Dr. Mututu Shakur, a Black liberation movement elder who’s been incarcerated for more than 36 years, was told Thursday he’s been granted parole for an early release from prison amid declining health. Shakur’s freedom comes after months of organizers and activists demanding Shakur be given a compassionate release as the 72-year-old battles terminal cancer.
The Intercept first reported Shakur was being freed.
Asha Bandele, a New York Times best-selling author and journalist who has worked on campaigns to free political prisoners since 1990, including Dr. Mutulu Shakur, for whom she also worked briefly as a paralegal, celebrates a day that has been too long in the coming.
“There are few men who have done more to negotiate peace and save lives from behind the walls of the most violent prisons in the United States than Mutulu Shakur,” bandele told NewsOne Thursday evening. “Since he was 16 years old, Dr. Shakur has dedicated his life to serving the least of these—people who were poor, people who were Black. People who were addicted to drugs. People who were unnamed in life and would have been unnamed in death were it not for his tireless, revolutionary efforts. My profound gratitude to his comrades, like Sekou Odinga, activists like Monifa Bandele, and Mutulu’s beautiful children, Sekiywa, Mopreme, Nzingha, Chinua, and Ayize here on earth; and his child Tupac Amaru, who is an ancestor. Let the reckoning and healing begin. Free ’em all.”
Shakur, the stepfather of the late rapper and actor Tupac Shakur, was convicted for his alleged role in the “expropriation” of $1.6 million from a Brinks armored truck. He was subsequently sentenced to 60 years in prison but became eligible for parole in 2016 after serving 30 years in the federal system.
Jomo Muhammad of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement previously told NewsOne that Shakur had been denied parole nine times despite having an essentially infraction-free time in prison. He also explained that Shakur petitioned for compassionate release earlier in the pandemic, given the various health issues and being diagnosed with an advanced stage of terminal bone marrow cancer. But he was denied essentially because a judge did not think his condition was severe enough to justify a release.
Another likely reason for the repeated denials of release is that Shakur was very active in the Black Liberation Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s and involved in exposing COINTELPRO, the FBI’s so-called Counter Intelligence Program that surveilled, infiltrated, discredited, and disrupted organizations like the Black Panther Party.
Shakur was given six months to live back in May. Now that six months have passed since then, the U.S. Parole Commission apparently finally feels comfortable enough freeing the elderly man.
“Mutulu is deeply grateful for the broad expression of trust and support, and thanks everyone who has helped him over the years,” a statement posted to a website devoted to Shakur said in part. “We ask that he have the space and time to be with his family when he is released and to continue receiving medical treatment.”
Advocates have been fighting for Shakur’s release for years.
In one recent instance, hundreds of faith leaders signed an open letter to officials with the Department of Justice, Bureau of Prison and United States Parole Commission urging the dying elder’s release.
“Our request is in no way meant to denigrate the victims’ families or ignore the loss of life,” the letter sent in July read in part. “It is our belief that Mr. Shakur has been more than adequately punished for those acts. The continued incarceration of this terminally ill senior citizen serves no useful purpose as Mr. Shakur represents absolutely no threat to public safety.”
And last year, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement organized a virtual celebration to raise awareness around Shakur’s case as part of broader efforts to free movement elders.
“This country is not the same country it was at the time of my conviction and I have lived long enough to understand the changes the country and I have undergone. I will always care about freedom and equality for black Americans, marginalized people and the lower classes in this country and abroad. The struggle was never about me, but for the will of the people,” Shakur wrote in a petition for his release that was signed by nearly 20,000 people.
“I cannot undo the violence and tragedy that took place more than thirty years ago. But for several decades while incarcerated I have dedicated myself to being a healer, spreading a message of reconciliation and justice, and playing a positive role in the lives of those I come into contact with, in and out of prison,” Shakur wrote.
Shakur is expected to live the remainder of his life with his family in Southern California.
“We are relieved that the Parole Commission now recognizes what has long been true — that Dr. Shakur’s release poses no risk whatsoever,” Brad Thomson, an attorney who represents Shakur, told the Intercept. “It is tragic that it took until he was on the verge of death for that truth to finally be realized.”