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Albert Woodfox Has Been Denied Contact Visits for Almost 2 Years; Please take action!

4:51 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

(PHOTO: Albert Woodfox, left, embraces Herman Wallace, right)

 

Action alert written by the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3

 

In Homer Louisiana, Albert Woodfox remains in his cell – 42 years in solitary and held under increasingly severe restrictions. From the unnecessary and extensive use of the black-box during transport, to the ‘catch-22′ system making it impossible for Albert to have contact visits, it appears that the response to his most recent court victory is to continue turning the screws ever tighter.

Not surprisingly, the Louisiana Attorney General has filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit Court asking them to review their recent ruling that upheld a lower court’s 2013 overturning of Albert’s conviction. We anticipate a response from the Fifth Circuit in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, want to register our concern with the Louisiana Department of Corrections about the recent denial of contact visits to Albert, as explained further in the section below. We hope you’ll join us in contacting the Department of Corrections to request that they apply their visitation policy fairly.

Louisiana DOC Violates Own Policy to Wrongfully Deny Albert Contact Visits

Albert Woodfox, the last of the Angola 3 behind bars, has now been denied contact visits for almost two consecutive years.  During the latter part of his nearly 40 years at Angola, and for the first few at David Wade Correctional Center in Northern Louisiana where he has been held since 2010, Albert was allowed contact visits on occasion with people on his approved visiting list, as well as less frequent ones with “special visitors” pre-approved in advance on an individual one time basis.

Only months after Albert’s conviction was overturned a third time, Wade officials cut off all contact visits without explanation.  After pressure from Albert to reinstate the visits, the South Compound Supervisor Colonel Lonnie Nail, who oversees visiting at the prison, has agreed to allow the visits again, but only if Albert and others in CCR comply with the irregular and essentially impossible task of providing a list of who is coming for a contact visit on a particular day so that the Colonel can personally re-screen and re-approve the visitors, a process that is not only onerous but in violation of the Louisiana DOC’s own Visitation policy.

In the past, at times when contact visits were more generally allowed, Albert was allowed 2 full days per month for contact visits with anyone on his permanent visiting list (up to 5 at one time), without having to supply the exact date of future visits and certainly without additional screening of pre-approved visitors.

Visiting is not a right for prisoners, especially those in CCR.  In Louisiana, some of the details of visiting are left to the discretion of each institution, but statewide there is a detailed visitation policy which among other rights, allows all inmates to put up to 10 people on a “permanent” visiting list.  In order to receive a permanent slot, visitors must first pass extensive screening and background checks conducted by both the Louisiana Department of Corrections and the institution where the inmate is housed, as well as followup checks every two years.

As long as inmates have not had their privileges revoked for a specific institution-wide security concern, the pre-approved visitors on each inmate’s list can then arrive on any visiting day and have a contact visit with the prisoner.

Albert has repeatedly told Colonel Nail that it is impossible for him to know who is coming to visit him on any given visiting day given his lack of real time contact with the outside world, and he strongly believes that people on his permanent visiting list should not have to be re-subjected to an additional round of screening before each visit after already having been extensively vetted.  The DOC’s own visitation policy backs him up.

Based upon his own experience of spending 29 years in solitary confinement, Robert explains that the significance for Albert and all prisoners of having access to contact visits cannot be overstated. “I know how important they were for me. I went for a while without contact visits, but as I began receiving letters from supporters and eventually began to have contact visits, it was really uplifting for me and it freed my humanity. Contact visits were therapeutic and helped to combat the overwhelming sense of isolation. It means so much when you can embrace someone you love and have been separated from.”

TAKE ACTION – Operation “Give Albert a Hug for the Holidays”

Please take a moment today to remind the State that they can’t just continue to torture Albert and violate their own policies on our watch.  Print out this letter, sign and fax or mail to the Secretary of Corrections Jimmy LeBlanc and help us give Albert the gift of a hug from his loved ones this holiday season.

