Soffiyah Elijah is an advocate, attorney, scholar, and educator, and the executive director of the Correctional Association of New York. Prior to joining the Correctional Association, Elijah served as deputy director and a clinical instructor at the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School.
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FULL STATEMENT OF THE FREEDOM CAMPAIGN FOR SUNDIATA ACOLI
New York, NY (January 13, 2021) – A former employee of NASA and a civil rights era Freedom Rider, Sundiata Acoli turns 84 on January 14. The college graduate and grandfather of two has been incarcerated for over forty-seven years. Acoli has been consistently denied parole for more than twenty-five of those years, going all the way back to 1994. The Sundiata Acoli Freedom Campaign (SAFC) is the largest coordinated campaign to free Acoli since his incarceration and follows years of behind the scenes advocacy and legal filings. The campaign will use the hashtag #BringSundiataHome and kicks off this week. There are media appearances planned throughout the week as well as a major social media push on Thursday where individuals, advocates and other organizations and religious institutions will join in the wishes of love and support for the soon to be 84 year old. Following his conviction in the murder of New Jersy State Trooper Werner Foerester in 1973, Acoli was sentenced to life.
In the Garden State, those convicted and sentenced to life are eligible for parole after twenty-five years. “Sundiata Acoli has had a near perfect disciplinary record for 40 years, with no violations of any kind for the past twenty-five years,” explains Acoli’s attorney, Bruce I. Afran. “I have come to know Mr. Acoli well over the past nine years. He has emerged into a useful, law abiding and productive member of the community, albeit while incarcerated. He has evolved so far in his life and thought that he has been approved to teach the Federal Bureau of Prisons’s course in Avoiding Criminal Thinking, the program to teach younger inmates how to avoid recidivism.” Sundiata’s health is deteriorating in his late stage of life and is now being treated for advancing dementia, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, emphysema and glaucoma. The frail senior citizen also lost 30 pounds during a long battle with the Covid-19 virus; he was one of those blessed to survive the health scare. He should be released before his health is further compromised. Nearly fifty religious leaders across New Jersey said the following in a joint statement to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy last June when asking for a commutation of Acoli’s sentence: “Mr. Acoli had to be rushed to a hospital in Maryland when he fell ill from the COVID19 virus. For several days he was maintained on oxygen,” says the group of faith leaders across multiple denominations and thirty-nine religious institutions. “Recently, he was bedridden for a week due to intestinal complications. For all of the reasons stated above, we unconditionally call upon you to release Mr. Acoli from prison immediately. When he is released, we pledge to support you and champion your just and humane decision,” the statement concludes. “As his daughter, I can say that the Sundiata Acoli Freedom Campaign means so much to me and our entire family,” says Sunni Middleton, an executive in finance. “The death of officer Foerester was a tragic event and we grieve for that loss and pray for the healing of all families involved. My dad is in his twilight years and he has paid for that terrible incident while showing us how to be accountable for one’s actions. Our family is so grateful for this outpouring of support from members of the community and the Freedom Campaign,” adds Middleton. “It gives us the strength, and faith, to see this through and to know that our prayers may one day be answered and my father will be in his family’s care to live out the remaining years of his life.”
The Freedom Campaign The Sundiata Acoli Freedom Campaign (SAFC) kicks off this week with the following activities: Thursday, January 14th Sundiata Acoli birthday letter writing campaign
● The letter writing campaign started at the turn of the new year and will culminate on his birthday, January 14. Saturday, January 16th 12:00 P.M. The People Are Suffering: Martin Luther King March For Racial And Economic Justice Location: Lincoln Statue 12 Springfield Avenue (Intersection of Springfield Avenue and West Market Street) Newark, NJ 07102
● The SAFC will participate in this MLK march carrying signs to #BringSundiataHome. They will also hand out informational flyers to spread the word in the Black and Brown community as the group begins its public outreach around this case.
For more information visit our Facebook page or email Sundiataacolifc@gmail.com. Media Contact: Scott McDowell Communications Director Sundiata Acoli Freedom Campaign firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile: 929-351-5887