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Mumia Abu-Jamal Remains the Voice of the Voiceless

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Black August Series No. 2

After 40 years of incarceration the “voice of the voiceless” remains a focus of international attention

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal speaks at a memorial for Fred Hampton in Philadelphia. Source : commonnotions

During the late 1960s, Mumia Abu-Jamal became a youth activist in the city of Philadelphia where a succession of racist police chiefs engaged in widespread abuse against the African American community.

Philadelphia has a centuries-long history of African self-organization dating back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries when the Free African Society, African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) and other institutions were formed by Richard Allen, Sarah Allen and Absalom Jones.

During mid-19th century, the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society provided avenues for men and women to build support for the Underground Railroad and the movement to completely eradicate involuntary servitude in the antebellum border and deep southern states. By the 1960s, the city became known as one of the first municipalities where African Americans would rise up in rebellion on the north side during the late August 1964.

Max Stanford (later known as Muhammad Ahmed), a co-founder of the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) in 1962, was from Philadelphia. RAM proceeded the Black Panther Party (BPP) and sought to form an alliance with Malcolm X (also known as El Hajj Malik Shabazz), a leading spokesman for the Nation of Islam and later the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). RAM advocated for the development of a revolutionary movement in the U.S. and consequently became a target of the Justice Department.

In 1969, Mumia joined the Black Panther Party at the age of 15 when the organization was deemed by the then Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) J. Edgar Hoover as the “greatest threat to national security” in the United States. The Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) had a special division which was designed to monitor, disrupt, imprison and kill various leaders and members of African American organizations from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the BPP as well as a host of other tendencies. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) since the mid-to-late 1970s indicate that the BPP was a principal target of the U.S. government and local police agencies.

Why was the BPP considered so dangerous by the leading law-enforcement agency inside the country? In order to provide answers to this question it must be remembered that between 1955 and 1970, the African American people led a struggle for civil rights and self-determination which impacted broad segments of the population in the U.S. helping to spawn movements within other oppressed communities.

The Black Panther Party was first formed in Lowndes County Alabama in 1965. Its origins grew out of the organizing work of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), whose field organizer, Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) was deployed to the area in the aftermath of the Selma to Montgomery march in late March of the same year. Working in conjunction with local activists, an independent political party was formed known as the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO). The group utilized the black panther as its symbol while rejecting both the Republican and Democratic Party. 

In subsequent months, there were other Black Panther organizations formed in several cities including Detroit, Cleveland, New York City and other urban areas. In Oakland, California during October of 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. 

This movement represented an emerging phase of the Black liberation struggle where there were calls for armed self-defense, mass rebellion and the political takeovers of major municipalities by those who had been excluded from the reins of official power. Thousands of African American youth flocked to the Black Panther Party viewing the organization as a symbol of uncompromising resistance to racism, national oppression and economic exploitation.

Mumia and the BPP

Although the BPP was projected in the national corporate media as gun toting militants willing to use weapons against the police when they were threatening the Party and the community, most of the work of the organization revolved around distribution of its weekly newspaper, the establishment of free breakfast programs for children, community health clinics for the people in the most oppressed areas of the African American community while building alliances with revolutionary forces among other sectors of the population including, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Asians, Native Americans and whites committed to fundamental change within U.S. society.

Mumia noted the diversity of programmatic work during his tenure in the BPP of the late 1960s and early 1970s in his book entitled “We Want Freedom”: “As the Breakfast program succeeded so did the Party, and its popularity fueled our growth across the country. Along with the growth of the Party came an increase in the number of community programs undertaken by the Party. By 1971, the Party had embarked on ten distinctive community programs, described by Newton as survival programs. What did he mean by this term? We called them survival programs pending revolution. They were designed to help the people survive until their consciousness is raised, which is only the first step in the revolution to produce a new America.… During a flood the raft is a life-saving device, but it is only a means of getting to higher ground. So, too, with survival programs, which are emergency services. In themselves they do not change social conditions, but they are life-saving vehicles until conditions change.” (

On December 4, 1969, the Chicago police under the aegis of the Illinois State’s Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan and the Chicago field office of the FBI, raided the residence of BPP members on the city’s west side. Two Panther leaders, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were killed while several other occupants of the house were wounded. 

These police actions along with hundreds of other attacks on BPP chapters across the country resulted in the deaths of many Panther members and the arrests and framing of hundreds of cadres. Numerous BPP members were driven into exile as others were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. 