A sample letter is below:

Mr. James M. LeBlanc, Secretary
Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections
P.O. Box 94304
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9304
Phone: 225-342-6740; Fax: 225-342-3095

Dear Secretary LeBlanc,

Since the summer of 2013, Colonel Lonnie Nail and officials at David Wade Correctional Center have been arbitrarily denying contact visits to Albert Woodfox (DOC # 72148) in clear violation of multiple sections of DOC policy C-02-008:

1.    Requiring Albert to provide names of people already on his pre-approved and pre-screened permanent visiting list for selective, additional screening before each visit violates section 9.B. of the DOC’s visitation policy which provides that after the initial approval process, rescreening is required only every 2 years by the DOC, and only by one of 4 approved criminal history background check methods–not on demand, subjectively before each visit by individual institutions using possibly non-standardized, and certainly non-transparent, methods.

2.    Though section 12.F.7.b. stipulates that inmates housed in segregation units shall be placed on non-contact visitation status, section 12.F.7.d. requires that such a status be formally reviewed at least every six months and never imposed as a “disciplinary penalty.” Albert Woodfox has been in segregation nearly continuously since 1972 and never had a formal review of his contact visit status either upon initial placement, or since the twice monthly contact visit days he’d come to expect were taken away nearly 18 months ago–a systematic and ongoing violation of his due process rights and this DOC regulation.

3.    Finally, since inmates with the same security classification and housing assignment in other parts of the State are currently allowed (and Albert himself was permitted for years) to have 2 days of contact visiting per month for any of the 10 members of their permanent visiting lists (up to 5 visitors at one time), the new screening process put in place by Colonel Nail at DWCC is in clear violation of Albert’s rights, Albert’s visitor’s rights, and lies contrary to very heart of the DOC’s visitation policy, section 7: Treatment of Visitors which stipulates that: “There shall be no discrimination in visiting. All visitors and offenders shall be provided equal opportunities in visiting in accordance with the offender’s security classification and housing assignment.”

Though we are aware that visiting in a privilege, not a right, the restrictions imposed upon Albert Woodfox by officials at David Wade Correctional Center in the last few years violate the individual privacy and Louisiana DOC visitor rights of members of Albert’s permanent visiting list, as well as Albert’s due process rights and his right per the DOC’s own visitation policy to be provided equal opportunity to access contact visits as other Louisiana inmates in segregation.

We urge the Department of Corrections to put a stop to this discriminatory treatment immediately and reinstate 2 full days per month of contact visit privileges for any members of Albert’s approved visiting list (up to 5 at a time) as has historically been and, in other DOC facilities is currently, the SOP for segregation contact visits throughout the state.

Sincerely,

(YOUR NAME)

Holiday Reminder: Send Love to Albert, but not CDs or Stamps

Writing Albert to remind him that he’s in your thoughts and that he is not alone is as important as ever at this critical time for him.

As the Holidays approach, we want to remind supporters that he is not allowed to receive stamps or cds.  Cards and messages are always the best gift, but if you want to send more, the best way is to give some funds to his www.jpay.com account (#00072148) so he can buy stamps, cds or other personal items from the prison store. He can also receive any books, hardback or paperback, as long as they are sent to him directly through Amazon.

Through jpay, he can receive emails, although any photos sent will be black and white. If you send an email, jpay will ask if you want to pay extra for him to have money to respond via email. However, Albert is unfortunately not allowed to send email, so do not choose this option.

Write Albert:

Albert Woodfox #72148
David Wade Correctional Center
670 Bell Hill Road
Homer, LA  71040

“Barbaric Beyond Measure,” NY Times Editorial on Albert Woodfox’s Four Decades in Solitary Confinement

9:23 am in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Thanks to all the FDL readers that have supported the A3 in recent years!

Responding to the Nov. 20 ruling buy the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirming Albert Woodfox’s third overturned conviction, the New York Times has written a scathing editorial condemning the treatment of Albert Woodfox by the state of Louisiana.

