Prison Radio
Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia: Well, we don’t see much because we’re locked up 23 hours and 15 minutes every day. That is to say, everybody in prison all across the state of Pennsylvania are under this emergency decree, it was March 13th or 15th. Ever since then, we’ve been locked down 23 hours and 15 minutes. So you’re out of the cell 45 minutes a day.

It could be morning, afternoon or night, but in that 45 minutes, you’ve got to bathe, you can call a friend or family, get on the kiosk, you can clean yourself. Other than that, you’re locked in your cell. It’s like the whole state is a hole, H-O-L-E. And that’s how it was on death row. That’s how it was in the hole. Well it’s like that all around now in the name of health.

We heard that people have been sick, mostly in Phoenix, which is near Philadelphia, but there have been other outbreaks, but there isn’t a lot of coverage of that. But the counties seem to have been getting it the worst, of course they’re closest to the community. People are coming in and going out and I’m speaking of staff members, volunteers, visitors, you name it. But what happens in the counties makes its way through the state. It’s just a matter of time. 

I think mass incarceration has become – I hate to say it, but I believe it – normalized. That is to say for all intents and purposes, “Who gives a damn.” And while your family, your loved ones might care, the so-called average American – even the average American who has himself locked down in his home or her home, they find this intolerable. They find it outrageous. They’re going nuts.

But Pennsylvania, New York under the crazy Rockefeller drug laws, all across the country you’ve got millions of people who are locked down for years in Pennsylvania, for decades, like Maroon Shoatz and other people who’ve been locked down for decades, in solitary confinement.

And so people are getting a taste of this. Even though it’s relaxed, it’s a taste, you can’t go out when you want to go out, you can’t leave. You’re locked down. And it’s safer, to be frank. And what we’ve seen is people kind of burst loose.

I hope I miss my guess. I hope I’m wrong, but I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re going to see a second wave in this country. And the fact that it’s already the country with the highest number of COVID-19 related deaths tells me we’re going to see some really grim days, some really high numbers. The numbers are jumping. It must be 2000 a day, 1300 to 2,500 a day. And those numbers are rising. In the last few weeks, we’ve gone from hundreds to tens of thousands. 

Noelle: How does it feel to you about the fact that even though a virus doesn’t discriminate, we’ve seen that it now does discriminate?

Mumia: Well, because it follows the economic realities of the system in which it operates.

That is to say the people who are in touch with the public. The bus drivers, the nurses, many of the doctors, police, fire, a lot of them, especially in the big cities are Black and Puerto Rican. And they’re out there to feed their families and support their families. And they’re in contact and many of them have very little protection.

They’re being treated ike essentially, they call them essential workers, but they’re being treated essentially like all workers. Go to work and shut up

Noelle: They’re like disposable workers. 

Mumia: They are. So if you really are honest about it to call them essential workers is a lie. It’s like calling a prison a correctional institution. You know what I know they don’t do much correcting here. All they do is harass people and make them worse. Essential workers are really disposable workers. They’re the people, you know, as the news has caught up with that reality, and we’ve gotten the reporting of say 60% of the people who are dying in New York are Black and Latino.

You’ve seen other parts of the state — of the United States, whiter parts with the States [inaudible]. And we’re seeing that. So they’re really disposable to the economic and political system.

[Sound of prison door clanking open.]

These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio. 

[Sound of prison door slamming shut.]