The Voice of the Voiceless from the Streets to Death Row

On December 9, 1981, Mumia was arrested in Philadelphia and charged with the murder of white police officer Daniel Faulkner. He was railroaded through the courts and convicted on July 3, 1982. The following year, Mumia was sentenced to die by capital punishment. He remained on death row until 2011 after an international campaign to save his life proved successful.

However, his death sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole. Mumia and his supporters have maintained that he is not guilty of the crime of killing a police officer. 

After his sojourn in the BPP, Mumia utilized his writing and journalist skills learned in the Party to become a formidable media personality in Philadelphia. He was a fierce critic of police brutality and a defender of the revolutionary MOVE organization which emerged during the 1970s in the city. 

Mumia was a co-founder of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) in the 1970s. He worked as a radio broadcaster and writer exposing the misconduct of the police surrounding the attack on the MOVE residence in August 1978. In 1979, he interviewed reggae superstar Bob Marley when he visited Philadelphia for a concert performance.

While behind bars Mumia has become an even more prolific writer and broadcast journalist. He issues weekly commentaries through Prison Radio where he discusses a myriad of topics including African American history, international affairs, political economy, the deplorable conditions existing among the more than two million people incarcerated in the U.S. along with police misconduct. (

A renewed campaign entitled “Love Not Phear” held demonstrations around the U.S. and the world during the weekend of July 3 marking the 40th anniversary of his unjust conviction in 1982. Love Not Phear says that it is committed to the liberation of all political prisoners including Mumia Abu-Jamal.

An entry on their website emphasizes that: “The landscape has changed over the last 40 years, a time frame that also marks the years Mumia has been incarcerated. The fight for the release of political prisoners requires a recalibration in order to challenge police corruption and racism as they have evolved in this new landscape. We cannot deny the racism, corruption, and misconduct that permeated the so-called ‘Halls of Justice’ during Mumia’s arrest and unjust kangaroo court trial. The people today know the truth; commonplace bribed witnesses, suppressed evidence, biased judges, and backroom deals put Mumia behind bars.” (

Mumia through his attorneys have filed another appeal based upon evidence related to prosecutorial misconduct which has been further revealed over the last four years. The hearing will take place on October 19 in Philadelphia. Supporters of Mumia and other political prisoners will attend the hearing in this latest attempt to win the long-awaited freedom for this activist who is now 68 years old


Products Sold by Companies using Prison Labour

Products-sold-by-companies-using-prison-labor-from-letter-from-imprisoned-man-by-Jahahara, Celebrating International Workers’ Day!, Culture Currents News & Views

Other side of the walls! Several months ago, i received this powerful copy of a hand-written graphic from a young incarcerated brother. Please take a good read, act in truth and with justice and share with others. Amen. Asé. – Photo: Baba Jahahara

To Abolish the Medical industrial Complex

by   Gwendolyn Wallace

To Abolish the Medical industrial Complex
To Abolish the Medical industrial Complex

Like prisons, healthcare systems are part of the way that empire reproduces itself.

“Anti-blackness has not distorted medical relationships and institutions, so much as built them.”

The past six months have highlighted the fight that Black people are in against state violence, both in the form of policing and the US healthcare system. Though the ruling class cries that the coronavirus pandemic is “the great equalizer ,” the virus continues to demonstrate exactly who our capitalist health-care system was designed to keep alive. So far, across the country, about 42% of coronavirus deaths have been Black people , even though they were only about 21% of the population in the areas analyzed. InLouisiana , over 70% of people who died were Black (despite Black people being only 32% of the population). Along with high rates of death, countless stories have emerged about Black people turned away from hospitals, struggling to access testing, and being disproportionately arrested or ticketed for not following public health guidelines. On top of this, uprisings have taken hold across the country, starting in Minneapolis after the murder of George Floyd. Many groups are calling for police to be de-funded and for the abolition of the prison industrial complex. In the midst of a pandemic, it is crucial to understand how the prison industrial complex intersects with the medical industrial complex, and commit to abolishing both.

“The virus continues to demonstrate exactly who our capitalist health-care system was designed to keep alive.”

