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Albert Woodfox Speaks About 42 Years of Solitary Confinement

12:09 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

The essay featured below, Albert Woodfox Speaks to the Experts, from the Why Am I Not Surprised? blog is reprinted in full with permission of the author. 

Now 42 years since Albert was first put in solitary, Amnesty International has renewed its call for Albert’s immediate release (view Amnesty’s recent statement and essay). If you have not yet done so, please sign the Amnesty petition today.

Changeseeker with Albert Woodfox

Albert Woodfox Speaks to the Experts

This past weekend, I visited Albert Woodfox for the umpteenth time in the last five years. All but one of the visits have been at the David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, Louisiana, five hours from where I live.  At the beginning, it was a grueling trip because I wasn’t used to it and I have to go up on Saturday and come back the following day for a total of ten hours behind the wheel in one weekend. Sometimes it rains and once, it poured all the way up and all the way back.

I know I could take someone else along, but visiting somebody that’s been in solitary confinement for what has now been forty-two years is emotionally draining and I don’t want to have to be nicer than I really am for two solid days when I’ve been visiting people in prison since 1971 and every visit eats my lunch.

So I load up on coffee and listen to music or audio books and, over time, I’ve gotten used to the trip. But I’ll never get used to the visits and all the fol-de-rol they put us through just because they can.

Originally, the “rules” allowed us to have two 4-hour visits in a weekend because I live so far away. Though Albert was shackled when he left his cell, the shackles were removed when he got to the visiting room and our visits were conducted sitting at a table where we could eat vending machine food and drink sodas or water. And on holidays, I could purchase a cake at the front door for us to share. The “rules” allowed us to hug at the beginning and at the end of each visit and, on one occasion, the “rules” even allowed us to have a bunch of photos taken, one of which can be seen above.

The most interesting thing about prisons, however, is that the “rules” change all the time, especially for individuals who ostensibly deserve extra punishment for whatever reason. I’m not talking about a prisoner who breaks a rule and goes through a due process that is the same for everyone. I’m talking about a prisoner — like Albert Woodfox — who has been continually tormented for more than forty years because he was one of three men who organized a Black Panther Party chapter in Angola Penitentiary back in the early 1970′s and has now become an international icon of resistance to oppression. Oh, yes. And let’s not forget all the legal suits he’s won and the legal precedents he has set during all those years.

Anyway, the “rules” keep changing for our visits. First, the visits went from four hours to three hours and then they went down to two hours each. So instead of driving ten hours to get eight hours of visiting time, I now drive ten hours to get two 2-hour visits. But it gets worse.

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Action Alert: Demand an end to Arthur “Cetewayo” Johnson’s 34 years in solitary confinement

8:38 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Below is full text (reprinted with permission, and at the request of the authors) of an action alert issued by the newly formed Abolitionist Law Center in Pennsylvania. Please help by taking action and by spreading the word to other like-minded human rights activists.

————————————

Call and write PA DOC Secretary Wetzel today: 717-728-4109; 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

 Cetewayo – A case of 34 years in the hole

 Arthur “Cetewayo” Johnson is a politicized prisoner who has been held in solitary confinement by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) since 1979.

Despite his exemplary disciplinary record of the past 25 years, and his recently turning 61 years old, Cetewayo continues to be subjected to 23-24-hour lockdown in solitary confinement with its attendant austerity, monotony, and deprivations. He has not had human contact with anybody except prison guards in over 30 years.

This is far and away one of the worst cases of state torture in this country – and that is saying something. Decades of social isolation and sensory deprivation is unfathomable, unconstitutional, and in violation of international human rights standards.

On October 3, 2013, Cetewayo had his annual review hearing at SCI Frackville, where officials assess whether to continue his solitary confinement. The final decision will be made by Secretary John Wetzel, so we are asking people to contact his office TODAY and demand an end to the torture.

Call/Write to: PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel, 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050; Phone number: 717-728-4109; Fax: 717-728-4178

Additional background and Talking Points for Action Alert:

Convicted of homicide and sentenced to life without parole in 1971 when he was 18 years old, Cetewayo soon developed a close relationship with imprisoned members of the Black Liberation Movement. As happened to so many of his generation who took up the struggle for human rights, Cetewayo became a target for severe state repression.

Cetewayo was accused of being involved in nine attempted escapes from 1977 to 1987, although several of these were likely fabrications engineered by prison officials. Cetewayo never got off prison grounds or escaped custody during any of these alleged attempts.

After these escape attempts his disciplinary record has been exemplary, receiving less than a handful of misconducts for minor rule violations in the last quarter-century. There have been no allegations of – or actual – escape attempts since 1987.

Human rights begin at home. Cetewayo’s case represents a challenge to human rights activists that is long overdue. Ending the torture and repression of political and politicized prisoners is a core part of rebuilding a mass human rights movement within the U.S.

Support the call to release Cetewayo from solitary confinement!

Talking Points

1)   Use his government name (Arthur Johnson) and prison ID #AF3457.

2)   Arthur Johnson has been a model prisoner for a quarter-century, receiving only minor misconducts during this time.

3)   There is no justification for such prolonged solitary confinement. It violates international human rights standards, is cruel and unusual punishment, and is increasingly recognized as torture.

4)   Solitary confinement is not necessary to prevent escapes, which are extremely rare in the PA DOC anyway.

5)   Many prisoners have been successfully transitioned from long-term solitary confinement without incident, and older prisoners are far less likely to present disciplinary problems.

6)   Even if SCI Frackville does not recommend Johnson for release to the general population, Secretary Wetzel has an obligation to overrule the institution and to respect Johnson’s constitutional and human rights.

