Incarceration Nation

Free Ruchell Magee

Longest held political prisoner in the U.S.

Statement by Angela Y. Davis

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights created the Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in the Context of Law Enforcement (EMLER). This international, independent group of panelists held hearings in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C, and New York in April and May of this year. This presentation was made at the Atlanta hearing.

April 20, 2023—My name is Angela Davis, and I am a writer, activist and retired professor. I speak in support of Ruchell Magee.

Ruchell Magee is the longest held political prisoner in the United States. Like Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, and many others, he deserves to be free.

Ruchell’s story epitomizes the catastrophic impact of systemic racism on untold numbers of Black people in the United States.

I first encountered Ruchell Magee in connection with the August 7, 1970, Marin County Courthouse Rebellion, when I became his codefendant.

I discovered then that before the Marin County case, Ruchell had already spent seven years behind bars in Louisiana as a result of the racist use of trumped-up rape charges directed against him at age 16, as a consequence of a relationship with a white girl. It is not insignificant that this occurred the same year that Emmett Till was lynched on the fraudulent grounds that he had made sexual advances toward a white woman.

After less than one year of living in the so-called free world, Los Angeles police arrested him on charges of kidnapping in the context of a dispute over a $10 bag of marijuana.

He was serving a sentence of 12 years to life when he and I were both charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in 1970. These charges were the result of his serendipitous presence in the courtroom when the young Jonathan Jackson, armed with weapons registered in my name, entered that courtroom with the desire to free his brother and others who had become victims of what we now call racist mass incarceration.

Ruchell Magee has spent his entire late teen-age and adult life behind bars. He has been subjected to a virtual death sentence or what is now referred to as death by incarceration. A number of organizations have suggested that this is tantamount to torture and it is clear that the sentence of life without possibility of parole is one of the numerous ways in which his human rights have been systematically violated.

Ruchell has consistently challenged the dehumanization to which he and so many other imprisoned people are subjected. He has made valuable contributions to our understanding of the relationship of the carceral system to slavery and its legacies. In my memory, he is the very first person to identify the historical connection between prison and slavery and thus has occasioned much research on this topic.

I strongly urge you to call for the immediate release of Ruchell Magee. After a lifetime of racist-inspired incarceration, he deserves to live out the remainder of his life in freedom.

Write to Ruchell Magee:

Ruchell Magee #A92051, #T 115

California Medical Facility

P.O. Box 2000

Vacaville, CA 95696-2000