Though medical institutions portray themselves as benevolent and objective, the structural reality is that biomedicine was forged in the political and social terrain of colonialism. Commonly known as the medical industrial complex, we are all affected by a huge system that provides “healthcare” services for profit and makes billions of dollars each year. Mia Mingus, a writer and community organizer who focuses on disability justice, helped put together the above detailed visua l of the medical industrial complex along with other organizers like Cara Page and Patty Berne.  The diagram shows how four “core motivations” serve as the foundational structuring agents of the four sections of the visual. Desirability structures health, population control structures safety, charity and ableism structure access, and eugenics structure science and medicine. This is what makes the medical industrial complex so profitable.

Along with its foundations in anti-blackness, the medical industrial complex is also inherently gendered and contoured by ableism, fatphobia, and anti-transness. Internationally, all of these systems of domination affect vaccine development and allocation of medicines. This diagram also beautifully illustrates how all of these parts are interconnected and serve to sustain each other. In the bottom right-hand corner, we can see that the prison industrial complex has its own place in the diagram. The abolition of the prison industrial complex requires the knowledge that our systems of medical “care” have been built on carceral logics, from the criminalization of domestic violence survivors to psychiatric hospitals. In “Are Prisons Obsolete?” Angela Davis writes that board members from the Corrections Corporation of America and the Hospital Corporation of America, one of the first private hospital companies, worked together to help found Correctional Corporations of America in 1983Like prisons, healthcare systems are part of the way that empire reproduces itself.

“Our systems of medical “care” have been built on carceral logics.”

Black health disparities are not an incidental feature of the healthcare system. The coronavirus pandemic has further demonstrated that the medical industrial complex is so deeply deleterious to Black people that reforms like increasing the number of Black doctors or unconscious bias training for healthcare professionals are not enough to ensure Black people’s live. The values of the medical industrial complex run in contradiction to the well-being of all Black people. In her essay The Death Toll , Saidiya Hartman writes, “the health-care system is routinely indifferent to black suffering, doubting the shared sentence of bodies in pain, uncertain if the human is an expansive category or an exclusive one, if indeed a human is perceived at all.” The pledge to “do no harm” has little meaning when Black people are still excluded from the human. Ultimately, Black “health” is an impossibility in a system built and sustained by anti-black violence and logics.

From its inception, the medical industrial complex has been in service of white supremacy and capitalism. In Frantz Fanon’s essay “Medicine and Colonialism,” he writes, “The colonial situation does not only vitiate the relations between doctor and patient. We have shown that the doctor always appears as a link in the colonialist network, as a spokesman for the occupying power.” The ruling class continues to claim that biomedicine is simply abused occasionally for evil purposes, which purposefully detracts from addressing that it has always been a child of slavery and European colonialism.

“Black ‘health’ is an impossibility in a system built and sustained by anti-black violence and logics.”

It is no coincidence that today, many health studies continue to act as though race is a biological category that exists without racism. Race-making has always been a crucial mission of the medical industrial complex. In his 1851 “Report on the Diseases and Physical Peculiarities of the Negro,” Samuel Cartwright, a prominent physician, writes about a mental illness called drapetomania which compels slaves to run away. Twenty-four years after Cartwright’s report, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., dean of Harvard Medical School and an avid eugenicist, wrote an 1875 essay  about mechanisms of crime. He writes, “If genius and talent are inherited…why should not deep-rooted moral defects and obliquities show themselves, as well as other qualities, in the descendants of moral monsters?” Theories of genetic inferiority created by physicians were the same that Prudential, one of the largest insurers of Black people at the time, used to justify their announcement in 1881 that insurance policies held by Black adults would be worth only one third those of white people’s. Their weekly premiums, however, would be the same. It should come as no surprise then, that a 2020 paper  published in the Journal of Internal Medicine was entitled, “Obesity in African-Americans: is physiology to blame?” before public outcry forced a change in title.

Experimentation on Black people has also created the foundation for medical knowledge. People often reference the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, but there are also a plethora of other studies that were conducted on Black people, like the “Acres of Skin”  experiments done by dermatologist Albert M. Kligman on incarcerated Black men in Philadelphia from 1951 to 1974.

“Race-making has always been a crucial mission of the medical industrial complex.”

White doctors even abused Black people after their deaths. In her book Medical Apartheid, scholar Harriet Washington explores the histories of medical schools stealing the bodies of Black people for dissection practice into the 20th century, even going do far as to rob Black cemeteries.  Of course, medical history is also rife with examples of doctors abusing Black people’s reproductive freedoms. From J Marion Sims’ experimental surgeries on enslaved Black women in 1845, to George Gey’s 1951 theft of Henrietta Lacks cells which still power the medical industrial complex, biomedical encounters have always been a threat to Black women’s health. The Eugenics Board of North Carolina didn’t cease operations until 1977, and of the almost 8,000 people sterilized in the state, about 5,000 were black.