CALL AND WRITE TODAY!

Thirty-four consecutive years in solitary is more than long enough!

DEMAND that Cetewayo be placed in general population IMMEDIATELY!

Call/Write to: PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel, 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050; Phone number: 717-728-4109; Fax: 717-728-4178

Tribute to Herman Wallace made for the US Congressional Record

1:39 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Herman Wallace’s sister, Victory Wallace, recently was sent this letter and a copy of the Angola 3 entry in the Congressional Record from Congressman John Conyers, Robert C. Scott, and Cedric L. Richmond. Featured are scans of the letter and entry, as well as a transcription of those documents. “Because of Mr. Wallace’s work, those of us in Congress who have called for his freedom will dedicate our future efforts to ensuring that no one anywhere in the United States is subjected to the unjust and inhumane treatment that he has endured,” said Conyers.
View the actual documents here.
View the Congressmen’s call in July of this year for a Justice Dept investigation into Louisiana prisons, where they cited the Angola 3, here.
Congress of the United States
House of RepresentativesOctober 10, 2013Dear Victory,

We extend our deepest condolences to you and your family on the passing of your brave brother.

Mr. Wallace’s courage and perseverance in fighting the inhumane treatment that he and his Angola 3 inmates were subjected to was an inspiration.

Attached to this letter is a copy of a tribute to Mr. Wallace that the three of us have included in the Congressional Record, which is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress. This tribute will be a permanent entry in the Congressional Record, We hope that you will accept this as a small token of our respect and appreciation for his long years of bringing attention to the plight of prisoners held in unjust conditions.

Sincerely,

John Conyers Jr.
Member of Congress

Robert C. “Bobby” Scott
Member of Congress

Cedric L. Richmond
Member of Congress

——–
The full text of the tribute to Herman Wallace follows:
——–

United States of America; Congressional Record

PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 113th CONGRESS, FIRST SESSION

Vol. 159; WASHINGTON, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2013; No. 136; House of Representatives

SPEECH OF HON. JOHN CONYERS, JR. OF MICHIGAN IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, we rise to commemorate and celebrate the life and contributions of Herman Wallace, one of the bravest champions for justice and human rights whom we have ever met. Nìcknamed “The Muhammad Ali of Justice,” Mr. Wallace was a member of Louisiana’s “Angola 3” who spent 4l years in solitary confinement. Mr. Richmond and I had the opportunity to visit Mr. Wallace at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, justifiably called “the Alcatraz of the South” several years ago. I was impressed by his courage, determination, and dignity. We received word that Mr. Wallace passed away earlier this morning, only three days after he was freed pursuant to a federal judge’s ruling that he had not received a fair trìai in 1974.

Mr. Wallace began his struggle for justice back in the 1970s, when he, along with Robert King and Albert Woodfox, organized a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party at the Angola prison. He worked to desegregate the prison, to end systematic rape and violence, and for better living conditions for the inmates.

Mr. Albert Woodfox, and Robert King spent decades in solitary confinement–confined in cells no bigger than a parking space for 23 hours a day–for murders they say they did not commit. No physical evidence links them to these crimes. Potentially exculpatory DNA evidence has been lost, and the testimony of the main eyewitness has been discredited.

Mr. Wallace showed relentless courage and perseverance in fighting the injustice and inhumane treatment that he and his fellow Angola 3 inmates were subjected to. Even from the confines of solitary confinement, he filed lawsuit after lawsuit in an effort to bring attention to the conditions under which he and the others were being held.

The courts finally heard him this week, and some measure of justice was granted with his release. Mr. Wallace’s conviction has now been overturned. Mr. King’s conviction has been overturned. State and federal judges have overturned Mr. Woodfox’s conviction three times, yet Mr. Woodfox remains in prison–in solitary confinement–because of the State’s appeals.

On behalf of all who believe in fundamental fairness and justice, we commend Mr. Wallace’s courage and determination to keep fighting through 41 long years of solitary confinement. He is an inspiration to all of us.

Mr. Wallace had recently been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. With his release from prison, it was hoped that he would be able to receive the medical care that his advanced liver cancer required. Prior to his passing, Mr. Wallace’s legal team said, however, that his greatest hope was that his case would help ensure that others, especially his fellow Angola 3 member Albert Woodfox, would not continue to suffer the cruel and unusual confinement that he had suffered. Because of Mr. Wallace’s work, those of us in Congress who have called for his freedom will dedicate our future efforts to ensuring that no one anywhere in the United States is subjected to the unjust and inhumane treatment that he has endured.

Mr. Speaker, it was with great sadness that we learned of Mr. Wallace’s passing earlier this morning, nine days shy of his 72nd bìrthday. Mr. Wallace’s personal fight against injustice and the inhuman plight that is long term solitary confinement has ended for him. The larger fight against that injustice must go on, however, and his legacy will endure through a civil lawsuit that he filed jointly with his fellow Angola 3 members, Albert Woodfox and Robert King. That lawsuit seeks to define and abolish long term solitary confinement as cruel and unusual punishment.

Mr. Speaker, we ask my colleagues to join me in honoring Mr. Wallace for his many-decades-long fight for the humane treatment of prisoners. We, and all of us, owe Mr. Wallace a debt of gratitude.

The Day After Herman Wallace’s Release: Today’s Democracy Now! and more

12:12 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

 

Watch the tear jerker episode of Democracy Now! Below is an excerpt from the show:

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by one of the people who met Herman Wallace to deliver the news he would be released: fellow Angola Three member Robert King. Until Tuesday night, King was the only freed member of the Angola Three. He spent 29 years in solitary confinement for a murder he did not commit. He was released in 2001 after his conviction was overturned.

