Highlights of the struggle

New York City

By: Ben Davis

New York's CEDP chapter continues work on our initiative to build solidarity with life-without-parole (LWOP) prisoners. As a first step, a chapter member combed through the statistics of all prisoners with LWOP sentences in our state, finding that an astonishing 81 percent are people of color. Our efforts include a letter writing program with a few politically conscious LWOP prisoners; reaching out to relatives of CEDP penpals and inviting tvhem to our meetings; and going upstate to visit a prisoner, who provided information about his own story for a fact sheet showing why LWOP is not a humane "alternative" to the death penalty. We have also created a petition opposing the use of LWOP sentencing with the slogan "Life Without Parole is a Death Sentence."

The New York CEDP has also been working in coalition with other criminal justice reform groups. In particular, we have reached out to the Osborne Association, which does support work for family members of prisoners. Recently, we invited our long-time ally Tony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance to talk about lessons he had learned in agitating against New York's notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws.

The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal has also been in our thoughts. When Mumia was denied a new hearing, we participated in a meeting called by the Free Mumia Coalition. Now we are planning a showing of In Prison My Whole Life, an award-winning documentary about Mumia.

Finally, the chapter has been proud to join the fight against the execution of Jeff Wood in Texas, who was just granted a stay of execution. Members did a lot of good work contacting the media and getting his case on shows like Democracy Now. With photos of Jeff and his family, NY CEDP hit the streets of Harlem, gathering more than a hundred signatures to halt Jeff's execution at one tabling.