While medical and research institutions make sure to target Black people for experimentation and abuse, they also systematically deny Black people healthcare resources. Chicago’s Southside neighborhood lacked  an adult trauma center until 2018, despite its high rates of gun violence. This is just a part of a long history of medical facilities being intentionally built far away from predominantly Black neighborhoods.

Framing any of the cases above as an exceptional misuse of science is a dangerous way of avoiding the conversation that they are all expected outcomes of a system that was never made to ensure the health of Black people. Science and medicine have not simply absorbed the racism of other institutions, they are institutional violence themselves. The state continues to discredit Black peoples’ legacies of healing through granny midwives, root workers, and conjurers because they are a threat to white supremacist capitalist medicine. Black people have been, and continue to be, the enemies of medicine. In the end, white people are only able to secure their own health when they can place it next to the unwavering illness of black people that they create and re-create.

“Biomedical encounters have always been a threat to Black women’s health.”

Abolition, whether of the prison industrial complex, military industrial complex, or the medical industrial complex, is always a positive project. Once the old systems are destroyed, we are faced with the task of world-building, of learning to “imagine a constellation of alternative strategies and institutions,” as Angela Davis says. For the medical industrial complex, this means having conversations where the point of departure is the truth that Black people know what keeps them well. This means asking friends and family what it is they need to heal. For many, this means uplifting the holistic healing practices of our ancestors with the understanding that care can transcend both space and time.

Throughout history, Black liberation has always involved finding ways to ensure the well-being of one another outside of the state and its medical institutions. From enslaved women exchanging recipes for abortifacients with each other to granny midwives like Margaret Charles Smith, who delivered over 3500 infants in rural Alabama during the 20th century and never lost a mother in childbirth. From the Black Cross nurses who provided Black people with health services and education, to all the Black farmers who belonged to Fannie Lou Hamer’s Freedom Farm Collective.

“Midwife Margaret Charles Smith delivered over 3500 infants in rural Alabama and never lost a mother in childbirth.”

One of the most relevant examples of community healthcare and preventative services is the Black Panther Party and their survival programs. In spring of 1970, Black Panther Party made free health clinics and programs to feed children breakfast mandatory for each chapter. Health clinics were staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses, as well as activists, who encouraged patients to ask questions and advocate for themselves. Physicians were trained in alternative forms of medicine as well as biomedicine, and the BPP required that doctors read the work of Mao, Che, and other revolutionaries. Along with their clinics, the BPP did research and screening on genetic disorders like sickle cell anaemia, provided immunizations, and trained members of the community as lay health workers who were able to provide both health services and social services. The legacy of these programs lives in many organizations, collectives, and health centers today.

In our current moment, groups all over the country are creating networks where people can access healthcare without relying on the medical industrial complex or prison industrial complex. Dream Defenders, a radical group of young people in Florida, has established a Trauma Response Center  to combat the violence of both systems. The center offers “free legal services, violence interruption, mental health counseling, stop the bleed training as well as skills training and job placement, arts programming,” among other services. In Chicago, a volunteer Black health collective and mutual aid organization called Ujimaa Medics runs workshops on gunshot first aid, and also teaches people to respond to asthma attacks, seizures and diabetic emergencies. There are also organizations like Project LETS , which builds “peer support collectives” and other community-based mental healthcare systems. When we abolish the medical industrial complex, this is the world that awaits us.

The BPP did research and screening on genetic disorders like sickle cell anaemia, provided immunizations, and trained members of the community as lay health workers.”

Mia Mingus writes , “What would it mean to not have to be afraid of going to the doctor? To be able to trust that the care and treatments you are receiving will not only take care of your body, but the planet and future generations as well?” Abolition looks like creating networks and institutions that answer these questions. The demise of the medical industrial complex gives us the opportunity to fully imagine and reimagine these new systems as our needs change, because they belong to us. The goal of this space is not to become human as defined by colonialism, but to generate Black healing from the violence wrought by ideas of health. Once we come to the collective understanding that anti-blackness has not distorted medical relationships and institutions, so much as built them, we are able to continue to imagine ways of taking care of ourselves and our communities that actually improve the wellbeing of all Black people. The abolition of the prison industrial complex and medical industrial complex are inextricably linked. We can keep us safe, and we can also keep us healthy.


