The Abolition Collective expresses its support and solidarity with Jalil Muntaqim, Political Prisoners, and the right of incarcerated people to engage in popular education. Jalil has been politically active since his incarceration. Most recently, he was punished for teaching an administratively sanctioned Black History class in Attica Prison, and was transported to a supermax prison where he was held in solitary confinement for four months.
Political information we need to know:
Jalil Muntaqim, née Anthony Bottom, is one of the longest held Political Prisoners in United States history. He has spent more than 45 years in prison due to his political activism. A former member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, Jalil was 19 years old when he, Herman Bell, and Albert “Nuh” Washington, (collectively known as The New York 3), were targeted for “neutralization” by the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (Cointelpro) and its offshoot, project “Newkill.” In 1974, despite a dearth of evidence and several instances of prosecutorial misconduct, the New York 3 were convicted for the 1971 murders of two New York City police officers. Jalil and his supporters, including the Abolition Collective, maintain that the “neutralization” of the New York 3 was and remains a form of state repression against radical liberation movements. The US Senate Church Committee’s 1976 report on COINTELPRO and political repression describes how the FBI, CIA, and local police pursued assassinations as another means of “neutralizing” political leaders.
Unlike Chicago Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, Jalil survived COINTELPRO and he has remained politically active in prison. In 1977 he founded Arm the Spirit, a national prisoners newspaper. He also initiated a national prisoners campaign to petition the United Nations on the issue of prison conditions and the existence of political prisons. In 1986, Jalil drafted a legislative bill for New York State prisoners to obtain good time off their maximum sentence. Prison officials presented him with two separate commendations for quelling potential prison riots.
Jalil continues to face repression for his political beliefs and past acts. He has been denied parole nine times despite serving his sentence and meeting all the parole requirements. In their most recent decision to deny Jalil’s parole, with no tangible indication that the elderly teacher is a social threat, The New York State Parole Board claimed his release, “would be incompatible with the welfare of society.”
Jalil was recently punished for teaching an administratively sanctioned Black History class in Attica Prison. His December 5, 2016, lecture focused on the organization and ethics of the Black Panther Party, including its 10-Point Program, Codes of Conduct and Eight Points of Attention. For teaching this lesson, Attica’s administration charged Jalil with inciting “gangs,” “violent conflict,” and “demonstrations.” They transferred him to the supermax prison, Southport Correctional Facility, where he was held in solitary confinement for nearly 4 months despite the fact that The United Nations, The Center for Constitutional Rights, and other agencies define solitary confinement as a form of torture. On March 13, 2017, Jalil was released from solitary and transferred to Shawangunk Correctional Facility where he was placed on a Close Supervision Unit, enabling prison authorities to closely monitor his activities. It took another two weeks for him to receive his personal property.
Both topics addressed in Muntaqim’s class are globally researched because they provide information and knowledge important to people seeking to understand democracy and social justice. The history of the Panthers is routinely covered by the media and taught in classrooms. Over 2 million citations for the “Black Panther Party” can be found in a Google search, with 41million references for a search on “black gangs.” That content is not inherently accurate or definitive but it is available for those who want to think and learn. Jalil’s punishment shows how the prison makes teaching history and critical thinking criminal offenses.
Though Jalil and other political prisoners are scrutinized more closely, and punished more often than “common-law prisoners,” Muntaqim’s treatment is not unique. New York Prisons are plagued with institutional racism. Jalil writes that discriminatory practices and political repression in prisons “must be exposed and challenged by all freedom loving people.” As University and non-profit sponsored prison education programs have become more popular in recent years, it is critical that we recognize, affirm, and defend the right of incarcerated people to develop and teach their own educational programs towards self-transformation; and it is important that we do not allow the prison to whitewash the history of oppression and resistance from prison education programs and intimidate those who wish to teach a more truthful account of our collective struggles.
The Abolition Collective urges that we make connections between common-law prisoners and prisoners persecuted for political acts. Bridges between abolitionism and freedom movements will span the support and recognition given recently released prisoners such as Chelsea Manning and Oscar Lopez Rivera, and provide a foundation to educate about and advocate for the release of political prisoners such as Jalil, and other BPP and AIM activists who remain largely unknown to the public.
With the 45th POTUS and current Attorney General expanding prisons and legitimizing prison abuses and torture, we see Jalil’s struggle as linked to our own work to stop censorship, repression, and torture.
Please Support Jalil Muntaqim:
Visit his website FreeJalil.com.
Write to Jalil at: Anthony J. Bottom #77A4283
P.O. Box 700
Wallkill, NY 12589-0700
Donate to his commissary by sending a postal money order to the address above.
Write to fellow teachers and advocates for justice, particularly those teaching about political movements, to support educators inside prison and cite Jalil Muntaqim’s case.
Contact NY Governor Andrew Cuomo to address prison repression, torture and abuse of Jalil Muntaqim:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Executive Chamber, State Capitol, Albany, NY 12224
518-474-8390/7516 (Albany); 212-681-4580 (NYC)