The case of 84-year-old Sundiata Acoli, who is low risk of re-offending, shows the limits of pandemic relief for incarcerated people.
SUNDIATA ACOLI IS 84 years old and has been in prison for nearly half a century. When the state of New Jersey locked him up in 1974, Acoli was not sentenced to die behind bars; he has been eligible for parole for almost three decades. The much-loved father and grandfather has an exemplary disciplinary record and a stellar history of work and academic achievement while incarcerated.
His parole bid in February was denied. Acoli will likely not live long enough to appear before the board again.
The idea that this elderly Black community leader could be a risk to society outside the prison walls is laughable. Yet Acoli’s release does not appear to be on the horizon. He has been consistently denied parole since the early 1990s. His last bid, in February, was again denied. The parole board determined that he should be considered ineligible for another hearing for an extended but unspecified period of time. Acoli will likely not live long enough to appear before the board again.
He is in poor health, as you might expect at his age, after enduring 48 years of prison’s effects on the body. His conditions include advancing dementia, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, emphysema, and glaucoma. Acoli survived a serious Covid-19 infection last year, which left him 30 pounds lighter and more infirm.
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