Despite maintaining then and now that he is innocent, Pinell, after being repeatedly told he would face the death penalty if he did not confess, eventually pled guilty in 1965, at the age of 19, to assault in connection with the kidnapping , sodomy, and rape of a young woman in San Francisco:
“In 1964, a white woman accused me of rape, assault and kidnap. I was 19 years old. I turned myself into the authorities to clarify the charges against me which I knew to be falsified. The deputies beat me several times because the alleged victim was white, and the Public Defender and the Judge influenced my mother into believing that I would be sentenced to death unless I pled guilty. At their insistence and despite my innocence, I pled guilty to the charge of rape, with the understanding that I would be eligible for parole after 6 months. When I arrived at the California Department of Corrections, I was informed that I had been sentenced to three years to life.”
While Pinell was imprisoned in San Quentin State Prison he made contact with revolutionary prisoners such as George Jackson, one of the Soledad Brothers and W.L. Nolen. Both men were African-Americans who, in jail, claimed to had turned away from a life focused on crime to a life focused on the ideas of social revolution. They both lead a movement to convert their fellow prisoners to the same ideology. Along with their fellow prisoners, they fought for an end to guard brutality and racism, and for prisoner unity.
On August 21, 1971, there was a prisoner uprising in Pinell’s housing unit at San Quentin, led by George Jackson. According to the state of California, lawyer-activist Stephen Bingham had smuggled a pistol concealed in a tape recorder to Jackson, who was housed in San Quentin’s Adjustment Center time awaiting trial for the murder of a prison guard. On August 21, 1971, Jackson used the pistol, an Astra 9-mm semi-automatic, to take over his tier in the Adjustment Center. In his failed escape attempt, six people were killed, including three prison guards, two white prisoners, and Jackson himself.
via Hugo Pinell – The Full Wiki.
This is a letter from Hugo Yogi Pinell to a friend:
Nov. 11, 2013
My Brother Terry,
My best of love, care and health to you and your family. It is good to hear from you, sooner than usual, yes but it isn’t a discipline thing. I know you want to stay connected more often, but you are busy doing good work.
I agree with the most of your reasoning and it would be a great thing for the world if this empire is on collapsing stages, but we must keep working hard from inside of ourselves, using the best of our inner powers to keep growing, and growing. What is being done to all of us, specially to those in (your) maximum custody, is horrendous and the more conscientiously aware have been able to endure and keep on pushing thru just about everything.
Not only Malcolm and Martin, but many of you, out there, have stayed on that road and have continued to grow and grow, thru your work, your beliefs, commitment and the internal self work to evolve. Our Mothers, Parents, the Ones who have survived, the[y] suffered too much and we’re blessed to have them here still. If they were in our struggle from younger years, they would have known how to take better care of themselves thru it all and would have more of them alive today.
This is something that has driven me more so since my Shirley passed in April 1986.
I was in the new SHU in Tehachapi. We had requested for a visit and it was denied which hurt and upset my Mom. When Mom came to visit, she was really in pain for us and she said, ‘I’m going to be even closer to you, son, love you more, if possible, but you will have to keep her alive and human.” I did that, Terry, went inside of me and pushed, pushed, giving more love to Mom, asking her to hold on, to use my love to fight harder. Kiilu wasn’t around. She had gone back east to deal with her personal and medical problems, but i didn’t know that. I only remember she had stopped communicating shortly after the S.Q. 6 trial ended.
So, it was Mom and i until Feb. 1989, when i was moved to the SHU in Corcoran, My Sisters began to visit regularly in Sept. 1990, i was moved to this PB SHU and, in Oct. 1990, i heard from Kiilu again, and she has been with me since. And, of course, she has been a super great sister, friend and force in my life. These Beautiful People, a few others, too, including you, are the great energies and forces which helped me deal with this isolation. For me, the most heart felt effects of this buried alive confinement had been the depravation, not being able to have a contact visit with Mom or anyone since Dec. 1970!!
Shirley and I were granted a 15 minutes contact marriage, and that’s been it.
It’s sometimes hard for me to believe i’ve been in these holes for 44 years straight! But it is true. Not only i’ve been without disciplinary infraction since 1982, but the historical incidents that left many dead, injured and damaged, on both sides, happened in 1970-71! In Oct., i completed 49 years since i left the streets.
Terry, being in this kind of confinement is terrible, yes, in many ways, but trying to make it in the streets is harder, more challenging, and we knew that, in the 60s, and that’s why we were working hard to change and prepare for the streets reality. My Mom has kept me focused, too. In the 90s, when i was supposed to be getting released, she kept saying, “i’m proud of you, son, the way you’ve been working it, but i want to see you out here, all grown up, responsible and earning your ways of living.” She had seen too many get out, sound good and ready and fail miserably! So, what you all go thru and do everyday is much harder, and having you in touch with adds to my drive to keep pushing and growing, for I think and feel about living in that reality.
About touching my Mom and loved ones, if only in my mind, my fantasies…Yogi Bear is free, yeah.
Others should be working from within, too, growing better and better, in case they are let out, they become constructive forces in their communities, or for their families, don’t have to come back.
Sure, my brother Terry, you can share my letters, or part of my letters, with everyone. They say i’m breaking all the records for the time in the hole (ugh), which means i’ve been able to endure, and your loving and sincere company is part of this history. Take good care.