Jalil Muntaqim, one of the longest held political prisoners in the world today, has been in the SHU at Attica prison in upstate New York, since December 6th for teaching Black History — a course approved by the Attica prison administration. Jalil had been teaching Black History for almost 2 months, and had gotten up to the point in of teaching about the 1960’s, the anti-Vietnam War movement and the Black Panther Party.
Supporters believe Jalil was written up because the authorities didn’t like what he was teaching, so he was placed in the SHU — isolation torture — with 5 charges.
This is part of an ongoing program to censor Jalil, which escalated this year after he beat charges for writing a letter to an outside organization and was denied newspapers from the outside.
Following is Jalil’s letter to a supporter (reposted from the freejalil.com website) from December 14 detailing what occurred:
As you probably heard, I’ve been placed in SHU with a penalty of 8 months, suspending 4 months for 6 months, having to do 4 months. The charges were: 105.13 Gangs, 105.11 Unauthorized Addresses, 105.14 Unauthorized Organization, 104.11 Violent Conduct, 104.12 Demonstration.
This all stems from a class on Black History that I was approved to give and had been teaching for a couple of months, starting in 1861-62 with the Confiscation Act, and now in the 1960’s dealing with the Black Panther Party. During the course of the lecture I presented the 8 Points of Attention:
1. Speak Politely; 2. Pay Fairly for What You Buy; 3. Return Everything You Borrow; 4. Pay for Everything You Damage; 5. Do Not Hit or Swear at People; 6. Do Not Damage the Property or Crops of the Poor Oppressed People/Masses; 7. Do Not Take Liberties with Women; 8. If We Take Captives, Do Not Ill Treat Them.
This was presented discussing the ethics of the Panthers and how these Points of Attention engendered good relationships with the people in the community. I should have known they would ignore everything but Point 8.
Also, I offered an analogy, comparing and contrasting the BPP with the Bloods, stating they need to get organized, get away from criminal behavior and tribal warfare. If they did they could be a large army for the people. I was asked how to make that possible, and I answered they need to get a universal newspaper together that they could collectively contribute to. They interpret this that I was trying to organize them.
The Tier III hearing officer, Mr. Marche, dismissed the charge of 105.11 Unauthorized Addresses and 105.14 Unauthorized Organization, finding me guilty of 105.13 Gangs, 104.11 Violent Conduct, and 104.12 Demonstration.
I’ve written to Prisoners Legal Services in Buffalo asking them to consider representing me on appeal. If they agree, I’ll still be sitting here for 60 days waiting for a decision.
As you know, I have been suffering intense harassment, first messing with my mail, trying to put me in SHU for writing to I Am We Prison Advocacy Network, then denying me receipt of The Militant newspaper, now succeeding by taking comments out of a 1 and a half hour lecture and cobbling them into a narrative to fit rule violations, removing them from the original context and intent. Given the recent NY Times newspaper articles exposing the racist practices of both disciplinary hearings and parole board decisions, it is apparent the harsh penalty in this case coincides with the findings of the NY Times articles.
In this regard, it is important that folk know this seemingly unrelenting harassment is consistent with the NYS Correctional Officers Association’s alliance with the PBA’s opposition to my release on parole. With the growing and mounting campaign to persuade Gov. Cuomo to grant my application to commute the sentence, these entities are mounting a campaign to thwart any possibility for success at the parole board. We must vigorously condemn this disciplinary sanction and demand that it be reversed. But just as importantly, we need to further expose the racist nature of the disciplinary process and correctional guards/administrators persistent efforts to prohibit my release on parole.
Jalil is the author of numerous poems and essays about Black liberation, life in prison, and the nature of the world we live in. Several of these were collected in the book Escaping the Prism … Fade to Black, published by Kersplebedeb in 2015 (available from leftwingbooks.net , AK Press , and Amazon).