My name is Bilal Muhammad. I’m currently an inmate at the El Paso County detention system in El Paso, TX My inmate number is 9602939. I’m a forty year old mixed African-American male, father of three children whom are very young. My two daughters were babies when I was wrongly imprisoned. Georgina was one, Ellie was three, and my son Tyler was five. Now they’re respectively 9, 11, and 13 years old.
So I’ve been detained illegally about almost eight years now on pretrial detention on a single non-capital felony charge. I have no other pending cases. I have no other state or federal outstanding warrants or any types of hold. It’s crazy. If you think about it, Obama was still president in office at the time I was arrested, then I went to Trump, now Biden, who will be campaigning for presidential reelection this coming November. So after being arrested, I felt like this matter would all be cleared up in a day or so. Obviously, those days turned into weeks, those weeks into months, and those months into a year, in that year to almost eight now before you.
Being an African-American and growing up in the tri-state area in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, you are more than likely to experience directly or have knowledge of some of the corrupt general practices of the government. For example, being pulled over for DWB, driving while Black, or cops using excessive force and deadly force on our people. I remember being almost four years old when my parents began to explain to me what to do and how to act if we ever got pulled over by cops so I wouldn’t be shot by the police.
The police are onto the law. There’s an outer shell of institutional racism, but the brains are the whole operation, the inner show behind the scenes in the courts. The judges, the DAs, the lawyers who uphold that police policy or killings, the mass arrests and incarceration of the poor, are all done by the courts. And what I have learned in the time spent here in jail while searching for patterns and practices is that the government corruption here in El Paso court system and the jails is at epidemic sort of levels.
There’s a complete breakdown of her constitutional rights and safeguards, which the court need to violate as they have a humongous backlog of cases, last reported of around 20,000 cases, backlog, and that number has grown every every day. So the judges, the DAs, the lawyers of El Paso, must get everyone they can just sign a plea deal, there’s basically no trials, and El Paso has a rate of about 99% on these plea deals that they generate. So they don’t care if you’re overcharged with a crime, if you’re innocent or guilty. They just want their convictions, and they’re so effective at getting these pleas because they use six main tactics.
The first is they detain you indefinitely for long periods of time, and so you break. The second is that they violate our Texas constitutional rights of bail. The third is they violate a right to speedy trial. The fourth is they treat you so bad in this jail that people are literally dying to get out; the last recorded suicide rates was about 100 deaths per year of suicides—that’s almost 5% of our population, I believe That’s extraordinarily high. The fifth is that we have no effective assistance of counsel; our so-called defense attorneys allow all this to happen—they do not assert any of our state or federal constitutional rights. And if you’re, I guess, a rare person like me, and their tactics don’t break you, you maintain your innocence and you make it through years of mental physical and spiritual torture in this jail environment, then their sixth and final tactic is to punish you with a mock trial and a kangaroo court with the same ineffective assistance of counsel that was forced on you, those same individuals who had did nothing for you for years, so which results in your trial penalty to scare off others who may have wished to maintain their innocence.
So this is happening to me right now, and my only hope is to raise public awareness and gather public support to stop such practices. But please be aware: I may be the most extreme example in my eight year struggle, but there are other inmates, people’s moms and dads, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, friends and loved ones, that are going through the same illegal process that I’m going through, that I’ve been through. About 2000 El Paso inmates facing the same government corruption, and I believe the only way change will come is if we put the spotlight on these corrupt government practices which are taking place right under our noses, and we protest and fight against that. So I needed the people’s help, we need your help.
I appreciate your time.
These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.