by MICHAEL SCHREIBER
As we go to press, political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal is in intensive care for diabetes and said to be “recovering slowly.”
According to the Prison Radio Project, on March 30, Mumia fainted in prison and was taken to the Schuylkill Medical Center in Pottsville, Pa. Friends who attempted to visit him at the prison that day were told of his removal but not allowed to see him.
The following day, his wife Wadiya and brother Keith were allowed into Mumia’ hospital room separately for 30 minutes each. The family was informed that Mumia’s blood sugar count had been dangerously high at 779, and that he had been in diabetic shock (a count of over 800 often results in coma). His blood sugar is currently at 333.
However, the prison and hospital authorities have so far refused to release significant information about his treatment and conditions to his family and attorneys. Moreover, although prison officials allowed Mumia’s youngest brother, Bill Cook, and his eldest son, Jamal Hart, to visit him on April 1, they have stated that they will restrict additional visits to only one per week for immediate family members. That would mean that Wadiya and Keith would not be permitted to see Mumia again until next week.
Mumia’s supporters are urged to protest these restrictive conditions by phoning SCI Mahanoy prison superintendent John Kerestes at 570-773-2158, ext. 8102. Also, the Schuylkill Medical Center at 570-621-5000.
At a news conference at the hospital on March 31, Mumia’s family members and supporters charged that the prison authorities never gave Mumia the proper care for his ailments, which made his condition worse.
Johanna Fernandez, of the New York Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, said: “That Mumia had diabetes was a complete shock to all of us. For the last three months, he has been under medical care in the prison and diagnosed with eczema. And since he had three ‘comprehensive’ blood tests since February, diabetes should have been diagnosed and treated accordingly. But it never was. Instead he has been subjected to hell by the prison medical system.
“In January Mumia was shaken out of a deep sleep by guards during count. For the infraction of not being awake during count he was punished for two weeks, without calls or yard. Deep trance-like sleep and lethargy were the first signs of the problem.
“In addition to the physical depletion produced by untreated diabetes, he was/is also dealing with a severe outbreak of eczema. He likened his skin to that of an elephant’s. It was raw, blistered and bloody all over. He was so sick that he was not taking visitors. The ‘meds’ he was given for his skin produced an extreme adverse reaction. His skin swelled and ruptured and he was put in the prison infirmary for two weeks.”
Mumia Abu-Jamal’s brother, Keith Cook, stated, “The rules that the prisons have are very arcane. They don’t give out any information about prisoners to their families or anyone else. It’s like you have your hands tied because you don’t know how the prisoner is and you have no way of talking to him. I remember a month ago, Phil Africa [of the MOVE organization] exercising in the prison—next thing they know, they moved him to a hospital and didn’t tell his family where he was, and three days later he was dead.”
«It’s scary,” said Cook. “This situation needs to change. The prison authorities need to be more humane to the families of prisoners.”
Mumia’s supporters and family are demanding that outside doctors be given the right to review his case. Fernandez added, “And since the world is watching, we are calling for Mumia’s immediate release. It’s time to bring our brother home.”
On the same day that Mumia was sent to hospital, March 30, trial hearings proceeded in Harrisburg, Pa., concerning what has become known as the Silencing Act, the Pennsylvania law that restricts the rights of prisoners to publish or speak out in public if such endeavors might cause “mental anguish” to victims of personal injury. The law was passed by the legislature last October in retribution against Mumia following his commencement address to the graduating class at Goddard College. Mumia has authored six books, and his commentaries have been read and listened to around the world.
Mumia Abu-Jamal and several other prisoners are plaintiffs in the suit, and are asking that the censorship law be invalidated on constitutional grounds that protect the right of free speech.
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