Prison Radio

Dear Friend,

Thank you Omar Askia Ali, Dennis Solo McKeithan, and Mumia Abu-Jamal for exposing the corruption and cruelties of a justice system that is designed to churn out wrongful convictions in order to put away as many people as possible. 

These are just three of the Prison Radio journalists that help us understand the consequences of undermining the sixth amendment rights to a fair trial. 

Help us keep these stories and perspectives streaming for the public. Our journalists’ insights are key to our understanding of a criminal justice system that kidnaps our people and strips resources from our public services. Once we understand how many people are coerced into prison, we see our underfunded schools and clinics in a different light. 

In January, correspondent Omar Askia Ali tackled the large-scale implications of infamous cases like the Central Park Five in which five Black and Latino teenagers were violently manipulated into admitting guilt in a rape and assault case they had no part in.

Coercion, corruption, and racism are central in the United States process of determining “guilt.” Among these uncounted victims of wrongful conviction is our correspondent Dennis “Solo” McKeithan. McKeithan was convicted of five counts of robbery, despite witnesses assuring the court that he was nowhere near the scene. McKeithan tells us: “I had been sentenced to a death sentence by numbers.” 

And we know that racism has plagued Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case from its very first moments; that the state’s every effort to kill him, from the day of his arrest to this moment, has been driven by their desperation to silence his revolutionary voice. 

A “Free Them All” banner hanging from an overpass in San Francisco. Photo by Jennifer Beach.

Railroading doesn’t start in the courtroom either. Dennis and Mumia both faced corrupt trials, but the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ (NACDL) report shows that 97% of all cases in the United States do not go to trial at all. Instead, an overwhelming majority of cases in are closed through plea deals, meaning that “guilt” is decided without benefit of evidence, jury, or judge.  

Prosecutors notoriously coerce defendants to take plea deals, furthering their careers by racking up conviction counts. District attorneys deliberately pile more charges onto people than the evidence would ever prove in court. Those who cannot afford to bail out or to wait in jail for their trials, and whose overworked public defender attorneys don’t help them assess their chances of earning a fair acquittal, are pitted against two harrowing options: go to trial and risk a maximum sentence, or else accept the smaller conviction handed down unilaterally by the district attorney. Most take the plea deal. Accept the shorter sentence; avoid the devastating expenses of a protracted court battle; minimize the damage to yourself and your family. All you give up in exchange is the only chance you have to argue your innocence. And of course, these people are disproportionately Black, Brown, and poor. 

Our correspondents—Dennis, Omar, Mumia, and many others—break down how this so-called justice system operates on the presumption of guilt and not innocence. The prison industrial complex will always try to bury the voices of our people who expose this corruption. At Prison Radio, we work to combat these injustices and spread the stories of survivors. We need your support to keep the microphone plugged in. We have 7 days left in our fall campaign and we need to raise a little more than 8 thousand more dollars. Please contribute this week to push us over the finish line.

This fight must be fought by us all.

When We Fight, We Win! 

Fatema Meamari
Staff Member Prison Radio