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Panthers in the Hole: French Angola 3 Book Illustrates US Prison Crisis –An interview with Nicolas Krameyer of Amnesty International France

4:36 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Panthers in the Hole: French Angola 3 Book Illustrates US Prison Crisis

–An interview with Nicolas Krameyer of Amnesty International France

By Angola 3 News

Amnesty International France and La Boîte à Bulles have published a 128-page French language graphic novel entitled Panthers in the Hole. The book’s co-authors David Cénou and Bruno Cénou present with visual art what Amnesty France describes as “la tragique histoire des Trois d’Angola” (the tragic story of the Angola 3).
photo

Robert H. King, Herman Wallace, and Albert Woodfox are the trio of Black Panther political prisoners known collectively as the Angola 3. On October 1, 2013 Herman Wallace was dramatically released from prison after 41 years in solitary confinement. At the time of his release, he had been fighting terminal liver cancer for several months. Three days later, on Oct. 4, Herman was surrounded by loved ones as he passed on at a friend’s house in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Albert Woodfox remains in solitary confinement to this day and with only temporary respite from routine body cavity searches pending an upcoming ruling by the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. On April 17, 2014, marking 42 years since Albert Woodfox was first placed in solitary,  Amnesty International renewed its call for his immediate release (view Amnesty’s statement and essay) and today continues their online campaign (sign the petition here).

Robert King spent 29 years in continuous solitary confinement until his conviction was overturned and he was released from Louisiana’s infamous Angola State Prison in 2001. Himself the subject of a recent Canadian film, King spoke in Paris, France this past May at an event celebrating the release of Panthers in the Hole and has traveled Europe many times while on earlier speaking tours.

To further discuss the release of Panthers in the Hole and Amnesty France’s broader support for Albert Woodfox and the Angola 3, we interviewed NicolasKrameyer, who is head of the Individuals at Risk / Human Rights Defenders Program for Amnesty International France.

Angola 3 News:         Can you please tell us about your recent work related to the Angola 3?

Nicolas Krameyer:    Amnesty France has made the Angola 3 (A3) a priority campaign.

We included Albert and Herman’s case as part of our biggest annual event, known as Write for Rights in December 2012. In just a few weeks, at least 50,000 supporters signed the petition for an end to their solitary confinement.

We also organized a solidarity campaign where activists sent Herman and Albert messages of support. The letter-writers quickly received very strong and moving answers from Herman and Albert, which we then shared among other activists.

A few months later, we invited Robert King for a two-week speaking tour in France and Brussels, which gave national media coverage to the A3 and the widespread use of solitary confinement in the USA. Both the A3 case and the issue of solitary confinement were totally unknown to the general public. Even the partners and institutions with whom we normally work on human rights activism were not familiar with these issues.

A3N:   What do you think are the main reasons for the French public’s interest?

NK:     Beside the widespread publicity, I think there are 3 key factors that explain why so many people feel now concerned about the Angola 3 case:

(1) The monstrous nature of the case. There are very few examples in the world of such a blatant human rights violation for such a long period of time: more than 4 decades!

(2) The audience could follow the different steps of the clear campaign of vengeance lead by the local Louisiana authorities, like when the prosecutor appealed Albert’s third overturned conviction, or in October 2013 when the State authorities did their most to impede Herman’s release despite his health. That clearly angered people here in France, and one indicator of this was that journalists were publishing articles every time something new happened, which is quite rare.

(3) Lastly, this has been made possible because of Robert’s presence and strength, which he clearly communicated to all types of audiences, from the media to French officials and activists.

A3N:   Overall, how do you think Amnesty France’s A3 and anti-solitary campaigning has impacted France?

NK:     Previously, solitary confinement was not really considered a big human rights issue, except for some rare experts or USA specialists here. Guantanamo and death penalty continue to be the two main public topics in regards to human rights violations known in France. The A3 and Robert King gave a face to that common practice of cruel and inhumane treatment in the USA.

Even if we can’t go into details here, we know that probably for first time, French and EU governments officially raised this issue with their US counterparts.

A3N:   Can you tell us more about the new graphic novel, entitled Panthers in the Hole? How has it been received since being released in May? Read the rest of this entry →

(PHOTO: Artwork displayed at Herman Wallace’s memorial service. See more photos of the memorial service by Ann Harkness.)

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.

Read the rest of this entry →

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.

Fighting Spirit: A Message from Herman Wallace of the Angola 3

5:05 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Below is a new statement from Herman Wallace of the Angola 3, recently diagnosed with cancer.
–PLEASE TAKE ACTION WITH AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Demand Humane Release for Herman! USA, UK, France, Belgium, and elsewhere

On Saturday. August 31st, I was transferred to LSU Hospital for evaluation. I was informed that the chemo treatments had failed and were making matters worse and so all treatment came to an end. The oncologists advised that nothing can be done for me medically within the standard care that they are authorized to provide. They recommended that I be admitted to hospice care to make my remaining days as comfortable as possible. I have been given 2 months to live.

I want the world to know that I am an innocent man and that Albert Woodfox is innocent as well. We are just two of thousands of wrongfully convicted prisoners held captive in the American Gulag. We mourn for the family of Brent Miller and the many other victims of murder who will never be able to find closure for the loss of their loved ones due to the unjust criminal justice system in this country. We mourn for the loss of the families of those unjustly accused who suffer the loss of their loved ones as well.

