News Release

Mumia’s Case and Prison Health


AP reports: “Former death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal was rushed to a hospital to be treated for complications from diabetes, according to family members and supporters who asserted Tuesday that the state prison system has been providing him with substandard medical care.

“Abu-Jamal’s blood sugar was dangerously high when he arrived at Schuylkill Medical Center on Monday, and he could have slipped into a diabetic coma, relatives and supporters said at a news conference outside the hospital, where he remained under heavy guard.

“‘He’s still very weak,’ said his wife, Wadiya Jamal. …

“Amnesty International has maintained that Abu-Jamal’s trial was ‘manifestly unfair’ and failed to meet international fair trial standards. His writings and radio broadcasts from death row put him at the center of an international debate over capital punishment and made him the subject of books and movies.”

NOELLE HANRAHAN, globalaudiopi at
A private investigator and journalist based in Philadelphia, Hanrahan is director of Prison Radio. She edited Mumia Abu-Jamal’s book All Things Censored and for years has produced his recordings from death row and now from prison. He has always maintained his innocence and many human rights groups have charged irregularities in his trial. She helped produce the documentary “Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal.”

[Breaking: She states that today — Wednesday — the family is being denied visitation.]

BRET GROTE, bretgrote at
Grote is legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center, which has been representing Abu-Jamal. Grote said today: “Mumia does not have a history of diabetes, but had been experiencing a series of symptoms that should have alerted medical staff at the prison to the onset of the disease. Instead, he was not given comprehensive diagnostic treatment and a medical crisis emerged that could have resulted in his slipping into a diabetic coma or worse.

“Prison officials only relented and permitted visitation under immense public pressure from all over the world. Keep it up. If the prison had its way, nobody would know Mumia was hospitalized, nor would they have permitted visits or the release of any medical information to family.” See more from Grote and other supporters here.

Grote can also address attempts by the state of Pennsylvania to effectively silence Abu-Jamal. See: “Prisoners and Advocacy Groups Win Right to a Trial on Constitutionality of the Silencing Act.”

Dr. COREY WEINSTEIN, corey2w at
Weinstein is a California-based doctor with decades of extensive experience with health care in prisons who has followed Abu-Jamal’s case. He has retired from work in the American Public Health Association and the World Health Organization Health in Prison Project.

He said today: “Mumia was in the prison infirmary for two weeks prior to his diabetic crisis and he entered the Critical Care Unit at Schuylkill Medical Center with a blood sugar of 779 and diabetic shock. I’m concerned that he became so sick while under 24 hour a day medical care in the prison infirmary. He remains weak and quite sick, but was allowed to speak briefly to two family members.

“Generally, once a prisoner gets to an outside hospital, they are treated without prejudice to the best ability of the staff of that hospital. The problem for many prisoners is that once a crisis has passed and they’re sent back to prison with orders for care.

“Being diabetic for example requires medication, proper diet and exercise, which prisons frequently don’t provide. You need to monitor blood sugar four times a day. But prisons often don’t allow monitoring devices or needles in the general population. So getting minimally adequate care is fraught with real problems in a prison setting, especially outside of the infirmary. In Mumia’s case, with his special status, it’s even more difficult.

“There are tremendous barriers to prison health for a variety of common conditions like low grade chronic liver failure, psychiatric conditions (which are frequently aggravated in a crowded prison setting), or chronic pain, which lots of prisoners suffer from because of history of trauma, beatings or gun shot wounds. Needed narcotic prescriptions for maintenance are frequently prohibited because of potential for abuse.

“Lawsuits are sometimes won over these issues eventually, so many states are under federal watch on these issues, including California.”