Mumia: US Incapable of Protecting Its People

The nation’s best known political prisoner asks, “Who really believes that the US government can, or will, vaccinate over 300 million people – a government that can’t find the people it promised to give money to?”  Mumia Abu Jamal, like most of the nation’s two million incarcerated people, has been on lockdown since the Covid-19 crisis began. With 100,00 dead, Abu Jamal said the US “is marching headlong into the abyss.”

source: Mumia: US Incapable of Protecting Its People

Mumia: Even Angela Davis Shocked by US Mass Incarceration

Mumia Abu Jamal, the nation’s best known political prisoner, notes that even trailblazing prison abolition scholar Angela Davis, herself a former political prisoner, underestimated Americans’ willingness to incarcerate millions of their fellows. Abu Jamal quoted Davis, who wrote that, back in the late Sixties she could not fathom that the US prison population would increase ten-fold in the next few decades. “No, this will never happen,” she wrote. “Not unless this country plunges into fascism.”

source:   Mumia: Even Angela Davis Shocked by US Mass Incarceration

Prison, Profits And The Black Community

prisonsAs major cities move towards decarceration and are closing jails and prisons, smaller cities and rural communities are incarcerating people at higher rates. Image: MMG

  • Incarceration can cost an average of $60K per inmate in some states
  •  In 2017, there were 1,549 black prisoners for every 100K black adults

On any given day, U.S. jails now hold more than 730,000 people. While most of the urban poor are susceptible to harsher treatment from law enforcement which has resulted in the high incarceration rate of minorities, it is in small cities and rural communities where the prison population is growing. As major cities move towards decarceration and close jails, smaller cities and rural communities are incarcerating people at higher rates, and investing heavily in jail expansion at the expense of taxpayers.

Why This Matters: The United States is the global leader in prison population, which has implications on taxpayer spending.  In 2011, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Justice estimated that local communities spent $22.2 billion on jails. In some states, it’s as much as $60,000 per inmate and is often the case that taxpayers foot the bill for meals, housing and securing people in state and federal penitentiaries.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimated that local communities spent $22.2 billion on jails

The prison system has become a big business. Did you know that for-profit prison companies started in response to the government’s inability to handle the skyrocketing incarcerated population? The government uses these private companies to build and manage local jails. Private companies earn billions of dollars for services to incarcerated people often with little oversight, ranging from phones, to medical devices and facilities.

It’s especially stunning when you breakdown the  racial makeup of U.S. prisons that continues to look substantially different from the demographics of the country as a whole. African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of whites. In 2017, blacks represented 12% of the U.S. adult population, but 33% of the sentenced prison population. Whites accounted for 64% of adults but 30% of prisoners.

Situational Awareness: In 2017, there were 1,549 black prisoners for every 100,000 black adults, nearly six times the imprisonment rate for whites (272 per 100,000) and nearly double the rate for Hispanics (823 per 100,000). Though Blacks have long outnumbered whites in U.S. prisons, there has been a significant decline in the number of Black prisoners in the last decade. Even with the decline, in 2017, blacks still make up one-third of the prison population, and are still continuing to have a detrimental effect on our communities, in terms of employment opportunities, education and even infant mortality.

This article by Christopher Pitts was originally published by CultureBanx. It is reposted here with permission. Read the original.


Comrade Malik: Environmental disasters in Texas are not a hoax

The TPC Group’s petrochemical plant in Port Neches, Texas, exploded at 1 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 27, and again 13 hours later, blowing out windows miles away and sending “thousands of pounds of pollutants into the air, including hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, benzene, and butadiene,” reports, an environmental and social justice site. The plant “manufactures butadiene, which, according to the company, is used to produce synthetic rubber for hoses and tires, and has a long history of state and federal environmental violations, according to The Texas Tribune.” – Photo: Marie D. De Jesús, Houston Chronicle via AP

by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington

In the early morning hours of Nov. 27, 2019, there was a huge explosion at a petrochemical plant located in Port Neches, Texas, just a few miles from USP Beaumont, where I am currently housed. The plant, which is operated by TPC Group, sustained a large amount of structural damage and approximately four people were injured. Over 50,000 people were evacuated in the surrounding area and officials warned all those who were downwind from the plant.

