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- Breaking News - Tom Morello's account of his visit with Mumia Abu Jamal!

by BOBO Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2001 at 7:59 AM

Tom Morello discusses his visit with Mumia Abu Jamal

Tom morello's post on :

I just returned from a visit with Mumia Abu-Jamal. It was an amazing visit with an amazing man.

SCI Greene, the prison which holds Mumia, houses 1600 inmates. The prison is a sprawling series of one-story buildings, connected by long corridors, and surrounded by two huge fences draped with razor wire. There is also razor wire many feet below the ground, to prevent inmates from tunneling out. In the seven years that the prison has been open, no convicts have ever escaped.

The prison is built on a piece of flat land in the midst of hilly country in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, in the old coal mining town of Waynesburg. Most of the miners in the area were fired from their jobs during the Reagan era, and there is a tremendous amount of unemployment. Now the chief industry in the region is SCI Greene maximum security penitentiary. Most of the guards are white rural Pennsylvanians; most of the inmates are African-Americans from hundreds of miles away, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. It is a model of the 90s and early 2000s corporate jail. Rather than mining black coal, the new product is black men.

I arrived at the prison and was met by a young rebel by the name of Adam, who was to shepherd me through the very complicated and often antagonistic procedures that one must go through to meet with a prisoner on death row. Adam has a citizen's license to monitor the prisoners to make sure that they're not being abused. He's friends with a lot of the prisoners and a lot of the guys on death row. He was sort of stalling in the waiting room to hang out with me to make sure that everything went alright. They were trying to force him to either go visit someone or to get the hell out of there. He managed to stall for a while before finally having to go to visit one of the other prisoners. There's all sorts of rules there; you can't use a cellphone, or a pager, or a laptop computer in the waiting room, presumably because you're going to be tapping into the mainframe of the prison and finding out where all the air ducts were and things like that. They kept yelling at people for trying to do that.

The first guard that we encountered was really a dick. He was doing everything he could to make my visit as difficult as possible. When I arrived, he said "Well, Mumia's meeting with his attorneys, so you can't meet with him." I said "I understand that visiting time is until 3:30, so that gives me four and a half hours. He's expecting me, and I'm sure he'll soon be done." He then said "are you on his visiting list?" "Yes, I am." I could tell that he was crossing his fingers and hoping like hell that I was not on the list, but he finally dejectedly said "I guess I see you there." Like a crabby-ass hall monitor, this mustachioed guard kept chastising us, telling me and my new friend Adam that we had to keep it down.

I befriended one of the other guards. These guys are people from poor coal-mining families now making pretty decent money from these relatively well-paying jobs keeping the blacks at bay. It's sad in a way, because the class backgrounds of both guards and inmates is probably very similar, and yet

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