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Court: Condemned Newsman May Write

August 26, 1998

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Prison officials must stop reading mail between condemned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal and his lawyer, and let him write professionally while he is on death row, a federal appeals court ruled.

Officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections violated Abu-Jamal’s rights by punishing him for writing a book and articles while behind bars that were critical of the prison system, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday.

The three-judge panel said the prison must stop enforcing its ``business and professional rule,″ which prohibits inmates from running a business or profession in prison. At least one other inmate has received royalties from a publisher without being punished, said Abu-Jamal’s lawyer, Jere Krakoff.

The court also ordered officials at State Correctional Institution at Greene to stop going through mail between Abu-Jamal and Krakoff. Officials at SCI Greene had argued that the mail might contain evidence of Abu-Jamal’s continued breach of the business and professional rule.

Department of Corrections officials could not be reached for comment.

Abu-Jamal, a journalist and radio reporter, is on death row for the 1981 slaying of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. His jailhouse writing has made him a celebrity around the world, and his effort to win a new trial has become a focal point for death penalty critics.

Abu-Jamal’s 1995 book, ``Live From Death Row″, describes the brutality and humiliation of prison life and argues that the justice system is racist and ruled by political expediency. He was paid about $30,000, Krakoff said.

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