The third member of the Angola Three, Albert Woodfox, remains in prison at the David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, Louisiana. In recent months, he says he’s been subjected to strip searches and anal cavity searches as often as six times a day.

Robert King joins us from Austin, just back from visiting Wallace. In fact, he was the one who delivered the news to Herman Wallace that his conviction had been overturned.

Here in New York, we’re joined by Herman Wallace’s defense attorney, George Kendall.

But first we go directly to the New Orleans hospital where Herman Wallace lies. We’re joined by Jackie Sumell, the artist behind Herman’s House. She joined us on Monday in studio in New Orleans when Democracy Now! was broadcasting from there, broadcasting about the case of Herman Wallace, then still in prison. Now she joins us by phone at the bedside of Herman Wallace from the LSU—Louisiana State University—Medical Center, where Herman Wallace is now.

Jackie, can you talk about Herman’s condition at this point?

JACKIE SUMELL: Yeah, good morning, Amy. Herman has taken a turn for the worse. At about 3:00 in the morning, I got a phone call from one of the other supporters, who said, “You should come in.” The doctors aren’t sure if his kidneys are also failing, as well as his liver. So I’ve been with him since 3:00. He’s not very—he’s able to speak a word, like if you move him around, he’ll yell or indicate that he’s uncomfortable, but he doesn’t seem to be cognizant in any other way. Yeah, it’s a really intense time right now. And it’s myself and a few other long-term supporters and his sister that are bedside with him.

AMY GOODMAN: Jackie, did he understand yesterday at the prison that he was being released?

JACKIE SUMELL: You’d have to ask George and King whether or not he understood it at the prison. I know that he did understand it last night when we had about a hundred supporters cheering him on, welcoming him home with banners and signs, chanting “Power to the people!” He was very cognizant then. You know, this turn for the worse happened, like I said, at about 2:30, 3:00 this morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s turn to Robert King, another member of the Angola Three. Robert King is free after 29 years. Albert Woodfox remains in prison. And, of course, as we said, Herman Wallace, in a complete surprise move of a federal judge, had his conviction overturned yesterday with a demand for his immediate release, which happened last night. Robert King, you were in prison with Herman Wallace visiting him to say your final goodbye as he lay dying of liver cancer. You delivered the news to him about the overturning of his conviction. How did Herman respond?

Read more on Democracy Now! 

Herman Wallace on a stretcher after his release.

Herman Wallace after his release.

From the A3 Coalition:

Yesterday was truly an amazing day! We want to thank all of our supporters and we will have more photos and information soon. Until then, we want to share with you the two ‘update’ posts we released yesterday (partially posted at FDL as followup comments). The first reported on Judge Jackson’s second order for Herman’s release, and the second was the announcement of Herman’s actual release. Links to a wide range of media coverage are also included. We are also featuring several photos from last night taken by A3 supporters, posted at Flickr and Indybay. Also be sure to view the touching photos of Herman taken by the Times-Picayune.

MEDIA COVERAGE:  Oct. 2 episode of Democracy Now (embedded above)  II  NY Times  II  CNN  II  Times-Picayune (with photos of Herman’s release)  II  NBC  II  ABC / AP  II  South China Morning Post / AFP  II NY Daily News / Reuters  II  Huffington Post Live TV (w/ Robert King)  II WAFB CBS News Baton Rouge (video)  II  CBS National News  II  UPI  II  Catholic Online (w/ WGNO ABC video of Herman’s arrive at LSU)  II  The Independent, UK  II  Medical Daily

Judge Jackson Denies State’s Request for a Stay and Issues Second Order for Herman Wallace’s Immediate Release

MEDIA COVERAGE:  Times Picayune–Herman Wallace must be released immediately or state will face contempt charge, judge rules  II  CNN

(Posted at 7:05 pm EST)  After this morning’s bombshell ruling by Judge Jackson overturning Herman’s convictionand ordering his immediate release, his legal team has spent the day trying to convince Louisiana officials to do as the Court requires and let him go free.

As some outlets have reported, an ambulance has been outside the prison all afternoon ready to transport him out of prison to supporter sponsored accommodations complete with hospice care, but the State stubbornly refused release and filed a motion to Stay.

Just moments ago, Judge Jackson issued an order (view the court document here) denying the State’s desperate attempt at keeping Herman behind bars, again ordered his release, and cautioned Louisiana officials that their failure to release him immediately would put them in Contempt of Court. We will update you as soon as we hear any more news.

Free At Last! Herman Has Finally Been Released

MEDIA COVERAGE:  CNN  II  Times-Picayune (features photos of Herman’s release)  II  NBC  II  ABC / Associated Press

(Posted at 9:15 pm EST)  After a long, dramatic day, we are humbled to report that the indomitable, irrepressible Herman Wallace has just been released after spending over 4 decades in solitary confinement.

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Torture by Design: Saying No to the Architecture of Solitary Confinement –An interview with Raphael Sperry

7:53 am in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Torture by Design: Saying No to the Architecture of Solitary Confinement and Cruelty
–An interview with Raphael Sperry

By Angola 3 News

Jerry, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition


Friday, August 16 marked the 40th consecutive day of a multi-ethnic statewide prisoner hunger strike initiated from inside the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of California’s Pelican Bay State Prison. When the strike first began on July 8, the ‘California Department of Corrections and Reform’ (CDCR) reported 30,000 participants statewide, which the Los Angeles Times reported “could be the largest prison protest in state history.”

