Prison Radio
Mumia Abu-Jamal

“Locking Down the Constitution.”

It happened on the last Wednesday of August 2018. Around 8:30 p.m., the PA system announced a lockdown at the prison, apparently a response to a recent spate of staff sicknesses thought to be related to drugs. Even though the suspected cases occurred in prisons in the Western part of Pennsylvania, the entire state system, almost 30 prisons, went into immediate lockdown.

Lockdown means no movement in the prison except for staff. That means all prisoners are locked in their cells for 24 hours a day. All visits were canceled, mail delivery and outgoing mail was cancelled. Several days into this process, guards distributed a three-page memo to prisoners announcing new rules allegedly designed to defeat drug smuggling among them.

Prisons will no longer receive mail, for all correspondences will be rerouted through an address in St. Petersburg, Florida. That office will scan and copy them and then send a digital copy back to Pennsylvania. Legal mail will be xeroxed, and the copy given to the prisoner named in the mail. For three months, no visitor can purchase food or photos for a prisoner, and no books can be ordered by a prison.

The DOC, it appears, is having a temper tantrum and it is engaged in war against all contact with the public. This sounds like the DOC’s equivalent of reefer madness. This is, more than anything else, Pennsylvania DOC’s engagement and drug politics. It’s a war against the prisoners, yes, but also a war against knowledge and ultimately the Constitution itself.

From imprisoned nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.

These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.