Prison Radio

Save the date! March 9, 9 am in Dept 39 (on the sixth floor) of the Santa Clara County Courthouse at 190 West Hedding St in San Jose.  Please join us!

Many of you have been following the case of Marvin “Shaka” Walker, Prison Radio correspondent and close friend of our work. He is currently living at the Santa Clara County Jail in San Jose after 43 years on San Quentin’s death row. His conviction has been overturned three separate times for constitutional violations and prosecutorial misconduct.  We are closer to freedom, but we are not there yet.

Using the law to free folks is like using a saw to hammer a nail. The legal system is not designed to release folks, it is designed to incarcerate people and destroy communities and families.  It is not designed for redemption and reconciliation.  With your help Prison Radio aims to prove that healing can and will happen. 

We packed the San Jose Courtroom last December, and we will pack it again on March 9 when the judge will hear updates from the district attorney’s office and Shaka’s defense team. 

We packed the courtroom in December: please join us again on March 9.

Jail Conditions are a Challenge
When he was transferred in early  December to the Santa Clara County Jail, they took his glasses and his hearing aid. He lived for months without them. Last week the Prison Law Office, an independent advocacy project investigating the jail, met with him to ask about items lost in the transfer. He told them about his lost medical devices. That very afternoon his glasses and hearing aid were returned to him – the glasses heavily scuffed and twisted – but wearable all the same. Imagine trying to adjust to an entirely new set of incarcerated surroundings, after 42 years in the same small cell on the same tier, without your glasses or hearing aid. And the jail officials had them the whole time.

The medical neglect of incarcerated life takes on a particular flavor during transfers. Shaka was fitted for a new pair of dentures before he left San Quentin: now no one knows where they are. A CTA scan of his brain to investigate potential symptoms of stroke or aneurysm ordered at San Quentin months ago was never performed, and the jail medical team seems to have no knowledge of the order. 

Shaka’s Family

Visiting is hot mess
Visiting the jail is its own nightmare. The instructions all say that visitors have to be there 30 minutes before the visit, but the guard says you have to be there 45 minutes early. If you show up 40 minutes early, they will turn you away – from the very desk with the sign that says you need to be there 30 minutes early. The guard has no shame and insists to your face that all the instructions say 45 minutes. When you DO get there 45 minutes before the one hour, non-contact visit, you must spend that 45 minutes waiting in a room. There is no special processing, just you and all the kids come to visit their family, waiting in a room for almost an hour – no reason but to punish you for keeping in touch with the people they are holding. 

And that is not all. When you are finally allowed upstairs to the non-contact visiting phone booths, you have to wait again while they bring your loved one in. There are signs instructing you to disinfect, and even cleaning supplies. So you work hard to sanitize the small enclosed room you will  be sitting in.  Then when your loved one finally comes in, the door closes and you are suddenly enclosed with the toxic fumes of the harsh disinfectant. The room was previously occupied by someone else, for an intense hour, and there is no ventilation, so the whole time you wonder if it is a COVID incubation zone. Your tightly timed, one hour conversation is confined to a single phone: if you are there with someone else, both of you have to squeeze in and crane your neck toward the single receiver for basic communication. And your conversation is recorded, so it is impossible to speak freely.

This is all done to make visiting hard and uncomfortable and alienating: to further isolate the folks inside from loved ones outside. These time consuming and unpleasant visits are a punishment for every family with a loved one inside. But here at Prison Radio, we will not stop breaking down those walls.

It is up to all of us to stand in public and demonstrate our solidarity with Shaka and his family and our demand for his freedom. 

Jennifer Beach, w/ Alissa Moore and Jesse Burleson of All of Us Or None

Here are some things you can do to support him: 

  1. His next hearing is Mar 9 at 9 am in Dept 39 (on the sixth floor) of the Santa Clara County Courthouse at 190 West Hedding St in San Jose.  Please join us!
  2.  Consider sending a letter to:

Jeff Rosen 
Santa Clara County 
District Attorney
40 West Hedding St,
San Jose, CA 95110

Your request might read something like this:

        I am reaching out to encourage you to facilitate a speedy resolution in the case of Mr. Marvin Walker that would allow him to come home to his family and community. We are ready to welcome him and help him transition gracefully to a life of freedom. It has been more than 2 years since his retry-or-release order from the federal court. Honor the principle of the Racial Justice Act: Send Mr. Walker home now.

  1. Make a contribution to his legal and re-entry fund.

Shaka (Marvin Pete Walker, Jr.) was 19 when he was charged with murder and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. Now at 63 he has spent the last 43 yrs, his entire adult life, in a tiny cell on San Quentin’s death row.  His conviction has been tossed 3 times, most recently, in 2020 for striking Blacks from the jury. Shaka was hospitalized for nine days in critical condition with COVID, one of hundreds exposed because CDCR (California Dept of Corrections) disregarded medical experts and transferred 200 people to San Quentin in the first months of the pandemic.  Shaka is a survivor.  He is battling stroke symptoms and two recent heart attacks.  Please check out this background brochure.

It is time to bring our Shaka and all of our elders home. Please join us. 

Towards Justice,

Jennifer Beach
Prison Radio Co-Director