This week, as the striking prisoners’ health continued to worsen, the families of prisoners and supporters gathered on the steps of the State Capitol building in Sacramento, and over 120 health professionals called “upon Governor Jerry Brown and Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the CDCR, to immediately enter into good-faith negotiations with the prisoner representatives, and to respond to their demands, in order to end this crisis before lives are lost.”

The current hunger strike follows on the heels of a similar 2011 strike that was also initiated from the Pelican Bay SHU, with the same five demands. Further illustrating the scandalous nature of California’s prison system, this month the US Supreme Court ruling once again that 10,000 prisoners must be removed from state prisons, and documentation has emerged of widespread sterilization of California’s female prisoners.

As the horror of solitary confinement comes under increasing scrutiny in the US and around the world,  human rights activists are confronting this public health and safety epidemic from a variety of angles. One group, called Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) has challenged solitary confinement in US prisons by recently launching a Change.org petition “asking the American Institute of Architects (AIA, the mainstream professional association for architects) to amend its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to prohibit the design of spaces for killing, torture, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In the United States, this comprises the design of execution chambers and super-maximum security prisons (‘supermax’), where solitary confinement is an intolerable form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. As people of conscience and as a profession dedicated to improving the built environment for all people, we cannot participate in the design of spaces that violate human life and dignity. Participating in the development of buildings designed for killing, torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading is fundamentally incompatible with professional practice that respects standards of decency and human rights. AIA has the opportunity to lead our profession in upholding human rights.”

In this interview, we speak with Raphael Sperry, an architect and President of Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR).  He is a Soros Justice Fellow and advocates for architects to engage with issues of human rights in the built environment, especially in U.S. prisons. He has participated in the design of airports, office towers, and private homes among other building types, and has taught architecture at Stanford University and California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Angola 3 News:  For years now, CA prison authorities have cited alleged ‘gang’ affiliations as the official reason for so many prisoners’ placement in prolonged solitary confinement. Recently, CDCR authorities have publicly claimed that the ongoing CA prison hunger strike is a ‘gang conspiracy.’ What do you think of the authorities’ continuing refusal to acknowledge that the hunger strikers’ demands have even a hint of legitimacy?
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A3 Newsletter: On a Move, But the Struggle Continues (Updates on Herman Wallace and more)

9:50 am in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

(Published by the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, on August 5, 2013)

On July 12, Louisiana’s Hunt prison reduced Herman Wallace’s classification from maximum to medium security and transferred him out of solitary confinement into a 10-bunk dorm inside the prison hospital, where he has access to a day room, and does not have to wear leg irons.

While celebrating the more humane conditions, we emphasize that the transfer from solitary is not enough and we are asking folks to continue supporting Amnesty International’s call for compassionate release. If you have not yet done so, please take action here.

Expedited Review of Herman’s Case

There is also some exciting news in Herman’s long dormant habeas case. Judge Jackson began a recent status conference with Herman’s legal team by granting Herman’s request for expedited review.  He said he will not issue a formal ruling but has spoken with the Magistrate Judge (Riedlinger) and gotten assurances that he can and will issue his recommendation within 30 days. Then each side will have 14 days to submit simultaneous responses, and another 14 days after receiving the other’s first response to rebut. Judge Jackson said he is prepared to rule as soon as both sides have their final say.

Herman’s Health

In more disturbing news, it also came to light last week that the medical team at LSU, where the prison took Herman to for diagnosis 6 weeks ago, had actually ordered 2 rounds of oral chemo, to have started then, 6 weeks ago. However, the prison failed to administer this altogether, and as a consequence Herman’s tumor has continued to grow.  This proves what was already suspected–that the prison is not providing anything close to a reasonable standard of care. In fact it seems to be intentionally disregarding the medical advice that they themselves had sought. This is on the heels of a diagnosis that, by expert opinion, is at least six months later than it should have been given Herman’s recent medical past.  After some quick pressure from the legal team, Herman has now begun his oral chemo regimen. He has not yet experienced any pain related to the treatments and seems to have regained his appetite. Hopefully they can help slow the progress of his disease and give us some much needed time to ensure that his does not become the poster case for “justice delayed is justice denied.”

A3 Together Again

In more heartwarming news, last week Herman, Albert, and Robert were together again for the first time in several years, thanks to a court order granting them time to meet jointly with their attorneys in the lead up to the civil case next summer.  Obviously, they had tons of business to discuss during the 6 hour meeting, but as those lucky enough to have spent time with them in person know, there is something intangibly magical about each of these incredible men individually, and therefore something incredibly powerful and productive about them all being together in the same room once again. The attorneys have gotten a court order to have regular monthly meetings leading up to the trial next June.

New Song Dedicated to Herman

Amy Ray from the Indigo Girls has just released a new song inspired by Herman Wallace and the Angola 3, entitled The Rise of the Black Messiah. The song’s title is a reference to the infamous March 3, 1968 FBI COINTELPRO memorandum from one month before Martin Luther King’s assassination, declaring the need to “prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement,” with the then anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist King cited by the FBI as a potential ‘messiah.’

Reflecting on making her song about Herman, Amy Ray describes the challenge of finding words to describe what Herman has been subjected to: “Any person, let alone an innocent one suffering in solitary confinement for 40 years, is just paralyzing. There are no gray areas in the case of the Angola 3, this is clearly an abuse of human rights, but the historical context of it is so mind-blowing that it’s hard to write about.”

–Read Amy Ray’s full accompanying essay and listen to / download The Rise of the Black Messiah here.