This incident came only days after the Trump administration relaxed regulations that instructed chemical plants like the one in Port Natchez to conduct thorough inspections of their chemical processing facilities. The Trump administration has defined itself as an enemy to the environment and a friend to capitalist oppressors.

In Southeast Texas, these industrial chemical plants continue to spew toxic chemicals into the air. The main part of the regulations that are no longer being enforced is the section which instructed plants to disclose to the public exactly what kind and type of chemicals are being processed at the plants.

More and more, the Environmental Protection Agency under Trump continues to roll back Obama era policies which actually protected the people from chronic polluters like TPC Group.

In my most recent essay on environmental racism in Texas, I rang the alarm, specifically focusing on the threat to our health and our ecosystems here in Southeast Texas.

Instead of listening to my warnings, Texas state government officials ignored my exposé. Rather than respecting me as a rational intellectual, the authorities continue to foolishly regard my work with disdain. The people and our precious earth continue to suffer.

We must stop allowing the federal government to mischaracterize climate change as a hoax.

Port Neches, scene of the explosions, is less than 16 miles from Beaumont.

Mounting statistics and evidence clearly show that human beings are directly responsible for climate change as well as ecological destruction. Collectively, we can stop this, but we must refute these false narratives created by those who don’t have a vested interest in our survival or the survival of our planet.

Sisters and brothers, the time for talking is over. It’s time for some action! Don’t keep procrastinating. You BE THE CHANGE!

Prisoners who, like me, are trapped in federal and state prisons in close proximity to these toxic chemical plants can only do so much. We rely on free world people to confront these violators of the public’s trust. Don’t be silent. Fight Toxic Prisons. SAVE OUR PLANET!

Comrades, the people who live and work inside these prisons don’t have a choice as to what air they can breathe or what water we can drink. Most of us are disadvantaged people of color who come from oppressed backgrounds.

A big part of the system of mass incarceration is a system of secrecy, disinformation and suppression of voices, ideas, thoughts which are diametrically opposed to the prison industrial slave complex. Poisoning prisons with polluted air or contaminated water continues to be ignored in mainstream media discourse, but with your help we can change that. Amplify my voice and together we can work to save the planet.

Thank you,

Comrade Malik


Freedom Rider: Abolish the Police

Freedom Rider: Abolish the Police
Freedom Rider: Abolish the Police


Trump’s attorney general threatened to withdraw police “protection” from Black communities – but, of course, no such thing exists.

“The cops they do not deserve respect or support.”

Attorney General William Barr created quite a controversy  with his comments about community support for police departments. “And they have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves. And if communities don’t give that support and respect, they might find themselves without the police protection they need.” His words were condemned but unfortunately most of his critics were angry for the wrong reasons.

There is little benefit to the public in the way law enforcement officers work in this country. They rarely protect the public from violence. Most of their activity consists of finding any and every reason to put black people behind bars. The police are the 21st century slave patrol, giving comfort to white Americans who want to keep black people under physical control. We would be fortunate indeed if we were to lose police “protection.” The carceral state is a huge money making industry, with police and others in the field earning higher salaries than they would otherwise and a prison system that finds myriad ways to make profits off of black and brown bodies.

“We would be fortunate indeed if we were to lose police “protection.”

The idea of abolishing the police should not be considered strange or outlandish. Doing so is a necessity and police departments prove it themselves every day. In New York City six black and Latino officers who served in the subway system filed a discrimination lawsuit against the NYPD. One stated in an affidavit that he retired because, “I got tired of hunting Black and Hispanic people because of arrest quotas.” The officers say that their commander told them, “You are stopping too many Russians and Chinese” and “You should write more black and Hispanic people.” In the past two years 90% of those arrested for fare beating in the New York transit system were black or Latino. The two groups comprise a little more than half of the city’s population.

It is rare for the police to be caught explicitly stating what everyone knows to be true. Despite what the attorney general says, they do not deserve respect or support. They deserve scorn and the people deserve protection from their violence and threats of violence.

The police are and will remain a menace unless and until we have true community control over their operations. At the very least they are a nuisance who issue summonses covering all manner of infractions. At their worst they have quotas to make arrests, as the NYPD officers charged in the lawsuit. If they decide to kill they do so with complete impunity.

“I got tired of hunting Black and Hispanic people because of arrest quotas.”

