Little did Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald know in 1969 that his commitment to social justice would result in a fate some might argue is perhaps worse than death.
California’s ultra-conservative prison system, whose roots are both conscious and unconsciously entrenched in a racist tradition, has exacted a dear price from Romaine Fitzgerald by making him pay with more than fifty years of his life.
Eligible for parole since 1976, Romaine Fitzgerald, who also carries the political weight of being a former member of The Black Panther Party has been denied an opportunity to get out of prison while at the same time most prisoners with a similar offense have long been released.
It’s also worth noting, that contributing to the poor quality of the prison system, is the absence of a powerful social justice movement, with very few signs of the potent punch carried during the 1960s. This decline contributes to a prison population that is less socially conscious of itself, making Mr. Fitzgerald’s release even more uncertain.
The prison authorities are threatened by the politically aware presence of Mr. Fitzgerald, targeting him for disparate treatment on numerous occasions. Without justification or provocation, they have locked him away in solitary confinement over the years, and at least twice they have manufactured the conditions for other inmates to attack him.
In the modern era, prison authorities routinely pit inmates against each other. For a recent example, one only has to look at the experiences of Hugo Pinell, a prisoner politicized by the 1960’s era prisoner’s rights movement. In 2015, after Mr. Pinell had served 50 years in the prison system, California authorities used members of a neo-Nazi prison gang to murder him in New Folsom. His murder occurred within two weeks after authorities transferred Mr. Pinell to the regular population. Mr. Pinell had served the previous 45 years in solitary confinement. Authorities used his vulnerability to affect his death.
During the summer of 2019, the prison’s increased pressure on Romaine Fitzgerald came on the heels of lawyer inquiries and a public petition drive, where thousands of California residents called for his release. This public call for his release made Romaine even more visible to prison authorities, and predictably, in October 2019, the seventy-year old political prisoner became the victim of a physical assault by a fellow inmate.
To date, Romaine, a stroke victim with partial paralysis, has consistently been denied proper housing in an appropriate medical facility. The California Department of Correction’s refusal to place the aging Fitzgerald in a medical facility deprives him of his human right to safety. In September 2019 Prison authorities further exacerbated the situation when they executed an unusual search and seizure of Mr. Fitzgerald’s cell. This questionable action resulted in the confiscation of Mr. Fitzgerald’s legally held belongings, including paper files associated with his efforts to secure parole. Despite not finding any contraband or other illegal items, prison authorities have yet to return Fitzgerald’s belongings and despite inquiries, they have yet to respond with an explanation for their confiscation of these legal documents. In addition, prison authorities have denied people with impeccable credentials and backgrounds visitation rights that would allow them to visit Mr. Fitzgerald. Taken together, these orchestrated activities appear to have helped create the conditions necessary to render Chip vulnerable to the most recent physical attack. Authorities have since indicated this attack came as a result of a “routine prison rivalry.”
Though perhaps saved by his walking cane, Mr. Fitzgerald sustained significant head injuries in this recent attack. He has yet to receive adequate medical treatment. While the full extent of his injuries are currently being investigated, prison authorities continue to hold Mr. Fitzgerald in solitary confinement and have transferred him to R J Donovan Correctional Facility in the San Diego Calif. area.
The fact that Mr. Fitzgerald has been eligible for parole for 42 years has had no effect on the administration of justice in this case. The fact that 20-year-old Chip’s wrongful and hurtful actions that led to the death of a security guard 50 years ago has also had no discernible impact, despite the fact that he has demonstrated remorse and been described by some as a model prisoner and a positive force inside the prison walls. It also seems not to matter that Mr. Fitzgerald, who sometimes requires the use of a wheelchair or a walking cane for mobility, is currently an elderly stroke victim in need of consistent medical care. It appears the California prison system is adamant in its quest to achieve a distorted sense of victory by effecting the slow death of Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald behind bars. We can’t let this happen!
We who believe in freedom cannot rest!
We request that you do the following:
Call, tweet, email and write:
California Governor Gavin Newsom
1303 10th Street Suite 1173
Sacramento, Ca. 95814
Insist Romaine Fitzgerald be given decent medical care.
Insist Romaine Fitzgerald be released from solitary confinement and transferred to an appropriate Medical Facility.
Let the Governor know you expect them to follow the rule of law and release Romaine Fitzgerald from prison, as they have others, particularly following California legislation applying to long term youthful offenders in poor health.
Circulate the website petition to California residents/particularly on Twitter and Facebook.
50 Years, Enough is Enough!
1515 "K" ST
SACRAMENTO, CA 958