Amnesty International and the A3 Coalition petition delivery at Louisiana State Capitol, April 17 2012

In last night’s editorial entitled “Four Decades of Solitary,” the NY Times wrote about Albert Woodfox:

The facts of the case were on his side: There was no physical evidence linking him or his co-defendant, Herman Wallace, to the murder, and prosecutors did not reveal that their main witness had been bribed to testify against the men. Mr. Woodfox, by all accounts, has been a model prisoner, and under Louisiana prison policy this should have earned him his exit from solitary confinement years ago…State officials insist their case is solid and have already said they intend to retry him, though the prison guard’s widow believes he is innocent of the killing and most of the potential witnesses in the case are dead.

Even comparatively brief solitary confinement can cause severe mental and emotional trauma; a United Nations expert has said that more than 15 days may amount to torture. When it is imposed for more than 40 years, it is barbaric beyond measure.


Read the full article here.

In response to the Fifth Circuit ruling, Amnesty International and Amnesty USA have each released statements reiterating their longstanding call for Albert Woodfox’s immediate release.

A ruling by a federal appeals court in Louisiana yesterday affirming a decision by a lower court to overturn the conviction of Albert Woodfox, who has spent more than 40 years in isolation after a flawed murder trial, is a triumph for justice that comes decades late, said Amnesty International.“After more than 40 years of tirelessly pursuing justice through the courts, Albert Woodfox must now be given his freedom,” said Tessa Murphy, USA Campaigner at Amnesty International. “The state should no longer impede justice but stand aside and allow this decision to stand.”…

Like Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox has always denied any involvement in the crime and both said they were falsely implicated in the murder because of their political activism in prison as members of the Black Panther Party.

There was no physical evidence linking them to the crime and their convictions relied primarily on the dubious testimony of a sole eyewitness who received favourable treatment in prison in return for his testimony. The case against them was based on flawed evidence and riddled with procedural errors that have been extensively documented over the years.

Amnesty USA writes:

Yesterday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana affirmed a 2013 ruling overturning the conviction of Albert Woodfox of the ‘Angola 3.’ He is imprisoned for the second-degree murder of a prison guard in 1972, though he maintains his innocence. Amnesty International has raised serious human rights concerns over the case for many years and applauds this latest development– though it comes after decades of injustice.The state of Louisiana had immediately appealed the 2013 ruling, and Albert languished in solitary for nearly two years, until the appeals court’s decision, yesterday.

“Albert Woodfox has endured the unthinkable. For more than four decades he has survived in conditions the UN’s top expert on torture has said can amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” said Jasmine Heiss, Senior Campaigner at Amnesty International USA. “The Fifth Circuit’s ruling in Albert’s favor only adds more weight to our call on the State of Louisiana to stop standing in the way of Albert Woodfox’s freedom. It is time for Albert Woodfox to walk free, and it is unconscionable to hold him for a single day longer.”

We are still formulating our response to the ruling, so please check www.angola3news.com for the latest that you can do to support Albert. In the meantime, you can still sign Amnesty’s longstanding petition for Albert’s release.

Albert Woodfox’s Overturned Conviction Upheld in Unanimous Fifth Circuit Decision

1:07 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

We are thrilled and honored to announce that just hours ago, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Judge Brady’s 2013 ruling overturning Albert’s conviction for a third time in a 3-0, unanimous decision (view a PDF of the official court ruling here).

Though the courts have finally ruled in the interest of justice, it may still be months or years before this innocent man is released from his solitary cell.

This is THE moment those of us whose lives have been touched by these men and this case over the years have been waiting for. This is the time when we must call upon the whole of our connections, creativity, and courage to call with one voice for the immediate, unequivocal release of Albert Woodfox from prison once and for all without delay.

Even with a unanimous decision in Albert’s favor, firmly planted in a mountain of innocence evidence, the State can still tie up his release in a number of appeals and even choose to re-indict and attempt to retry him.

Lest we lose Albert to delayed justice, as we did Herman, we must all come together to demand that this nightmare finally come to an end.

Today the legal team is visiting with Albert to celebrate and strategize next steps, and all of us who are personally and professionally tied up with the Angola 3′s story must take a moment to rejoice in this glorious hard won victory.

But tomorrow…well…

Tomorrow we must all do whatever we can to make the final, critical push necessary to finally free Albert Woodfox–and with him the whole of the Angola 3–from prison and from solitary once and for all.

