Edward Pinkney is isolated in Michigan prison

JAMES CLINGMAN | 4/11/2016, 10:10 a.m.
There is a particular evil, among others, going on in the state of Michigan.
James Clingman

(George Curry Media) – There is a particular evil, among others, going on in the state of Michigan. During the election hoopla, the debates, the speeches and attention focused on Michigan’s Black voters, I was appalled that no one took the opportunity to point out this quiet yet outrageous situation. No one stepped to the microphone or held a press conference or asked a question or held up a sign about Edward Pinkney.

Who is Pinkney? He is a 68-year-old minister from Benton Harbor, Michigan, former president of the local NAACP, and most of all, an unwavering activist who fights against social and economic injustice. Pinkney now sits in an isolation cell at the infamous Marquette Branch Prison, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, nearly 500 miles from his hometown, his wife, Dorothy, and his supporters, in an “out of sight, out of mind” attempt by the state to make Brother Pinkney disappear from the public stage and from public discourse.

What we saw during the Michigan primary was an indication that their strategy is working. Black folks and other Pinkney supporters, to my knowledge, made no real attempt to get the candidates to issue statements of support for Pinkney; the injustices perpetrated against him were not cited in the debates or in the press conferences.

Now as we watch the rollout of a revived relationship with Cuba, and folks are talking about political prisoners on that island, why is there nothing mentioned about the political prisoners in this country, especially Pinkney, who is suffering a penalty far beyond the level of crime he is accused of committing. President Obama spoke to Raoul Castro about human rights and political prisoners while nothing was said or done about Pinkney. Obama went to a prison in Colorado and issued pardons for prisoners. He also had a high-profile ceremony at the White House last week, but left Pinkney off his list of those who should be freed.

In Pinkney’s own words: “A heavy and cruel hand has been laid upon me. On Oct. 6, 2015, I was transferred back to Marquette Branch Prison, a two-day ride on the bus, shackled, mistreated and intimidated. I was forced to strip on five different occasions. I am forced into overcrowding, inadequate exercise, lack of clean clothing and inadequate medical care which violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. I estimate over 75 percent of the prisoners in Marquette have mental problems.”

His history of confrontation with the justice system in Michigan notwithstanding, in this particular case, the punishment does not fit the alleged crime. An all-White jury convicted him of forgery for changing dates next to signatures on a petition drive for a recall drive.

Yes, he has been a thorn in the side of the establishment and local judges in Benton Harbor. Pinkney’s willingness to fight for civil rights should not be used as an excuse for retribution against him by the courts. According to our Constitution, he must be treated fairly and he must not be subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment.” The crime he allegedly committed does not rise to the level of being held in prison without bond during his appeal. By the time his appeal comes around, if he is found not guilty, he will have served prison time for a crime he did not commit.