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 that can deliver the type of potent punch demonstrated by 1960’s era movements. 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.
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. While the full extent of his injuries is currently being investigated, this assault resulted in neck and shoulder injuries, and a cracked jaw. Authorities also placed him in solitary confinement, transferred him to R J Donovan Correctional Facility in the San Diego area, then returned him to general population at Lancaster, all within a three-week period.
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 engaged in 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 legal 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 they have yet to respond, as required by prison policy, 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.
Described by some officials as a model prisoner and a positive force inside the prison walls, Mr. Fitzgerald has been eligible for parole for 42 years. Even this reality has failed to compel authorities to administer justice in this case. It also seems not to matter that Mr. Fitzgerald, who sometimes requires the use of a wheel chair or a walking cane for mobility, is currently an elderly stroke victim in need of consistent medical care. It appears the California Department of Corrections is on a 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! 50 Years is Enough!
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.
Let the Governor know you expect them to follow the rule of law and release Romaine Fitzgerald from prison, 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 is Enough!