Many of our fellow-workers are unaware of the circumstances facing a member of the World Socialist Party of the United States, Joe Hopkins.
Joe has been incarcerated in a Florida prison for the past 15 years or so, serving a life sentence. The sentence bears no relation to the crime he committed and reflects the cruelty and inhumanity of the legal system. Stephen Shenfield, the General Secretary of WSPUS, has set up a website dedicated to freeing Joe. It contains some useful information about Joe including an account by Joe himself of his early upbringing and the horrendous experiences he went through.
Our latest information is that there has been a decline in his health. Like many prisoners, he has long had hepatitis and for many years the condition was deliberately neglected. There was an effective drug but it was considered too expensive for mere prisoners. A couple of years ago a judge ordered that prisoners with hepatitis be given this drug and Joe got a course of treatment that got rid of the virus, but it was too late because he had already developed advanced fibrosis of the liver that led to cirrhosis. In the first stage cirrhosis has no obvious symptoms, but bruises that have now appeared on his arms show that it has now progressed to the next stage. All sorts of unpleasant symptoms and complications are now possible. Except in the highly unlikely event that he receives a liver transplant (he has applied for one), he is now likely to go rapidly downhill and be dead within a year or so.
There are now two different concerns to deal with – to get Joe released on humanitarian grounds and to enable him to receive urgent medical treatment. At the moment he is on a liver transplant waiting list but the cost of a transplant is shocking – about half a million dollars if you include several months aftercare. On the face of it, this cost ought to be borne by the prison authorities in view of their clear negligence but that might not count for much in this context. The alternative might be to initate some sort of GoFundMe campaign via the social media.
Anyway, the point of this post is to urge comrades to make contact with Joe in the first instance. He could do with some outside contact to boost his morale in the dire circumstances he finds himself in. Communication is complicated as it has to be done via an email service the prison authorities provide and this has to be paid for.
However, it is possible to route communications via Stephen whose email address appears on the website below.
We have to be very careful about not doing anything precipitous and have to be sensitive to the politics of the situation. the authorities in Florida would not welcome intervention from outside the state calling for Joe’s release but if anyone knows of people based in Florida who could help this would be extremely useful.
At the moment it is advisable to wait for Joe to tell us how we can help as the situation develops. But the first thing we can do is to make contact with Joe himself to let him know we are aware of his circumstances.
With that in mind, we urge comrades and sympathizers to write to Joe via Stephen so we can get the ball rolling