Prison Radio

“My fight is to expose the entire system, judicial and prison system, a system of slavery,” says Ruchell Magee. “This will cause benefit not just to myself but to all those who at this time are being criminally oppressed or enslaved by this system.” – Ruchell Magee

Ruchell “Cinque” Magee, considered the longest-held political prisoner in the United States, has won his release at 84 years old. 

Magee was first incarcerated as a teenager for “aggravated attempted rape” in his relationship with a white woman in 1955. Magee was released after eight years in the Angola prison and moved to Los Angeles, where he was soon arrested in a dispute over $10 worth of marijuana.

Ruchell’s 1963 conviction was characterized by corruption, from police beatings during his arrest that left him hospitalized for five days to blatant malpractice by both the judge and his court-appointed lawyers, who erased evidence of police misconduct from court transcripts and entered pleas against his will. 

Inspired by the actions of freedom fighter Cinqué in the 1839 Amistad Mutiny, Ruchell adopted the middle name Cinque and became a successful jailhouse lawyer for the people. Kameron Hurt, an organizer with the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee, says, “He was basically self-trained and he supported a lot of people in their release because he witnessed what the corruption of the system could do.”

In fact, Magee’s work in suing for the murder of Fred Billingsley in Soledad State Prison brought him to the Marin County Courthouse on August 7, 1970 as a witness to support James McClain, who was accused of assaulting a guard after Billingsley’s murder. There, led by Jonathan Peter Jackson, Magee joined James McClain and William A. Christmas in an armed rebellion to press for the freedom of the Soledad Brothers (George Jackson, Fleeta Drumgo, and John Clutchette,) who were charged with the murder of a prison guard. 

The only survivor of the 1970 Marin Courthouse Rebellion, Magee says, “You have to deal on your own tactics, the right tactics. When I say tactics, I say like comply with the Declaration of Independence, whereas you have a right to take up arms to oppose any usurped government, particularly the type of corruption in government that we have today.”

Ruchell has continued to fight for his freedom and recently won his release. He is now safely home. Harold Welton, an organizer with the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee, says, “With the longest-held political prisoner in the world coming home, it can be an inspiration for the Black liberation struggle to continue the struggle and inspire others to not give up and keep fighting back.”

The coalition writes: “We in the coalition hope that this monumental victory will inspire increased commitment to the release of all of our political prisoners. We reaffirm our support for justice for all political prisoners across the US, and we will not give up the fight.”

Donate to Ruchell’s re-entry fund here

When We Fight, We Win,

Prison Radio Staff