Only a handful of prisoners globally have withstood the duration of years of harsh and solitary confinement that Albert and myself have.  The State may have stolen my life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast.

In 1970 I took an oath to dedicate my life as a servant of the people, and although I’m down on my back, I remain at your service. I want to thank all of you, my devoted supporters, for being with me to the end.

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?
Read the rest of this entry →

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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Ebony Magazine — Herman Wallace and Nelson Mandela: A Tale of Two Heroes

7:39 am in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

 

 

As public pressure continues to increase for Herman Wallace’s compassionate release, this new article was released by Ebony Magazine. If you have not yet done so, please take action with Amnesty International calling for Herman’s release.

From Ebony Magazine:

Two political prisoners: one past, one present, both lay dying. Two heroes of the Black liberation movement: one revered, one maligned, both endured decades of solitary confinement. Two men: one African, one African-American, both fought for the rights of African peoples. Two names: one internationally known, one unknown to many of his own countrymen. Both names echo the journey to overcome apartheid and segregation.

Although Nelson Mandela and Herman Wallace each fought for racial equity in their respective countries, South Africa and the United States, in the eyes of their governments these men will leave two very different legacies.

Who is Herman Wallace? The fact that you may be unfamiliar with him is neither a surprise nor an accident. For 41 years, Wallace has been confined to a 9ft by 6ft cell in the Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola) for a crime he maintains he did not commit. In 1971 he and his comrades Ronald Ailsworth, Albert Woodfox and Gerald Bryant established a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party with a mission to desegregate the facility, improve race relations, end prison rape and advocate for humane treatment in one of the nation’s most brutal penitentiaries.

For Wallace’s efforts to bring humanity into an existence of indentured servitude, prison guards repeatedly punished Black Panther members and other peacemakers they deemed to be troublemakers. Amid the pervasive prison violence the Panthers sought to quell, guard Brent Miller was stabbed and killed during a melee, and Wallace and two BPP members were implicated without rigorous investigation.

Read the full article at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/black-history/wallace-and-mandela-222#ixzz2ZWS…

Amnesty International: Don’t let Herman Wallace die alone, keep up the pressure

4:47 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Below is the full text of an email action alert sent out today by Amnesty International, who is continuing the push for Herman’s release from prison on humanitarian grounds. We are very thankful for Amnesty’s support.

 

As you may know, Herman Wallace may not have a lot of time left — he’s 71 years old, has advanced liver cancer, and has survived four decades of imprisonment in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions of solitary confinement. But Herman is fighting for his life and for justice.

Today, we wanted to update you and shed just a bit of light into this bleak situation. On Friday, Herman Wallace was reclassified from a maximum to a medium security prisoner. That means he now has access to the day room and will no longer wear leg restraints — an incredible change for someone who has been held in isolation for more than 40 years.

Thank you to the more than 30,000 of you who helped make this possible. The wheels of change may turn more slowly than we’d like, but we remain committed to pursuing justice. Keep up the pressure.We will not give up.

 

Herman Wallace shouldn’t have to die behind bars.

Herman is 71 years old and has advanced liver cancer. He and fellow prisoner Albert Woodfox have been held in solitary confinement longer than anyone else in modern U.S. history. The men have spent the past 41 years of their lives alone in tiny cells for 23 hours a day, deprived of any meaningful human interaction.

No human being deserves to live like this. Herman Wallace should not die alone.

Urge Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to release Herman Wallace.

Why wouldn’t Louisiana officials simply release an elderly prisoner with advanced cancer on humanitarian grounds? Evidence suggests that it is in part because Herman dared to organize and speak out against inhumane treatment and racial segregation inside one of United States’ most brutal prisons.

Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox are the two imprisoned members of the ‘Angola 3′, three young black men who were thrown in solitary confinement after working against continued segregation, systematic corruption, and grave abuses in the infamous Angola prison. Originally imprisoned for unrelated cases of armed robbery, Herman and Albert were later convicted for the murder of a prison guard in 1972. However, no physical evidence links either man to the murder.

In the decades since Herman and Albert’s conviction, numerous legal concerns have risen to the surface from the racially charged underbelly of the U.S. prison system. These are just a few glaring flaws we documented in our report ‘100 Years in Solitary: The ‘Angola 3′ and their Fight for Justice’1:

  • DNA evidence that might have established the men’s innocence was somehow “lost”
  • Outcomes were based on questionable inmate testimony
  • Prison officials bribed the main eyewitness
  • One witness later retracted his testimony

Prison authorities have broken their own policies to justify Herman’s continued incarceration in harsh and inhumane conditions. After decades in these conditions, a highly questionable conviction that continues to be challenged by the courts and the now a tragic prognosis of terminal cancer, the next step seems all too clear: Herman Wallace should be released.

Help begin to correct more than 40 years of injustice right now – call on Louisiana’s Governor Bobby Jindal to release Herman Wallace immediately.

In Solidarity,

Jasmine Heiss
Amnesty International USA

P.S. Please join us in reminding the two men that we are standing with them, even if the state of Louisiana tries to keep them in isolation. Send your letter of support directly to Herman and Albert – show them you care.

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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