We owe it to Herman, Robert, Albert, and the scores of others who sit wrongfully convicted behind bars, or languish in long term solitary without meaningful review. Justice will not be realized, here or ever, without our most determined and resourceful selves pushing it forward.

We will update you in coming days as things develop. Stand today with Albert, for freedom, and justice will surely follow.

Over Easy: The Degree of Civilization in a Society

4:38 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

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On March 17, 2013, Christopher Lopez took his last breath at 9:08 AM, stripped and shackled, face down on a cement floor in San Carlos Correctional Facility, while his jailers joked and made chit-chat. During Mr.Lopez’s videotaped death, which began at 3:30 AM, guards subjected him to a forceful cell extraction even though he was limp. When they placed the spit hood over his head and shackled him in the disciplinary transport chair, he slumped to one side and had a grand mal seizure. Without performing any mental health assessment whatsoever, they returned Mr. Lopez to his cell, placed him on the cement next to the toilet, and injected him with two psychotropic drugs.

“Is it lunch already?” the guard asks, followed by inaudible conversation.

“He could swallow his teeth, I don’t care…”

A guard proclaims, “He didn’t even piss on himself, so he’s not seizing.” “What’s he doing now?” a female supervisor asks. “Smells like he peed all over the place,” a man replies. “Is he still on the floor?” “Yeah.” “He likes it on the floor.” “I like him on the floor.” “Yeah, he likes it alright when he’s on the floor.” Laughter ensues. “Isn’t that terrible?”

While the staff makes fun of him, Mr. Lopez’s breathing changes to that of a fish out of water. When his breathing stops and he dies, the on-call mental-health clinician outside the cell door speaks through the window and asks the body, “What are you doing? Why are you doing this?” “What’s wrong? Don’t you like it on Three Right?” She inexplicably adds, “I can see you breathing.” She also tells the corpse, “Open your eyes,” and then she amazingly says, “Good.”

The only thing missing from Mr. Lopez’s horrible and lonely death is the pepper spray, but that was not really an oversight. He would have been pepper sprayed prior to the forceful extraction procedure, but the staff was short that day, the lawsuit describes:

“He actually wants to respond, but he can’t,” Gutierrez-Gonzalez told someone, then called out, “I understand you have some medical condition, but you have to work with me so I can help you.”

Gutierrez-Gonzalez then told Lopez if he didn’t cooperate, there would be a forced cell entrance, during which he would be pepper sprayed.

More than an hour after they noticed Lopez on the floor, a six-member team assembled to mount a forced cell entrance. Before going to the cell, they were told that because of a lack of personnel, gas wouldn’t be used.

The guards entered the cell dressed in riot gear and dragged him out.

Prior to Mr. Lopez’s death, he lived in solitary confinement for more than nine months. In Wilkinson v. Austin 545 U.S. 209 (2005), the US Supreme Court held that procedures for determining which prisoners should be placed in a Supermax prison must satisfy the requirements of due process, but the Court did not address indefinite solitary confinement of the mentally ill. Since Mr. Lopez suffered from schizophrenia, he could not act as his own advocate, file a grievance, or ask a jailhouse lawyer to help him. Instead, his mental health treatment included a slow-motion, torturous death.

“I went to Walmart this morning,” said one of the guards, as Mr. Lopez lay next to the toilet, dying.

Mr. Lopez’s situation is not unique.

In Michigan, mentally ill inmates at Huron Valley were “denied water and food, ‘hog tied’ naked for many hours, left to stand, sit, or lie naked in their own feces and urine, denied showers for days, and tasered,” according to witness letters to the ACLU of Michigan.

Who is in charge of health care for the incarcerated mentally ill? One private contractor is Corizon. According to its website, Corizon is:

Clinically-focused. Patient-centered. Evidence-based.

As the correctional healthcare pioneer and leader for 35+ years, Corizon Health provides client partners with high quality healthcare and reentry services that will improve the health and safety of our patients, reduce recidivism and better the communities where we live and work.”

Corizon has landed a 100 million dollar contract in California with Fresno jail, the latest in a long list that includes a $224 million contract in Alabama. Corizon Health, “the nation’s leader in correctional healthcare solutions” invites us to browse the website to see their “people, practices and commitment to success.”

