Sunday, 1 June 2003

Political prisoner Hugo Pinell needs your support to be free after 39 years

By Kiilu Nyasha

Greetings All:

Hugo L. A. Pinell is scheduled to appear before the Board of Prison Terms, (Box 7500, Pelican Bay State Prison, Crescent City, Ca 95531-7500), next January [2004]. I'm sending you the following information in hopes that at least a few of you will take the time to write a letter of support and/or a job offer for him. Needless to say, it's important to play it straight, i.e., refrain from provocative rhetoric in addressing Board members in Yogi's behalf.

Hugo Pinell (A88401), aka Yogi Bear, has been in California prisons since he was 19 years old. He is now 58. His original case (a disputed assault charge for which he turned himself in) would have cost the average citizen a few years in prison. But he became politicized by revolutionary prisoners like W.L. Nolen, George L. Jackson, et al., who were attempting to transform the criminal mentality of most prisoners to a revolutionary one; as well as organizing resistance to the racist, brutal attacks against them. They sought to unite all prisoners to demand better conditions and opportunities for growth so that when they hit the streets they could contribute to their communities productively and advance the domestic and international liberation struggles of all oppressed peoples. 

At least one reason Yogi was singled out for even harsher punishment than other comrades was his refusal to disassociate himself with "Blacks" and hang with the "Mexicans" as the prison apartheid mandated at that time. Yogi, originally from Nicaragua, identifies Black as his father was an African-Nicaraguan. His being bilingual was of course an advantage in organizing and struggling for international unity behind the walls.

On August 21, 1971, Jackson was murdered on the yard at San Quentin in what prison officials described as an escape attempt. We believe it was a setup since many earlier attempts on Jackson's life had been unsuccessful. Six prisoners were put on trial for the murders and assaults of three guards and two inmate trustees during that incident. Johnny Spain was the only one convicted of murder. He was released in 1988 on the basis of being chained in court during the trial. In fact, all six prisoners were forced to wear 30 lbs of chains throughout the trial. I witnessed this spectacle -- reminiscent of the slave auctions.

Hugo is the only one of the six who remains in prison. The following quotes are taken from letters written to me:

"I don't have life without possibility of parole. I'm not a lifer by murder 187. I'm considered a lifer by a prison law 4500, assault -- 9 years to life which was harsher than a murder [conviction]....Spain, he was doing time for murder already (1967) and he was convicted of murder in the S.Q. 6 case and yet he was sent to Vacaville where he was getting contact and conjugal visits!"

"I am a brother from Nicaragua of Black and Brown heritage and I am too proud of those roots. I joined the Black Liberation Movement in San Quentin in 1967 and every beat of my heart, with regards to work alongside all oppressed people and those who seek and desire true freedom, justice, harmony and peace, centers around my commitment to the BLM."

"I'm a very free energy, my sista, and captive only because we (Blacks, Browns, and others) remain in many ways imprisoned and enslaved by Uncle Sam & Co. I've worked hard to keep growing, learning and transforming into a free energy and I'm not looking back."

Last year, Hugo was granted his fifth parole consideration before the Board, and was again denied -- this time two years. This month of October, he begins his 39th year in continuous custody, most in solitary confinement. He has not had a contact visit since a 1970 visit at Soledad with his mother. Since 1990, Hugo has been locked down in the notorious torture chamber known as SHU (Security Housing Unit) at Pelican Bay, Crescent City, CA. This in spite of the fact that he has had no write-ups or disciplinary actions by staff in nearly 24 years. As a matter of fact, Hugo has served more time for assault than any other prisoner in California history.

It's time to bring our brother home.

Hugo is a vegetarian in tip top physical condition and remains amazingly strong and loving. I've been corresponding with him since '73, consistently since 1990; and I've visited him four times at Pelican Bay.

He is exceptionally disciplined and very social; and I believe he would prove a valuable asset to any company or organization willing to give him a chance. He must have a good job offer to be considered for release when he goes before the Board again in January, 2004.