A3 Solidarity With CA Prisoner Hunger Strike

Albert, Herman and Robert have all been involved in numerous hunger strikes from their early 1970′s strikes demanding that food trays not be shoved under the cell door on the floor for sanitary reasons, to their last hunger strike in 1998 to protest the prisons reduction of their hard won contact visit privileges and other diminishing rights.

Robert says: “During the early seventies, Albert, Herman, and I participated in hunger strikes. We understood then (and now) that this was an effective ‘tool’ to get the attention of the prison administration, and it sets the stage for further negotiations.”

This week, our media activist project, Angola 3 News, published video coverage of the July 31 protest in Oakland, organized in support of the hunger strikers in California. You can watch our short video clips of three different speakers here.

For the latest news on the hunger strike, stay tuned here.

VIDEOS: Oakland Protest Supporting CA Prisoner Hunger Strike (featuring Danny Murillo, Janetta Louise Johnson and Paige Kumm)

2:25 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

At lunchtime on Wednesday July 31, Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza in downtown Oakland hosted a protest rally in support of the CA prisoner hunger strike that began on July 8. The rally was followed by a spirited march through downtown Oakland (view event photos here). This event was held in conjunction with other solidarity events around the world.

The rally’s MC, Jerry Elster from All of Us or None, announced the upcoming protest outside the west gate of San Quentin Prison at 2pm on August 3, and introduced a wide range of anti-prison activists who spoke in support of the current hunger strike in California prisons. Featured here are video clips from three of the rally’s speakers.

–Danny Murillo survived 14 years of solitary confinement in California prisons and is currently a student at the University of California at Berkeley.

–Janetta Louise Johnson from Transgender Intersex Gender Variant Justice, where she works as Program Coordinator for Member Leadership Development and the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement. TGI Justice, who recently made a statement of support for the hunger strike, describes itself as “a group of transgender people—inside and outside of prison—creating a united family in the struggle for survival and freedom,” whose membership includes “low income transgender women of color and our families who are in prison, formerly incarcerated, or targeted by the police.”

–Paige Kumm from Causa Justa – Just Cause, where she works as a San Francisco Housing Rights Counselor/Organizer. The groups mission statement is to build “grassroots power and leadership to create strong, equitable communities. Born from a visionary merger between a Black organization and a Latino immigrant organization, we build bridges of solidarity between working class communities of color.”

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Opening the Box: Sarah Shourd on Herman Wallace, California Hunger Strikers and the Horror of Solitary Confinement

10:51 am in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

(View new photo of Herman Wallace without leg irons, using an exercise bike, following his recent transfer from solitary confinement. Herman wanted to show supporters he is fighting to survive.)

Opening the Box: Sarah Shourd on Herman Wallace, California Hunger Strikers and the Horror of Solitary Confinement

By Angola 3 News

Who is Herman Wallace? .com
Last month, we were devastated to learn that the Angola 3’s Herman Wallace had been diagnosed with liver cancer, and that he was continuing to be held in isolation in a locked room at Hunt Correctional Center’s prison infirmary. Reflecting on his confinement while battling cancer, Herman said: “My own body has now become a tool of torture against me.”

On July 10, Amnesty International launched a campaign directed at Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, calling for Herman’s immediate release on humanitarian grounds (take action here). “After decades of cruel conditions and a conviction that continues to be challenged by the courts, he should be released immediately to his family so that he can be cared for humanely during his last months,” said Amnesty USA campaigner Tessa Murphy.
In recent years, Amnesty has initiated other campaigns challenging the over 41 years spent in solitary confinement by Herman and Albert Woodfox, also of the Angola 3, including the April 17, 2012 delivery of a 67,000 signature petition to LA Governor Jindal demanding Albert and Herman’s immediate release from solitary. Earlier this year, Amnesty called on Louisiana Attorney General James Caldwell to not appeal the US District Court’s overturning of Albert’s conviction. More recently, accompanying their call for Herman’s release, Amnesty also expressed concern about “the worsening conditions of confinement” for Albert at David Wade Correctional Center, where he remains in solitary confinement. “For approximately two months, Woodfox has been subjected to additional punitive measures – including strip searches each time he leaves or enters his cell, being escorted in ankle and wrist restraints, restricted phone access, and non-contact visits through a perforated metal screen. Temperatures in the prison cells are reportedly extremely high, regularly reaching up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit,” wrote Amnesty.

Public outrage intensified on Friday, July 12, when a letter citing the Angola 3 case, was sent to the Civil Rights Division of the US Justice Department by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the full U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, and Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-La.). The letter called for an investigation of the Louisiana Departments of Corrections for its “abysmal history of protecting the rights of its prisoners,” of which the “tragic story of the Angola 3 is a case in point.”

About Herman Wallace, the Congressmen wrote: “We have heard that he lost over 50 pounds within 6 months.  Despite that dramatic weight loss, and at 72 years old, the prison did nothing to treat or diagnose him until he was sent to an emergency room on June 14.   Given the late stage of his diagnosis, his treatment options are now limited.  He is frail and ill, but is still being treated as if he is a threat to security, and we hear that he remains under lockdown conditions. This is unconscionable.”

Within hours of the letter’s release, Herman Wallace was transferred out of solitary confinement, when Louisiana’s Hunt prison reduced his classification from maximum to medium security. Herman is now staying at the prison hospital in a 10-bunk dorm, with access to a day room, and does not have to wear leg irons anymore. While celebrating the more human conditions, Herman and the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 emphasize that the transfer from solitary is not enough. They are asking folks to continue supporting Amnesty International’s call for humane release. The Angola 3’s Robert H. King, himself released in 2001 after 29 years in solitary confinement, says, “The wind is at our back and with your continued help our objective will be realized – freedom is in sight.”

