously” violated prison rules during thirty or more years of incarceration, but has failed to issue standards defining how these terms will be applied consistently in all cases.
  3. The Parole Commission concluded, without reference to any supporting evidence and in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence, that even though Mutulu Shakur has accepted responsibility for the crimes of which he was convicted, his acceptance is somehow not sincere. No evidence supports this conclusion. The Deputy Warden provided the Commission with a letter saying in essence that Mutulu Shakur is rehabilitated and will not reoffend if released on parole.
  4. In violation of its regulations, the Parole Commission in Mutulu Shakur’s case and likely in many other cases relied on allegedly adverse factors not relied upon by the Commission in previous parole hearings.
  5. The Parole Commission erroneously concluded Dr. Shakur is likely to reoffend if released because in the past he has referred to himself as a “victim” of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. The federal court that convicted Shakur clearly and on the record found that he was a victim of COINTELPRO. The Commission is overworked and obviously was not familiar with the record.
  6. The Parole Commission, which released the prisoner who attempted to kill President Ford even though she escaped from custody while serving her sentence, concluded that a 30-year old positive urine test was a “serious” rule violation barring Mutulu Shakur’s release on parole.


In response to the Complaint, on September 17, 2018 the Parole Commission and Bureau of Prisons each submitted separate motions to dismiss. You can read the full motions through the links below:

US Parole Commission

Bureau of Prisons



Having served over thirty years of his federal sentence, Mutulu Shakur became eligible for release on “mandatory parole” on February 10, 2016. Rather than release Dr. Shakur in February 2016, the U.S. Parole Commission (“Commission”) scheduled a hearing to determine whether to parole Dr. Shakur on April 7, 2016.


After the April 2016 hearing, the Commission denied Mutulu mandatory parole, finding his 1990 positive drug test and four minor phone-related infractions over 30 years of incarceration to be “serious” and “frequent” institutional violations. The Commission further found a likelihood he would commit future crimes upon release based on his absolutely non-violent political beliefs and use of the term “stiff resistance” to occasionally sign correspondence. A copy of their Notice of Action is available here. Dr. Shakur has not had a single rule violation during thirty years of incarceration involving violence or the threat of violence, he has an excellent prison record according to Bureau of Prison’s (“BOP”) staff, and has for decades renounced the kind of criminal conduct he was engaged in more than thirty years ago to further political ends. He has consistently expressed support for peaceful and lawful steps to address issues of social justice.


The Commission scheduled Mutulu for a new parole hearing on May 3, 2018. At that hearing, various BOP officials testified in essence that Dr. Shakur has been cooperative with staff in every way and has had no rule violations since a 2014 telephone violation. Despite this, in a Notice of Action dated May 25, 2018 (available at this link), the Commission denied Mr. Shakur parole stating that “the Commission continues to find that, for the same reasons as stated in the 2016 Notice of Action, that he had “seriously violated the rules of the institution and that there is a reasonable probability that you will [if released] commit Federal, State, or Local crime.”


On June 25, 2018, Mutulu submitted a timely Petition for Reconsideration of the new denial of parole. However, on July 25, 2018, the National Appeals Board (aka the Commission) rejected the Petition in all respects and reaffirmed the Commission’s initial April 2018 Notice of Action.


Based on this repeated, arbitrary treatment, Counsel for Dr. Shakur filed the aforementioned complaint on his behalf on August 21, 2018.


Case Documents:

3 thoughts on “Federal Lawsuit Against the Parole Commission and Bureau of Prisons

  1. Shawna Wade

    The truth is they are scared of what we can to do for black people. He has done so much for the culture and his release means that there is a chance he liberates and open up the minds of our people who are dead to the knowledge of themselves. I pray he is let out

  2. Mama Ayanna

    Greetings to Dr. Mutulu,
    It creates great sadness for me and our community that Dr. Mutulu continues to be unjustly held. We support his efforts to obtain his freedom and will be speaking about his latest legal action and updating the community about this today on KPFA Radio in Berkeley.

    Please let him know that he is in our thoughts, dreams and prayers daily.

    In Unity,
    ~ Ayanna

  3. Sara

    Dr Shakur is so selfless. He is a true hero and it kills me that the system is keeping him imprisoned. He is the most peaceful, inspiring, good-hearted man of my lifetime. Always praying for his immediate freedom


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