Free Hugo Pinell — Free All Political Prisoners!

970683_10151535013593600_1643283768_n[This article by Kiilu Nyasha, though written a year ago, provides good background on Hugo Pinell’s case.  Now in the 43rd year of isolation (solitary) his next hearing will be in October, 2013.  —  Frontlines ed.]

Hugo Pinell: Is 42 years in isolation about to end?


May 17, 2012


by Kiilu Nyasha


UPDATE: Yogi’s [Hugo Pinell’s] board hearing was postponed another year due to CDCR’s new gang validation rules. Uncommon Law, the firm of Keith Wattley, is handling Yogi’s case and they think they can get some relief for him under the new rules. So let’s do everything we can to support Yogi and help him to stay strong in that hell hole for another year.


It would be a good thing for those with resources to check with attorney Wattley at (510) 271-0310 or to see if Yogi needs financial assistance in covering legal fees.


Hugo Pinell, affectionately known as Yogi Bear, in 1982

In November 2008, voters passed Proposition 9, under which people serving indeterminate life sentences could be denied parole and another hearing for three to 15 years, instead of the established one to five years. Prop 9 argued that people convicted of serious crimes were being released from prison too frequently. This simply is not the case.

About 30,000 people were serving life sentences, and about 4,000 applied each year to appear before a two-member panel for a parole recommendation. Less than one percent received release dates in a given year. In 2006, for example, only 23 lifers were granted parole, less than 0.5 percent of those eligible for release.


The California Parole Board held a hearing for Hugo Pinell (Yogi Bear) on Jan. 14, 2009, at which they denied him parole and scheduled him to return to the board in 15 years! However, since Prop 9 wasn’t in effect in 2009 when his hearing was scheduled and postponed, the decision had to be rescinded.


A new hearing has been scheduled for May 2012, at which Yogi anticipates a 15-year hit. He would return to Board in 2027 at age 82!


Hugo Pinell has been in Pelican Bay SHU – no windows or natural light, very restricted possessions, no phone calls, 24/7 lockup unless permitted to exercise alone for an hour in an outdoor enclosure, no-contact visits of less than an hour only on weekends or holidays.


Pelican Bay is isolated in the Northwest corner of California, a very long trip by car. His mother, in her 80s with health problems, has continued to make that long trip to visit her son, now 67 years old. Can you even imagine not being able to hug your own son for over four decades?


Yogi has been in solitary confinement for at least 42 years, first in San Quentin, Folsom and Corcoran and the last 22 in the Pelican Bay SHU. He was 19 when incarcerated in 1964; in prison 48 years altogether, he’s been in solitary confinement at least 42, despite 32 years of clean time – no write-ups.


Yogi has been in solitary confinement for at least 42 years, first in San Quentin, Folsom and Corcoran and the last 22 in the Pelican Bay SHU.


Yogi earned the enmity of the prison officials back in the 1960s when he was part of the “Black Movement” behind California prison walls led by George L. Jackson, W.L. Nolen and many other conscious, standup brothers who made it safe for Blacks to walk the yards of California’s extremely racist gulags.


On Aug. 21, 1971, in what has been deemed a setup, Soledad Brother George Jackson was murdered on the yard of San Quentin by prison guards. During this orchestrated attempted escape, however, three guards were also killed, along with two inmate “trustees.”


This set the prison officials on fire, and they’ve been exacting revenge ever since on Hugo Pinell, the only defendant in the San Quentin Six case still in prison. The only defendant convicted of murder in the case, Johnny Spain, was released in 1988.


Clearly Yogi is a political prisoner, although the U.S. rarely if ever admits to holding any political prisoners. Our revolutionary hero is still strong of mind and body, has maintained his health with a strictly vegetarian diet and a grueling exercise program. His character and personality are evident in the following missive to Terry Collins.


Please write letters to newspaper editors, to Gov. Jerry Brown, the Parole Board and anyone else who might influence the board to make a humane decision to stop this senseless ongoing torture of Hugo Pinell. Contact Gov. Brown c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814, phone (916) 445-2841, fax (916) 558-3160 or by email online at Contact the parole board at Board of Parole Hearings, P.O. Box 4036, Sacramento, CA 95812-4036.

Power to the people!

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