Blog #49: Congratulations for Package Victory & Community Empowerment

To:      Community-at-Large
Fr:      Jalil A. Muntaqim
Date:  January 15, 2018
Re:     Congratulations for Package Victory

Dear Families and Friends:

I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for your hard work and determination to defeat the draconian Directive 4911A restrictions on incarcerated persons’ receipt of packages from family and friends. Back in my day, we had a slogan that expressed this initiative and victory; it was “Power to the People.” It is when the people collectively unite and decide to act on a common purpose, they are empowered to challenge the system and win.

It is this kind of initiative that needs to be consolidated into a statewide determination for any and all matters pertaining to the New York criminal justice system. It should be stated that empowering the community is like exercising a muscle. In order to become stronger, for the muscle to become bigger, it needs to exert itself with heavier weights to push and pull, to exercise the muscle and ensure it can handle the heavy load when required to do so. Similarly, the building of community power depends on continuing to strengthen one’s faith and belief in the unity of the community. With every victory, we can expect push back from the opposition, and we will need to be prepared to substantiate our win with ever more difficult challenges. Failure to do so will result, like the muscle failing to exercise, in atrophy. The muscle becomes relaxed, smaller, lazy and weaker. Therefore, empowerment of the community needs to develop principles of unity, organizational development, and coalition building, eventually to forge a NYS Community Review Board of DOCCS.

In fact, I am of the opinion nothing should happen to the detriment of the incarcerated that does not include the community’s input, discourse and being made part of the decision making process. Also, with this victory, a concentrated effort should be directed toward passage of the SAFE Parole Reform Act.

If there is one specific issue that demands the unified and consolidated determination of the progressive community of New York State, it is the passage of the SAFE Parole Act. Ultimately, the SAFE Parole Act will become the foundation for sensible and practical change in DOCCS policy and practices that has immediate impact on the community. It will require more substantial program development for the incarcerated. These programs will ensure that, when incarcerated people go before the Board of Parole, they will be well prepared to return to their home community. They will be returning prepared to support the development of the community, becoming assets to the community and not continued liabilities.

Hence, active oversight and participation in the development of DOCCS programs will be directly attributable to the input of the community. The community’s demand for the passage of the SAFE Parole Act and how this legislation will impact the community will ensure our incarcerated loved ones will be well prepared to be returned to our communities.

Again, I want to express my congratulations on our collective victory … but also to remind everyone that those forces who want to restrict and make prison more punitive have not been defeated. For them it is only a setback, and we must we aware of the fact the struggle continues on all fronts. They will continue to seek to monetize prison slavery. They will continue to make prisons pro-business and anti-family. We must be steadfast, vigilant, and proactive—not reactive—in our collective determination.

Let’s exercise our political muscle to become stronger and empowered in our collective effort to change and make the system operate to the benefit of our families and community.

Remember: We Are Our Own Liberators

Revolutionary Love and Unity
Jalil A. Muntaqim