The case of the Angola 3 is at the center of a 42-day fundraising drive begun for a touring play, entitled Opening the Box, that will focus on the use of prolonged solitary confinement in US prisons. The choice of fundraising for 42 days is a tribute to the almost 42 years spent in solitary by Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox. The writer and producer of Opening the Box, Sarah Shourd, is herself a survivor, having spent 410 days in solitary confinement while held as a political hostage by the Iranian Government from 2009-2010. After returning to the US, she successfully fought for the release of her now-husband Shane Bauer and friend Josh Fatal.

Conceived specifically “to add to the momentum of a burgeoning movement” against solitary, Shourd will be working with Solitary Watch to “collect real stories from a diverse spectrum of people living in solitary confinement today–immigrants, children, lifers and women. Then, I’m going to write a play about it and go on tour.”

“While watching this play, I want the audience to breathe along with a young man having a panic attack after being denied a visit with his mother, to crawl inside the skin of an immigrant detainee terrified of being deported and to travel with a lifer on a magic carpet of memory–only to be pulled back into the stark, implacable reality of the hole. By hearing these stories, my hope is that the audience will be able to relate to the men and women enduring this torture in our prisons, to their pain but also to their resistance to the dehumanizing forces around them, their incredible resilience…and their refusal to be institutionalized,” explains Shourd.

In this interview, which Shourd dedicates to Herman Wallace, we take a closer look at her project, Opening the Box, as well as the ongoing prisoner hunger strike in California, the Angola 3 case, and the politics of prisons in the US. Currently based in Oakland, California, Shourd is an author and Contributing Editor at Solitary Watch. Before being captured by the Iranian government, Shourd was living in a Palestinian Refugee Camp in Damascus, Syria, working as a journalist and teaching for the Iraqi Student Project. She’s written for The New York Times, CNN, Newsweek’s Daily Beast and has a blog on Huffington Post. Her memoir (co-authored by Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal) will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Spring 2014. To learn more visit sarahshourd.com and/or follow her on Twiiter @SShourd.

Angola 3 News:         Why did you choose to spotlight the case of the Angola 3 with 42 days of fundraising?
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Reps. Richmond, Conyers, Nadler, and Scott ask DOJ to investigage Louisiana Prisons; Cite Angola 3 case

5:04 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Below is the full text of the letter to the US Department of Justice and the accompanying press release issued today (view a PDF of the original letter).

For Immediate Release
Date: Friday, July 12, 2013 Contact: Andrew Schreiber (Conyers) – 202-225-6906
John Doty (Nadler) – 202-225-5635 David Dailey (Scott) – 202-225-8351
Monique Waters (Richmond) – 202-225-6636

Reps. Richmond, Conyers, Nadler, and Scott Lead Letter Calling for Investigation into Several Louisiana Prison Facilities

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the full U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, and Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) sent a letter to the Department of Justice’s Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez calling for investigations into the alarming conditions in several Louisiana state prison facilities. Specifically, the Members expressed deep concern that the Louisiana Department of Corrections has, “engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the United States Constitution and federal law in its use of such confinement and detention practices.” In the letter the Representatives urge the Attorney General to begin an investigation into the use of solitary confinement, and other troubling detention practices, in numerous Louisiana prison facilities, especially in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Louisiana.

The full version of the letter transmitted to the Department of Justice can be found below:

July 12, 2013

Honorable Thomas E. Perez
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Assistant Attorney General Perez:

Under the authority granted to the Attorney General pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Prisoners Act (“CRIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997, we urge you to begin an in depth investigation into the egregious and extensive use of solitary confinement and other troubling detention practices in various Louisiana prison facilities, especially the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Louisiana (“Angola”).  We have reason to believe that the Louisiana Department of Corrections (“Louisiana DOC”) has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the United States Constitution and federal law in its use of such confinement and detention practices. We believe that an investigation of conditions at Angola and other facilities under the control of the Louisiana DOC could yield evidence of knowing violations of the 14th Amendment Due Process Clause, the 8th Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, as well as numerous additional violations of prisoners’ statutory and constitutional rights.

The Louisiana DOC has an abysmal history of protecting the rights of its prisoners, and the tragic story of the Angola 3 is a case in point.  Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were charged with murder and convicted with evidence that has been called into question by numerous courts and stakeholders, including the victim’s wife. Another inmate, Robert King, was also subjected to decades of isolation after a wrongful conviction. His conviction was overturned and he was released in 2002.  Although held in isolation for being a purported threat to prison security, since his release he has toured the world speaking about his ordeal in isolation, and he was recently awarded an honorary Ph.D. from Cambridge University in England.

Since their convictions (which are currently under review in federal court), Woodfox and Wallace have endured over four decades of isolation.  This is an unprecedented period of time by any standard, and quite possibly the longest any person has spent in solitary confinement worldwide.  Within the last five years, Woodfox and Wallace have been transferred from Angola to other facilities in the Louisiana prison system, including the David Wade Correctional Center (“Wade”) and the Evalyn Hunt Correctional Center (“Hunt”), where we understand the very same complained-of constitutional and statutory violations have been perpetuated.  We understand that upon their transfers, brand new Closed Cell Restricted (“CCR”) tiers were created at these facilities, and additional inmates are now also confined on these tiers.  We have reason to believe that, as at Angola, many of the inmates housed in the CCR tiers of Hunt and Wade suffer from mental health and other serious illnesses.  Woodfox and Wallace continue to be held apart from the general prison population, to the detriment of their mental and physical health.