The NYPD officers were ordered to arrest black and brown people who didn’t pay the subway fare, which is now $2.75. No one should be arrested for stealing this small sum of money. But it is quite clear that America’s twisted version of justice is maintained by this racially based overreach. Making black and brown people the primary targets of law enforcement is the system’s very reason for being.

A few days after the attorney general made his comments the country saw the very worst example of policing run amuck. Four people died in Florida  when police used excessive force to apprehend two burglars. The men carried out a jewelry store robbery and hijacked a United Parcel Service truck in their escape attempt. Police indiscriminately fired shots in rush hour traffic which killed not only the burglars, but also the UPS driver and a bystander.

Barr’s critics accused him of threatening to take police away from people who protest against them. If that is what he meant we should keep protesting and hope that they leave our neighborhoods right away. The reaction to Barr’s stupid words should be a call to publicly declare that police abolition is all to the good and that it must be a conscious and consistent demand.

“We should keep protesting and hope that they leave our neighborhoods right away.”

Police brutality continues because many people support it, including the useless black misleadership class. Florida Congressional Black Caucus member Alcee Hastings  had this to say after the incident. “My heart aches for the victims, their families & all who were affected by the deadly shooting that took place in Miramar. I’m thankful for the rapid response & professionalism of our first responders who were on the scene. Gun violence should have no place in our community!” It is bizarre that he would thank the first responders whose actions created the bloodshed.

In the fight for control of the police we will have to fight Hastings and his ilk too. But that is always the case. The people must make their own demands knowing that their politicians often work against their interests. That reality plays a part in this struggle. The next time Barr or anyone else speaks of communities losing the police, we must reply that this imagined threat is in fact our goal.


Exploiting Prisoners: W. Virginia Inmates Will Be Charged $3 An Hour To Read E-Books That Are Free Online

prison tablets
Hyped as “free,” the electronic multimedia prison tablets are anything but. Inmates have to pay to use them to communicate with family and read e-books that are free online. Photo: Impact Sports Prison Ministry

People incarcerated in 10 West Virginia prisons will soon be charged $3 an hour to read e-books on prison tablets and $15 an hour for video visitation with their families thanks to a contract between the government and an inmate calling company.

Under a 2019 contract with the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, a Virginia company called Global Tel Link is providing electronic multimedia tablets to 10 West Virginia prisons, according to a report by

The tablets, hyped as “free”, are anything but. Inmates have to pay to use them to send emails, communicate with family members and read books that are free on the internet.

Global Tel Link provides inmate calling services. The company’s CEO is Brian D. Oliver. By 2015, Global Tel Link controlled 50 percent of the $1.2 billion inmate calling services telecommunications industry, Huffington Post reported.

Inmates will be charged to read books — books that are free for all users from Project Gutenberg, a free online library of more than 60,000 texts in the public domain.

Wages in West Virginia prisons range between $0.04 and $0.58 an hour, according to a 2017 estimate by the Prison Policy Initiative.

Using the tablets will cost $0.05 per minute (currently discounted to $0.03) to read books, listen to music, or play games; $0.25 per minute for video visitations; $0.25 per written message; and $0.50 to send a photo with a message, the Appalachian Prison Book Project reported.

“The tablets scheme is turning into a ruthless profit industry, several participants in an NCHEP panel have suggested on Twitter,” Didi Rankovic wrote in a blog for

The cost of reading a single ebook could reach $25, according to the nonprofit Books for Prisoners. While the devices (with no internet access) are given to inmates free of charge, the companies who provide them make money not only on ebooks but also charge “above-market prices for phone calls, video chats, and media,” the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative reported in March.

The fee structure is exploitative, according to the Appalachian Prison Book Project, a nonprofit that offers free books and education to inmates.

“If you pause to think or reflect, that will cost you,” said Katy Ryan, the group’s founder and educational coordinator. “If you want to reread a book, you will pay the entire cost again. This is about generating revenue for the state and profit for the industry. Tablets under non-predatory terms could be a very good thing inside prisons. GTL does not provide that.”

The tablets aren’t supposed to replace regular books, but similar policies have led to price-gouging and restrictions on book donations in other states, according to

In a statement to, the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation said inmates do not have to use the tablets and it is not restricting book donations or purchases of regular print books.

However, in other parts of the country prisons have restricted book donations, forcing inmates to buy books through pre-approved vendors or use tablets provided by private contractors like Global Tel Link and JPay.

