Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, Political Prisoner and Former Panther on Hunger Strike in California’s Corcoran Prison

ImageIn the more than 40 years that former Black Panther Romaine "Chip" has been imprisoned in California he has neither complained nor drawn attention to himself. He has counseled other prisoners against violence and bitterness. But now, after an extended period of being denied communication with the outside and access to medical attention, Fitzgerald is refusing food, vowing to fast until death if he is not transferred out of the inhuman regime of solitary confinement at California's infamous Corcoran State Prison and accorded proper medical care.

Romaine "Chip" Fitzgerald, Political Prisoner and Former Panther on Hunger Strike in California's Corcoran Prison

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald is a former member of the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party imprisoned since 1969. Currently in solitary confinement inside the 'Special Housing Unit of California's Corcoran State Prison, he is reportedly now refusing food. Fitzgerald is demanding access to proper medical care and transfer out of solitary confinement, where he has been held on spurious and fanciful charges for the last two years.

Fitzgerald's death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in the early 1970s, when the US Supreme Court ruled the death penalty discriminatory and and unconstitutional. Most of those who were on California's death row at the time have been released. But not Romaine Fitzgerald. Although he has come up for parole no less than 17 times, current prospects for his release seem more remote than ever.

It's a matter of well-documented historical fact that in 1969 the federal government waged a nationwide campaign of vicious and hostile propaganda, of false arrests and prodecutions and even murder against the Black Panther Party resulting in more than 30 deaths. By any reasonable standard, Fitzgerald is a longtime political prisoner. But California prison authorities have concocted fanciful new rules and arbitrary charges that equate Fitzgerald's former political affiliation and current beliefs with gang membership, for which they have confined him to a prison within the larger prison.

Like many human rights organizations around the world, Black Agenda Report believes that supermax prisons, solitary confinement facilities and “Special Housing Units” of the type Fitzgerald is now confined are lawles, cruel and inhuman violations of the human rights of prisoners. We join Mr. Fitzgerald in insisting that he be removed from administrative segregation and into the prison's general population.

For years now, the state of California has flagrantly disregarded its duty to provide the most basic health care to its prisoners. The state's inmate health care system is now under the control of a court appointed receiver. According to that receiver, a California inmate dies every six or seven days due to lack of adequate medical care. Fitzgerald's doctor attests that the regime of solitary confinement and its attendant withdrawal of even the scanty and substandard medical California DOC otherwise provides constitute a serious threat to his health. It's little wonder then, that Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald has embarked upon a hunger strike, insisting that his extended solitary confinement is unwarranted and that he is entitled to proper medical care.

Black Agenda Report takes this opportunity to join with the friends and family of Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald lend our voices to the chorus of those demanding an end to his unjustified and inhuman solitary confinement, his placement in the general prison population, and that he be accorded access to physicians.

Here's what YOU can do....

  1. Call the office of Warden Raul Lopez at California's Corcoran State Prison at 559-992-8800, x 5508. Be polite and respectful, and inquire about the health of Romaine Fitzgerald, prisoner B-27527, and whether he is still in administrative segregation. Tell them that he should be out, and should be afforded decent medical care.

  2. Call the offices of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Her district office phone answered from 9 to 5 PST, is 510-763-0370. Although you may not be in her district, say you are calling because she chairs the Congressional Black Caucus. Be respectful, and ask her office to inquire about the status of Romaine Fitzgerald, prisoner B-27527 at Corcoran State Prison.

  3. Call the office of Congresswoman Maxine Waters of Los Angeles, at 323 - 757-8900, also between the hours of 9AM and 5PM PST. Again, be polite and respectful. Say that although you are not in her district, Fitzgerald would be if he were out, and you know she is one of those who has proven willing to stand up at times others preferred to sit down. Kindly request that her office inquire with the prison as to his status.

  4. Visit Donate to his legal defense, and keep up with the status of this political prisoner who has served four decades under lock and key in California.

Thank you.

Click here to listen to or download Glen Ford's interview with Elaine Brown on Chip Fitzgerald.

A Black Agenda Radio Interview by BAR Executive Editor Glen Ford

Click the flash player to listen to or the mic to download an audio in MP3 format.

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