Mumia Abu-Jamal (Facebook Photo)
Friends and supporters of activist and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted for the 1982 killing of a Pennsylvania police officer, are decrying the quality of medical care being provided by that state’s Department of Corrections to the ailing prisoner.
“This man’s life is in danger; we will not allow you to kill him,” said Dr. Suzanne Ross, who is among the leading voices calling for Abu-Jamal’s release or improved treatment while in prison.
Ross and others, including Abu-Jamal’s brother, Keith Cook, delivered an open letter to Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel in Harrisburg, Pa. in April documenting the medical neglect and malpractice which they said has defined his treatment in prison.
Abu-Jamal was hospitalized May 12 with reports of a fever and open wounds and sores on his legs, according to a posting on his Facebook page. That hospitalization came after months of deteriorating health, the underlying reasons for which remains undiagnosed.
Over a period of four months, Abu-Jamal has lost approximately 60 to 80 pounds, supporters said. A skin ailment, diagnosed as eczema, has worsened—images provided by family members show patches of blackened, leathery, cracking skin, which they say is itchy and bloody. Abu-Jamal also swelled due to a severe allergic reaction to steroids given him.
On March 30, his still-undiagnosed condition became life-threatening when he was rushed to an outside hospital after fainting from diabetic shock. His blood sugar level was found to be 779, right on the brink of the 800 level that marks diabetic coma. His salt level was 168, which is associated with heart attack and brain aneurysm. Just a few days later, he was returned to the prison infirmary.
The once physically-imposing man has been reduced to using a wheelchair, his breath is labored and his speech is sometimes slurring and halting, supporters report.
“His spirits are good. But it’s going to take a while for him to be the Mumia we all know and love,” his brother, Keith Cook, said in a recorded statement outside of SCI Mahoney prison in Frackville, Pa., where he visited Abu-Jamal on April 3.
Supporters say Abu-Jamal’s condition is an indictment of the poor diet and inadequate medical care often given to prisoners, which can amount to “institutional murder.”
“There seems to be a clear cut case of execution by gross medical neglect and even malfeasance,” activist-journalist Sonali Kolhatkar, host of “Uprising with Sonali,” said in a video posted on YouTube as part of a campaign to rally support for Abu-Jamal.
“Mumia Abu-Jamal has deteriorated from a healthy, strong and vigorous man to a man dying in prison,” she added, “with prison officials and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections seemingly complicit in his gross maltreatment.”
Earlier this month, Cornell West and others held a press conference to reiterate demands made to Pennsylvania Gov. Thomas Wolf and Corrections Secretary Wetzel in an open letter signed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Minister Louis Farrakhan, former president of the UN General Assembly Father Miguel d’Escoto, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, actor-activist Danny Glover, and Pulitzer Prize winner and activist Alice Walker and many others, and outlined in an online petition on Change.org.
They are asking for independent specialists to diagnose Abu-Jamal and to have access and input into his diet and care, including meaningful interaction with the patient and his prison doctors.
See petition here.