Former Death Row inmate Shujaa Graham has turned into a prison rights advocate.
Graham spent 11 years in various California prisons and was convicted of killing a prison guard, according to an Arizona Republic article.
“No matter if you were a criminal, you’re still a human being”
He said he was twice beaten by guards shortly after his murder conviction. He said the first beating took place in an elevator and the second when he entered his jail cell, in which he was assaulted by 12 to 15 people, according to the article.
“They encircled me, and I just stood there in the middle, stripped totally buck-naked, and they closed in on me,” said Graham.
Graham believes he was framed for the murder based upon his involvement with the Black Prison Movement.
He was exonerated and freed in 1981. He now lives in Maryland.
During a presentation at the Herberger Theater in Phoenix, Ariz., Graham spoke about his life. He was raised in the South in the 1950s and experienced segregation. Much of his adolescent years, upon arriving in California, were spent in juvenile facilities. He was sent to Correctional Training Facility in Soledad at 18.
“No matter if you were a criminal, you’re still a human being. I hate the crime but still love the person,” said Graham.
“I always like to say this: I am here despite the justice system, not because of it,” he added.
Graham’s fight also includes the injustice and violence inmates go through while on Death Row, according to the article.
“Don’t be sorry for me. I am here to help all of you,” said Graham.
He has participated in multiple marches opposing the death penalty.
Graham met his wife while in prison; she worked as a nurse then.