The Crescent Report

February 15, 2010

MANA Conference in Washington, DC Highlights Critical Need for Prison Reform

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 7:29 pm

MAS Freedom Contributes to MANA Call for Massive Prison Reforms

WASHINGTON, DC (MASNET) Feb. 15, 2010 – The prison population of the United States now approaches three million people-nearly one percent of the entire population of the country, and the largest per capita prison population of any nation in the world. But more than the quantitative explosion of the number in individuals behind bars, there is are serious injustices that plague the national system.

On Saturday, February 13th, activists from around the nation gathered at an all-day conference at Washington D.C.’s historic Howard University.  The program, hosted and organized by the Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA), featured presentations focused on information and social action strategies advances by numerous national leaders, including MAS Freedom Executive Director Mahdi Bray.

Imam Bray traced the history of penal institutions in America to the era of chattel slavery, and noted that prisons have historically existed as mechanisms of social control-and more recently, important sources of forced labor that fuels a profit-driven industrial system with racist underpinnings.  He urged the conference participants to become active in the national prison reform movement, and especially not to abandon the numerous incarcerated people, including many Muslims, who can best be described as political prisoners of the American system.

Noted national activists, Bonnie Kerness of the American Friends Service Committee and Attorney J. Saffiyah Elijah of the Harvard University Law School Criminal Justice Institute, spoke at length about the inhumane, and illegal, use of Draconian “Control Units” within numerous American prisons, where many inmates with histories of anti-oppression activism are isolated from the general prison population and subjected to physical and psychological abuses that violate numerous international laws, including the International Convention Against Torture, to which the Unites States of America is a signatory.

Rev. Richard Kilmer of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, of which MAS Freedom is a member, then spoke about the national movement to ban torture and physical abuse in American prisons, and mentioned a positive legislative initiative in the state of Maine that would, if passed into law, effectively shut down many of the more brutal forms of inhumane inmate treatment.

The afternoon session featured speakers who shared information about specific cases of abuse and the continued imprisonment of political prisoners, including Imam Jamil Al-Amin, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sekou Odinga, and many others.

Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark joined the afternoon session as a special guest, noting the particular contribution that the religion of Islam has made in the lives of inmates. During the Attica prison rebellion of 1971, he said, Muslim inmates protected injured hostages and arranged for their safe passage from the prison before the violent assault by the authorities that left some 41 inmates, guards, and hostages dead.

Although there are many examples of the attempted suppression of Islam and the free practice of the religion in numerous penal institutions, Mr. Clark declared the “Nothing has had the (positive) effect on U.S. prisons that Islam has had”.

Ibrahim Ramey, who moderated the afternoon conference session, commented that “MANA should be congratulated for bringing this important issue, once again, to the Muslim community and the nation at large. The need for activism to challenge the abuses of inmates and their families has never been greater.”

“All Muslims and all people who cherish justice must contribute to this vital work for the sake of those behind bars, and the millions of people who are negatively impacted by America’s Prison Industrial Complex.” Imam Bray concluded.


MANA: Muslims and Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Prison System


MAS Freedom (MASF) is a civic and human rights advocacy of the Muslim American Society (MAS), the largest Muslim, grassroots, charitable, religious, social, cultural, civic and educational organization in America – with 55 chapters in 35 states.


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