by Laura Whitehorn
This issue of Prison Legal News is dedicated to Mujahid Farid.
Farid, 69, who died of cancer on November 20, 2018 in the Bronx, New York, often said he was only one of many people who spend their years in prison learning. Farid obtained his GED while awaiting trial, then earned four college and graduate level degrees in prison. He became a brilliant jailhouse lawyer, suing New York’s prison system for the myriad illegal, brutal punishments they added to his 15-to-life sentence, and often winning.
Denied parole nine times, he was released in 2011 after serving 33 years. While incarcerated he applied his legal brilliance to freeing the long-termers he left behind, founding Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) with other formerly incarcerated people and allies. He received an Open Society Soros Justice Fellowship in 2013, as well as a commendation from New York’s legislature and an award for social activism from Citizens Against Recidivism.
Using his legal acumen, enormous heart and courage, he made RAPP’s mission of releasing elderly prisoners a way to challenge the racist system of permanent punishment that fuels mass incarceration. He inspired formerly incarcerated people, academics, social justice advocates, faith leaders, former parole commissioners and pretty much anyone who would fight racism and injustice alongside RAPP. He gave voice to fundamental issues of principle, beginning with don’t throw anyone under the bus and extending to international solidarity, particularly support for the people of Palestine. He also advocated for parole reforms.
A week before he died, Farid told RAPP’s core organizers, “I think you know this has always been a labor of love.” It has, indeed. It still is.
Former political prisoner Laura Whitehorn is an organizer with RAPP.
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