Political Prisoner Hugo Pinell To Have Parole Hearing on January 17
–Kiilu Nyasha, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Dan Berger call for support
by Hans Bennett
January 4, 2009
Earlier in 2008, I interviewed San Francisco journalist and former Black Panther Kiilu Nyasha about political prisoner Hugo Pinell, the only one of the San Quentin Six that is still in prison (Listen to the interview here). This audio interview complements the essay Nyasha wrote previously in 2004.
Today, in an email interview, Nyasha told me that “Hugo L. A. Pinell, nicknamed ‘Yogi Bear,’ will go to Board again on January 17, 2009. His last Board appearance was November 14, 2006 when he was denied two years, despite having no rule infractions for 24 years. Make that nearly 27 years clean time now. One of George Jackson’s closest comrades, Yogi has now been incarcerated in California prisons for almost 45 years, nearly 39 in solitary confinement, the last 19 in the Pelican Bay SHU (Security Housing Unit, or 24/7 lockup). The fact that he is still in great physical shape and hasn’t lost his mind under such prolonged, tortuous conditions is testimony to his amazing spiritual and physical strength. Please write a letter to the Parole Board in support of Yogi’s release — at least to a mainline facility near San Francisco so his mother, 85, and other family/friends can have contact visits, and he can see the sun again.”
As featured in the embedded video above, on January 2, I interviewed Philadelphia-based activist and author Dan Berger, who is featured in the new book
Let Freedom Ring: A Collection of Documents from the Movements to Free US Political Prisoners. This segment about Hugo Pinell is part of a longer interview with Berger that will be released in the coming months.
Below is an article written by death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal from 2006, the last time Pinell was eligible for parole (Listen to the radio-essay here).
You can also, listen to the audio and read the transcript from the June 15, 2006 KPOO Prison Focus discussion about Pinell with Luis Bato Talmante, Nedzada [Handukic], Kiilu Nyasha, and Gordon Kaupp.
For more information, go to www.hugopinell.org. Letters can be sent to:
California Board of Parole Hearings
P.O. Box 4036
Sacramento, CA 95812-4036
ATTN: Robert Doyle – Chairman
Ref: Hugo L. A. Pinell – #A88401
[Col. Writ. 7/30/06] Copyright ’06 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Few of us know the name, Hugo Pinell.
That’s because the last time it was in the newspapers was probably in 1971, or 1976, when he was tried as a member of the famous San Quentin Six, six young Black prisoners facing assault charges stemming from battles with prison guards at the notoriously repressive California prison.
Yet that wasn’t the beginning, nor the end of things.
Hugo Pinell (known as ‘Yogi’ by his friends) came to the US as a 12-year old, from a small town on Nicaragua’s east coast. If he knew then the hell he would face in America, would he have left the land of his birth?
We’ll never know.
He came. And he spent the last *42* years in prison — 34 of them in solitary! He hasn’t had a write-up in 24 years.
Now, his family and lawyer are seeking his parole after a lifetime in some of the most repressive joints in America.
Why so long? Why so many years? The answer, not surprisingly, is politics. Hugo was a student and comrade of the legendary Black Panther Field Marshall, the late George Jackson, with whom he worked to organize other Black prisoners against the racist violence and prison conditions of the ’60s and ’70s.
Consider this: when Hugo was sent to prison, Lyndon Baines Johnson was president, bombing in the Vietnam War was intensifying, and Martin Luther King, Jr. was still alive!
Of his introduction to the prison system, Yogi would later write:
“In 1964, a white woman accused me of rape, assault and kidnap. I was 19 years old. I turned myself into the authorities to clarify the charges against me which I knew to be falsified. The deputies beat me several times because the alleged victim was white, and the Public Defender and the Judge influenced my mother into believing that I would be sentenced to death unless I pled guilty. At their insistence and despite my innocence, I pled guilty to the charge of rape, with the understanding that I would be eligible for parole after 6 months. When I arrived at the California Department of Corrections, I was informed that I had been sentenced to three years to *life*.”
California’s notoriously unjust indeterminate sentencing has led, in part, to the present prison overcrowding that now threatens to bankrupt the system. California’s prisons are roughly 172% over capacity, and parole is a broken, nonfunctional agency.
That’s not just my opinion, but California’s state senator, Gloria Romero (D.-Los Angeles) has called the present regime a “failure,” particularly the parole system.
Despite California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2004 promises of major reforms of the parole system, which would lead to significant prisoner population reductions, the incarceration rate has soared. Today, there are a record 168,000 people in 33 state prisons, nearly double the rated capacity.
As Hugo Pinell seeks parole, California is spending $7.9 billion — (yeah–with a ‘b’!) in the next fiscal year, an increase of $600 million a year for a prison system that has one of the worst recidivism rates in the nation (60%!).
Clearly, the so-called “Correctional and Rehabilitation” Department has failed in its mission to do both.
Support parole for Hugo Pinell. 42 years is more than enough.
Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal