NEW YORK — Former Black Panther Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom) was transferred from Attica Correctional Facility to Southport Correctional Facility, a notorious supermax prison just south of Elmira, New York, in early January.
“This is clearly a punitive transfer,” Anne Lamb told the Militant Jan. 11. “It also means he’s much farther away from his legal advisers in Buffalo.” Lamb is a spokesperson for the Jericho Movement, a group that Muntaqim helped found, which works to win amnesty for political prisoners.
Muntaqim was put in solitary confinement at Attica on Dec. 6 and then sentenced to four months of solitary. In a letter to supporters Muntaqim explained that during a class he was teaching to fellow inmates on Black History he had stated that gangs need to “get organized, get away from criminal behavior and tribal warfare.”
Prison officials twisted the comments to find him guilty of encouraging others “to engage in gang activities,” “violent conduct,” and encouraging other inmates to participate in a work-stoppage or “other actions which may be detrimental to the order of [the] facility.” They dismissed initial charges of making a speech “without authorization,” and “unauthorized organizational activities.”
Southport holds the second largest number of prisoners in SHUs — Special Housing Units — that is, solitary confinement, in New York state. Except for prisoners called “cadre” who are assigned to aid prison staff, all inmates are confined to their cells 23 hours a day and given food through slots in the cell door. They are allowed to exercise one hour a day in a small metal cage called the “kennel.”
Authorities at Attica had singled out Muntaqim for a while, putting him on mail watch and punishing him for writing to a prison reform group. In 2015 he was not allowed to receive several books, including a book of poems that he wrote. After he was placed in solitary, Lamb reports, he was finally given the book.
Prison authorities also impounded several issues of the Militant sent to Muntaqim, which the Militant is fighting.
Lamb visited Muntaqim in Southport Jan. 14. “Jalil’s spirits are high, as always,” she said. Visitors are separated from prisoners by plexiglass, “but there is about a 3 to 4 inch space at the bottom so you can hold hands and share food.”
Muntaqim is fighting to get all the charges dropped and to get transferred out of Southport and returned to the general prison population. Supporters of free speech and constitutional rights can aid this fight by writing to the New York State Department of Corrections. Address letters to Anthony Annucci, Acting Commissioner, New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Harriman State Campus, 1220 Washington Ave., Albany, New York 12226.
Muntaqim has been in prison since he was 19 years old, accused of killing two police officers in 1971.
In a letter to supporters, Muntaqim said that he is “elated that Judith Clark was granted clemency” by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Clark was found guilty of driving a getaway car in the 1981 robbery, allegedly by Weather Underground, of a Brink’s armored car that left a guard and two police officers dead. Cuomo reduced her sentence from 75 years in prison to 35 years to life. This makes her eligible for parole this year.
At the same time, Muntaqim noted, officials in New York and elsewhere refuse to take any action that could lead to the release of “Black political prisoners suffering the government’s relentless vindictive posture,” including Sundiata Acoli, Mutulu Shakur, Herman Bell and Seth Hayes. This highlights the “pervasive racially discriminatory practices in the New York State prison and parole system,” he said. Muntaqim, Bell and Hayes were sentenced to 25 years to life in New York, but have been repeatedly denied parole. Muntaqim’s supporters are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to commute his sentence.