by Sundiata Acoli
This is a brief recap of my parole hearing and denial.
Almost two years ago, Sept. 29, 2014, the New Jersey Appellate Court ordered the New Jersey Parole Board to “expeditiously set conditions” for my parole. The Parole Board appealed the order on grounds that I had not undergone a hearing before the full Parole Board prior to securing the order for release.
Almost two years ago, Sept. 29, 2014, the New Jersey Appellate Court ordered the New Jersey Parole Board to “expeditiously set conditions” for my parole.
The New Jersey Supreme court reversed the Appellate Court’s order and remanded the case to the full Parole Board for completion of the administrative process, which, for a convicted murderer like me, requires a full hearing before the Parole Board prior to securing release from incarceration.
The process further requires that the victim be given the opportunity to address the board and to witness the full board’s interaction with the incarcerated murderer prior to his or her release.
So on June 6, 2016, I was transported by van to Trenton, N.J., for a parole hearing – without my attorney present – before the full New Jersey State Parole Board. Upon arrival at New Jersey State Prison (NJSP), formerly Trenton State Prison (TSP), the driver of the van reported that he had “inadvertently” left my legal valise, containing ALL my legal material, at FCI Cumberland, Maryland.
New Jersey and the FBI are caught in a time warp and can see Sundiata Acoli only as a cop killer, not the brilliant mathematician, computer analyst, intellectual and humanitarian known and loved by the rest of the world, who registered voters in Mississippi in 1964, worked in Harlem with the Panthers, and has educated, mentored and counseled countless younger prisoners over the years; he is their hero. Imagine the term “killer cop” branding someone and burying him behind bars for life. – Photo: Star-Ledger
Most importantly, the valise contained my speech, “Why I Should Be Paroled,” co-written by my dear comrade-daughter Fayemi Shakur and me, which I planned to deliver before the full board two days hence. I asked the driver to call R&D at FCI Cumberland and have them mail my valise overnight.
NJSP immediately mug shot me, gave me a Sundiata Acoli NJSP photo ID with my height reset from 5 feet 9 inches to 5 feet 5 inches by a spiteful guard, took me to lockdown and cut off all communications and contact between me and the outside world: NO incoming or outgoing mail, telephone, telegram, email, visitor, money transfer, commissary, pen, paper, pencil, eraser, stamps, envelopes, towel, face cloth or pillow.
I told them I was from a medium security federal prison with no reason to be locked down. They ignored me. My attorney, Bruce Afran, was scheduled to visit me the next day, the cell was freezing cold, it was near sundown so I called it a night and slept in my jumpsuit.
Next day I arose at sun-up, stiff necked, showered and shook myself dry like a wet dog. I was given two-thirds of my normal medication dosage at FCI Cumberland and when I asked why, I was given no reason but simply told “No.”
I told them I was from a medium security federal prison with no reason to be locked down. They ignored me.
I was four-man escorted to Health Services for a Hep-C blood test and returned to my cell when I noticed they had written “PC” and “NO-CON`” (i.e., “Protective Custody” and “NO CONTACT” respectively) on my cell ID card. I told the escort sergeant that I was not PC, had not requested PC and would sign any release form necessary to remove myself from PC custody.
He said “No,” nor would he summon a lieutenant or the captain to that effect, so I resigned to put my attorney on the matter when we met. A prisoner overheard my complaint to the sergeant and sent me a stub pencil with no eraser. I was most thankful and sat down to write what I could remember of my “parole” speech when the guard called out that my attorney is here.
Bruce’s father had died the previous week, but he was holding up well. He shared some youthful photos of his father and family with me, I expressed my condolences and we got off into the work.
I told him they had lost my legal material, they have me in “total” lockdown, have a “PC” sign on my cell door and have cut my meds to two-thirds of the dosage I received at FCI Cumberland. Bruce said he’d look into it and that meanwhile we needed to focus on the parole hearing tomorrow.
On June 8, 2016, I arose and told the guard I had no clean clothes and no (safety) razor but I did have a parole hearing today and I’m NOT going to the hearing unless I get a shower, razor and clean clothes. He produced all three within the hour except he substituted a barber for the razor.
The U.S. Cold War with Cuba is thawing, whetting the appetite of New Jersey and the FBI to throw Assata Shakur back in a U.S. prison. They’ve labeled her a “terrorist” – she’s the first woman on the FBI’s terrorist list – and raised the price on her head to $2 million. That is a measure of the same officials’ attitude toward her co-defendant, Sundiata Acoli. This photo is from a New Jersey State Police-FBI press conference on May 2, 2013. – Photo: Ed Murray, Star-Ledger
I noticed that my ankles had begun to swell from water accumulation due most likely to the change in my medication. I was escorted to take a TB x-ray and returned to put the finishing touches on my speech when the guard said, “Parole Board’s calling!”
The hearing lasted from about 9 a.m. until about 4 or 5 p.m. It reached a new level of examination, cross-examination and recrimination.
Again they questioned me primarily about the events on the turnpike and almost nothing about my many positive accomplishments. They also asked: “Aren’t you angry that they broke Assata out of prison instead of you?” My response was: “No, I don’t or wouldn’t wish prison on anyone.”
Again they questioned me primarily about the events on the turnpike and almost nothing about my many positive accomplishments.
At the end, they again denied parole and plan to go outside the guidelines to give me an “extended” (longer than usual) “hit” (time until next parole hearing.) Since Blacks, others of color and the oppressed are the overwhelming majority of people in prison, we need to seriously think about creating parole boards that mirror the people in prison, that is, “People Parole Boards.”
My remaining two weeks at NJSP were spent in almost complete isolation from the outside world, except my last night there the Inmate Legal Association (ILA) sent me a free permit for an outgoing legal letter. By then my ankles were almost continually swollen from excess water buildup. I wrote my favorite attorney and next morning they packed me out for the return trip to FCI Cumberland.
Send our brother some love and light: Sundiata Acoli (Clark Squire), 39794-066, FCI Cumberland, P.O. Box 1000, Cumberland MD 21501.