Jalil Abdul Muntaqim (born Anthony Bottom), who joined the Black Panther Party when he was a teenager, has been in prison since 1971 and recently tested positive for COVID-19 at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in New York. As Muntaqim’s condition has worsened, resulting in his transfer to Albany Medical Center on May 25, advocates are pushing for New York attorney general Letitia James to reverse her denial of an early release for the 68-year-old before he becomes fatally ill.

“The only remedy for older, vulnerable inmates, such as Mr. Muntaqim is to be released from custody,” said activist Monifa Bandele. “Absent release, his parole-eligible 25 years to life sentence will become a death sentence.” 

The call for James to release Muntaqim, who has filed for parole 10 times since 2002, came after judge Stephan Schick granted his release on April 27. However, as reported by the Amsterdam News, James appealed the judge’s decision and blocked the motion, pending an appeal. In a letter to James on April 30, shared with Colorlines, members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus wrote:

We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being as Mr. Bottom falls into two of the highest risk categories due to his age, and his medical condition which includes chronic bronchitis, heart disease, and hypertension. He has also previously suffered a stroke, with some resultant brain damage, and has scarring in his lungs as a result of a bout of tuberculosis when he was younger. Finally, he is currently experiencing recurrent sinusitis, which has thus far resisted treatment. We fear he is at a grave risk of death as the virus spreads through the prison.

Now that Muntaqim has tested positive and been hospitalized, the campaign to release him has ramped up with advocates calling on activists to tweet James (@TishJames and @NewYorkStateAG) for Muntaqim’s appeals hearing today (May 28) at 1 pm EST, asking supporters to virtually pack the courtroom for the hearing, which will be streamed live here

Advocates are calling for James to reconsider, and New York State Department of Corrections acting commissioner Anthony Annucci to release him.

Learn more about Muntaqim’s case, visit his parole campaign page here.