Indeed, after years of what we have been informed was sub-standard medical care, Herman Wallace was diagnosed just weeks ago with liver cancer.  We have heard that he lost over 50 pounds within 6 months.  Despite that dramatic weight loss, and at 72 years old, the prison did nothing to treat or diagnose him until he was sent to an emergency room on June 14.   Given the late stage of his diagnosis, his treatment options are now limited.  He is frail and ill, but is still being treated as if he is a threat to security, and we hear that he remains under lockdown conditions. This is unconscionable.

We also have reason to believe that at the Wade facility, 68-year-old Woodfox, and all CCR inmates there, are being subjected to daily strip searches whenever they enter or exit their cells, even when there is no basis or reasonable suspicion that they might be in possession of contraband.  We have been told that even when Woodfox is removed from his cell to go to the exercise yard, where he is being kept under surveillance of guards and apart from any other inmates or prison visitors, he is strip searched when he leaves his cell and upon return.

Moreover, we have reason to believe that the Louisiana DOC continues to knowingly engage in behavior that violates the due process rights of inmates held in solitary confinement.  The requirements of the 14th Amendment Due Process Clause call for periodic, meaningful hearings on the question of whether a prisoner should be held for continued closed cell restriction.  Yet, we are told that in many Louisiana DOC facilities, officials orchestrate sham 90-day reviews that take no consideration of a prisoner’s conduct while he was in solitary or the prisoner’s state of mind, and do not attempt to determine, by any defined standard, whether the prisoner should be released to a less restrictive cellblock or dormitory.  We have been informed that there may be more than 100 inmates who have been subjected to these fictitious reviews.

In addition to the above-detailed due process violations, this use of prolonged isolation over a period of 40 years at Angola and other Louisiana DOC facilities is indicative of cruel and unusual punishment, and its blatant and persistent use suggests that this practice is pervasive and not confined to the Angola 3. We have reason to believe that there are other inmates who have received less attention from the press who have also been subject to such onerous, punitive periods of isolation.

We do not allege these apparently unconstitutional patterns and practices lightly. Over the past 6 years we have engaged officials, inmates and stakeholders in conversations about conditions at the prison, and most of what we have heard is alarming.  Recently, lawyers representing inmates on Angola’s death row filed suit in federal court alleging that the conditions of confinement there are inhumane because the tiers are not air-conditioned, and the heat index goes as high as 195 degrees Fahrenheit in summer months.  On July 2, 2013, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Brian Jackson in the Middle District of Louisiana issued an order in that case directing that temperature data be collected for 21 straight days in advance of an evidentiary hearing set for August 5.  Just as with the death row at Angola, the CCR tiers at Angola, Wade and Hunt have no air-conditioning in the scorching Louisiana summer heat.

Finally, we have reason to believe that Louisiana DOC employees have colluded with persons from the Office of the Louisiana Attorney General to fabricate violations of prison rules to unjustifiably punish inmates. Significant issues also exist related to prisoners’ personal safety, unhealthy environmental conditions, inhumane sanitary conditions and excessive use of force by prison staff.  We have been told that e-mails between the Louisiana Attorney General’s office and Louisiana DOC employees document that, in the Fall of 2008, staff of the Attorney General’s office and Angola prison “joined forces,” as a February 10, 2010 Order of the federal District Court describes it, to search a year’s-worth of Wallace and Woodfox’s recorded phone calls for “‘sufficient justification for stiff disciplinary action.’”  Wilkerson v. Stalder, No. 00-304 (M.D.La.) (Doc. No. 374 at 9, 10).  This search coincided with proceedings related to Woodfox’s motion for bail after he was granted habeas relief by the federal District Court which was later overturned by a split Fifth Circuit panel.  We are told that as a result of their efforts to find pretextual disciplinary violations—which involved staff of the Attorney General’s office requesting and listening to privileged attorney-client calls—Wallace and Woodfox were written up for phone call violations; sentenced to a removal from the dormitory setting where they had peacefully resided for eight months; and placed back into isolation, where they remain today.

In this day and age, the federal government simply cannot abide unconstitutional behavior of this magnitude from those who run corrections facilities. It simply cannot be that in this country, a state can subject men to inhumane solitary confinement conditions, for decades on end, with no standards for the review procedures in place to ensure that such profoundly harsh confinement is justified, without intervention by our federal government.  As the Supreme Court found in Brown v. Plata, “prisoners retain the essence of human dignity inherent in all persons.”

In this spirit, we ask that the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section use the Department’s statutory CRIPA authority to investigate and ultimately take all appropriate action to ensure that Louisiana’s prison system fully complies with the mandates of the Constitution and all applicable statutes.  The Division’s work in the Orleans Parish Prison and St. Tammany Parish Jail cases have sent a strong signal that the Department is serious about its obligation to protect the rights of institutionalized persons in the State of Louisiana.  The situation at Angola, especially the treatment of the Angola 3, is ripe for investigation and immediate action.  We look forward to your earliest response.

Sincerely,
Cedric L. Richmond, Member of Congress
John Conyers Jr., Member of Congress
Jerrold Nadler, Member of Congress
Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, Member of Congress

cc:

Roy Austin, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice

Jocelyn Samuel, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice

Peter J. Kadzik, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legislative Affairs, Department of Justice

Jonathan M. Smith, Chief, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, Department of Justice

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte, Chairman, House Committee on the Judiciary

TAKE ACTION: Amnesty International Calls for Herman Wallace’s Release

5:31 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Please take action here!

