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Pennsylvania Lawmakers Pass Bill To Stifle Inmates’ Public Speech

The Pennsylvania Senate on Thursday sent to Governor Tom Corbett a bill that allows crime victims to sue to prevent inmates from making public statements that cause “mental anguish.”

The Senate voted 37-11 to pass the “Revictimization Relief Act” after convicted cop killer and political activist inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal delivered the graduation address last week at Vermont’s Goddard College in a speech recorded over prison telephone lines.

Corbett, a Republican, has said he would sign the bill, which allows the state’s attorney general, local district attorneys and crime victims to go to court to stop the release of prisoner statements that perpetuate “the continuing affect of crime on the victim.”

It passed the House earlier this week.

Abu-Jamal, 60, a former black nationalist, was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1981 killing of Officer Daniel Faulkner after a trial that was criticized by Amnesty International and others as unfair.

He was initially sentenced to death, but that sentence was later commuted to life without parole in 2011. While in prison, he has become a well-known commentator on the U.S. justice system.

Proponents of the bill say Abu-Jamal’s continued popularity has “revictimized” Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, who has been forced into the public light numerous times over the years to respond to critics of Abu-Jamal’s trial.

The bill is opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which says it violates the right to free speech and would stop former inmates from speaking on public policy concerns.

 

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