“The stated rationale for limiting or banning both in-person visitation and books is the smuggling of contraband,” Rebecca J. Kavanagh tweeted. “But overwhelmingly contraband is smuggled into jails and prisons by staff.” Kavanagh is a criminal defense lawyer and former public defender who represented indigent clients.

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Although the practice of making inmates pay to and communicate on tablets is not new, it shocked and surprised some social media users so much that they found it hard to believe.

“If this is true it is beyond outrageous. Rehabilitation????” racial wealth disparity expert Sandy Darity tweeted.

“This is one of the most disgusting things I have ever heard. Charging a prisoner to read a book? Cancelling in-person visits? This is the slavery to prison pipeline,” another tweeted.

Here are more comments on Twitter:

“Just like the old time company stores in the same area. ‘I owe my soul to the company store.’”

“This is basically the state saying that they don’t want these #prisoners reading just like the slavemasters. This is separation of families. Where is the outrage? How is this rehabilitation? They are #chattel.”

Rebecca Kavanagh@DrRJKavanagh

People incarcerated in West Virginia prisons will soon be charged $3 an hour to read books and $15 an hour for video visitation with their families.

Prisoners in West Virginia are paid between 4 and 58 cents an hour for their labor. 

Rebecca Kavanagh@DrRJKavanagh

The adoption of costly video-technology is part of a disturbing nation-wide trend: 74 percent of jails who have adopted video calls have subsequently banned in-person visitation. 

1,893 people are talking about this

Rebecca Kavanagh@DrRJKavanagh

There’s also been a troubling national trend to ban donations of used books to people who are incarcerated and to restrict book purchases to certain vendors that charge exorbitant prices and have limited censored selections. 

Rebecca Kavanagh@DrRJKavanagh

The stated rationale for limiting or banning both in-person visitation and books is the smuggling of contraband. But overwhelmingly contraband is smuggled into jails and prisons by staff. 

1,121 people are talking about this

Rebecca Kavanagh@DrRJKavanagh

The stated rationale for limiting or banning both in-person visitation and books is the smuggling of contraband. But overwhelmingly contraband is smuggled into jails and prisons by staff. 

Rebecca Kavanagh@DrRJKavanagh

It’s prison slavery and the prison industrial complex in overdrive.

(Thanks to my amazing friend and colleague @BoddenMarlen for her assistance with this thread.)

816 people are talking about this

Rebecca Kavanagh@DrRJKavanagh

People incarcerated in West Virginia prisons will soon be charged $3 an hour to read books and $15 an hour for video visitation with their families.

Prisoners in West Virginia are paid between 4 and 58 cents an hour for their labor. 

Sandy Darity, Retweets do not mean endorsement.@SandyDarity

If this is true it is beyond outrageous. Rehabilitation????

15 people are talking about this

Rebecca Kavanagh@DrRJKavanagh

People incarcerated in West Virginia prisons will soon be charged $3 an hour to read books and $15 an hour for video visitation with their families.

Prisoners in West Virginia are paid between 4 and 58 cents an hour for their labor. 


This is one of the most disgusting things I have ever heard. Charging a prisoner to read a book? Cancelling in-person visits? This is the slavery to prison pipeline.

See Kayjay’s other Tweets

Rebecca Kavanagh@DrRJKavanagh

People incarcerated in West Virginia prisons will soon be charged $3 an hour to read books and $15 an hour for video visitation with their families.

Prisoners in West Virginia are paid between 4 and 58 cents an hour for their labor. 

Matthew J. Kuiken@Juris_Sequoia

For-profit prisons are really trying to run the cruelty ball as far as they can.

JFC. This is a crime against humanity.

See Matthew J. Kuiken’s other Tweets

Chi Square@alexnwonderlnd

This is basically the state saying that they don’t want these reading just like the slavemasters. This is separation of families. Where is the outrage? How is this rehabilitation? They are .


I’m sure they especially don’t want them reading legal texts. They might get the idea that they still have rights.

29 people are talking about this

brenna Godfrey@brebooklover

This is wrong. As someone that worked in a prison library this is heartbreaking to me.

Virginia *Gun Sense* Voter 🇺🇸🌸@Elizisms

As someone who reads, this is heartbreaking.

See Virginia *Gun Sense* Voter 🇺🇸🌸‘s other Tweets

an otherwise blameless life@34NateDaGreat

Prison for profit,punishment,and not reform.