Prison Radio
Mumia Abu-Jamal

A federal civil rights trial in Philadelphia charging seven former Graterford prison guards with violating the civil rights of a number of prisoners by severely beating them while they were shackled and cuffed hand and foot revealed in glaring fashion how, in prisons, there is no law. There are no rights.

Despite the guilty pleas and damning testimony of 5 ex-guards that they and their colleagues maliciously beat, kicked, stomped, black jacked, and tasered, that is used a handheld electric shocking device, prisoners who committed no institutional offenses, a civil jury acquitted the seven of virtually all charges. One juror was quoted as saying, “Although it was proven that prisoners were badly beaten, no conspiracy was proven by U.S. prosecutors.”

One prisoner, who suffered from AIDS and, thus, had less internal resources with which to rebound from the horrific physical and psychological trauma he suffered in the beating, has since died. In the month long trial, it was revealed guards thought 19 prisoners transferred from Camp Hill prison shortly after rioters and rebels nearly leveled the central Pennsylvania facility to a pile of smoldering ashes, were part of the rioting crews that ripped the prison apart.

In fact, the 19 were non-rioters, who were only too glad to be leaving what came to be called Camp Hell, and to be coming to the state’s largest and Blackest prison, Graterford. Instead, they were leaving the fire only to get simmered in the frying pan, so to speak. At Graterford, whose massive haunting walls seemed to offer some relief from the raging literal and psychic infernos of Camp Hill the 19 men met uniform hatred and naked brutality as they were beaten, kicked and terrorized by government officials sworn to protect the elusive peace in prisons. Guards who, acting on nothing but assumptions, assaulted over a dozen men on the notion that they were troublemakers.

Some, those few who could navigate the treacherous streets and shoals of civil litigation, sued state officials for damages. Others bound up their wounds and blended into the wall while waiting for terms to expire so that they could be free again. Several testified in the federal prosecution. One died. But all found out how fragile the various system that stole their very freedom was when the state committed crimes against them.

All found out that words like “justice”, “law”, “civil rights”, and yes, “crime” have different and elastic meanings, depending upon whose rights were violated, who committed what crimes against whom, and whether one works for the system or against it. For those people, almost a million at last count, who wear the label “prisoner” around their necks, there is no law. There is no justice.

There are no rights. From death row, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.