Today, in response to the tragic news that Herman Wallace is terminally ill with cancer, Amnesty International has launched a campaign calling for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to immediately release Herman on humanitarian grounds.

Following his initial diagnosis on June 14, Herman continues to be held in isolation at Hunt Correctional Center’s prison infirmary. Reflecting on his confinement while battling cancer, Herman says: “My own body has now become a tool of torture against me.”

“After decades of cruel conditions and a conviction that continues to be challenged by the courts, he should be released immediately to his family so that he can be cared for humanely during his last months,” says Tessa Murphy, USA campaigner, about Herman Wallace.

Amnesty International has long criticized the legal process and lack of evidence that has resulted in both Herman and Albert Woodfox’s original murder convictions. In confronting Herman and Albert’s continued cruel confinement in solitary for over 40 years, Amnesty has declared it to be in violation of international human rights law, as well as the US Constitution itself.

In today’s statement, Amnesty declares that in the decades of Herman and Albert’s confinement, the “prison authorities have broken their own policies to justify their continued incarceration in harsh and inhumane conditions.” Amnesty also states that they are, “extremely concerned about the worsening conditions of confinement” for Albert in David Wade Correctional Center.

Creating public pressure for Herman is now more important than ever. We need Governor Jindal to get hundreds of thousands of emails demanding Herman’s immediate release, so please take action now and help us spread the word by posting on Facebook and forwarding it to your friends.

–The full text of the ‘take action’ email to Bobby Jindal – Governor of Louisiana, Paul Rainwater – Chief of Staff, Emily Riser – Executive Assistant,  and Tammy Woods – Assistant Chief of Staff reads:

Subject: We Call For Humane Release!

As I write you, 71 year old Herman Wallace is being held in isolation in the infirmary in Hunt Correctional Center. After spending more than four decades held in cruel and unusual solitary confinement, he has been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. The time to act is now. I ask you to release Herman to his family on humanitarian grounds, so that they can care for him during his last months on earth.

Both Herman Wallace and fellow ‘Angola 3′ prisoner Albert Woodfox have spent most of the past 41 years of their lives alone in a tiny cell for 23 hours a day. Such conditions are cruel, inhuman and degrading. Prior to Wallace’s cancer diagnosis, these conditions had already negatively impacted both men’s physical and psychological health. In fact, in 2007, a US federal judge ruled that the conditions constituted a deprivation of a basic human need and that prison officials should have been aware of the potential for serious harm to physical and mental health.

Contrary to requirements under both international human rights law and the US Constitution, Herman has had no meaningful review of his continued isolation. Herman’s prison records do not demonstrate that he is a threat to the security of the institution, himself or others. Furthermore, there are substantial concerns about the fairness of the legal process that resulted in Herman’s conviction; a conviction that is still being challenged before the courts today. Evidence suggests that the decision to keep him in solitary is based at least in part on his political activism and association with the Black Panther party.

Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox are believed to have spent more time in solitary confinement than virtually any other US prisoner in recent history. Now, after surviving 41 years of a nightmare, Herman doesn’t have much time left. Please release Herman to his family today.

(end of email text)

–Below is the full text of Amnesty International’s July 10, 2013 press release.

Amnesty International Appeals for Release of Terminally Ill ‘Angola 3′ Prisoner, after 40 Years in Solitary Confinement

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @AIUSAmedia

(NEW YORK) – Amnesty International appealed to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal today to immediately release from prison on humanitarian grounds. Herman Wallace, one of the ‘Angola 3,’ is terminally ill with cancer and has been imprisoned in solitary confinement for more than 40 years.

“Herman Wallace is 71 years old and has advanced liver cancer,” said Tessa Murphy, USA campaigner at Amnesty International. “After decades of cruel conditions and a conviction that continues to be challenged by the courts, he should be released immediately to his family so that he can be cared for humanely during his last months.”

Wallace was diagnosed with cancer after being taken to hospital on June 14. He had been on medication for some time for what was diagnosed as a stomach fungus and over the last months, has lost considerable weight. He is now being held in isolation in the infirmary at Hunt Correctional Center.

Wallace and fellow prisoner Albert Woodfox were first placed in isolation in 1972; since then they have been confined for 23 hours a day to cells measuring 6 by 9 feet.

Both men were convicted of the murder of a prison guard in 1973, yet no physical evidence links them to the crime – potentially exculpatory DNA evidence has been lost and the testimony of the main eyewitness has been discredited. Citing racial discrimination, misconduct by the prosecution, and inadequate defense, state and federal judges have overturned Woodfox’s conviction three times, while Wallace’s case is once again up for review before the federal courts.

The two men are believed to have spent longer in solitary confinement than virtually any other U.S. prisoner in recent history. During this time, prison authorities have broken their own policies to justify their continued incarceration in harsh and inhumane conditions.

Before Wallace’s cancer diagnosis, the harsh environment had already had an impact on both the man’s physical and psychological health as acknowledged by a federal judge in 2007. The severe toll of solitary confinement on inmates’ mental and physical health has been extensively documented in studies. In recognition of this damage, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, has called on states to prohibit the practice in excess of 15 days.

Amnesty International is also extremely concerned about the worsening conditions of confinement for Woodfox in David Wade Correctional Center. For approximately two months, Woodfox has been subjected to additional punitive measures – including strip searches each time he leaves or enters his cell, being escorted in ankle and wrist restraints, restricted phone access, and non-contact visits through a perforated metal screen. Temperatures in the prison cells are reportedly extremely high, regularly reaching up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists, and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.