Corizon has been sued 660 times for malpractice over the last half-decade. The ACLU adds that “As long as Corizon is motivated by its bottom line, there will always be a perverse incentive not to provide treatment. And Corizon is doing very well. The company makes $1.4 billion dollars a year off sick prisoners. Just last week, Corizon inked a new five-year, $1.2 billion contract with the state of Florida. This means that Corizon is now getting taxpayer money in 29 states. And they’re vying for more.”

Corizon is being investigated in Arizona, for taking taxpayer money designated to provide inmate healthcare and doing nothing or being so egregiously negligent that mentally ill inmates are dying.

New York City has contracted Corizon to provide health care for its inmates for more than a decade, previously under the name Prison Health Services, according to a report. In spite of a contract with New York City that pays $280 million for medical care and a $128 million for administrative support, fifteen have died at Rikers Island Jail. Rikers Island didn’t bother telling families it let inmates die.

Yesterday, three high-ranking Rikers officials resigned, following an graphic 79-page inquiry from the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York in August, detailing abuse of adolescent inmates at Rikers.

In Florida, where Darren Rainey was scalded to death at the hands of guards at Dade CI, George Mallinckrodt, a former mental health employee for Corizon at Dade CI, blew the whistle on the behalf of Mr. Rainey and others. At our site, he commented:

I’m George Mallinckrodt, the only former staffer at Dade CI to come forward publicly about the egregious behavior of guards in the psych unit called the Transitional Care Unit. As a result of the stories broken by the Miami Herald’s Julie Brown, it is comforting to know I’m not alone anymore in bringing the abuse, beating, torture, and murder of inmates to the attention of the public. Almost two years ago, after I answered my phone with a typical “Hello,” my former coworker blurted out, “They killed him!” Ever since, I’ve been trying to get people to pay attention to the murder of Darren Rainey. I contacted the FDLE, FBI, Miami Metro Homicide, and the ME’s office to no avail. When Julie broke the story Sunday, May 18, 2014, there was no doubt in my mind that I would come forward. I may not have been able to change much when I was working in prison, but now it appears I have been more successful on the outside. I’ve got to give the inmate, Harold Hempstead, a massive amount of credit in coming forward as he did. As we all know now, really bad things happen to men in prison.

The complaint I lodged with the Dept. of Justice in DC may now receive the attention it deserves. No doubt one of thousands of complaints filed every year, perhaps as a result of recent publicity, it may move up a bit in the line. Of course, I’d like to see it go straight to the top.

For his trouble, George Mallinckrodt was fired. He continues to speak out against cruelty and to press for a federal investigation into the killing of Mr. Darren Rainey. This petition has 204,365 supporters so far:

Petitioning Attorney General Eric Holder
“Investigate the 2012 death of Mr. Darren Rainey, a mentally ill Florida prisoner who died after prison guards locked him into a 180-degree shower.”

When Russian Novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons,” he aptly described the treatment of America’s incarcerated mentally ill in tandem with complete disregard for basic human decency.

Can you make a ten or twenty dollar donation today?

Bradley Manning Speaks About His Conditions

6:08 am in Uncategorized by David House

Stop the Inhumane Treatment of Bradley Manning

Add your name to our letter urging the humane treatment of Bradley Manning by lifting unnecessary restrictions on his sleep, exercise, and communication.

Sign the letter to the Commanding Officer of Bradley Manning’s brig urging for Bradley’s unnecessary POI order to be lifted

Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old Army private accused of leaking classified information to Wikileaks, has been held in the brig at Quantico Marine Corp Base for five months in inhumane conditions, with severe restrictions on his ability to exercise, communicate, or even sleep. Manning has not been convicted of any crime. Nor is there a date certain for any court hearing.

The conditions of Bradley Manning’s confinement became a top issue in the press last week as bloggers traded blows with US officials over allegations that Manning endures inhumane treatment at the Quantico, VA detainment facility. In the midst of this rush by the Defense Department to contextualize Manning’s confinement, I traveled to see the man himself at the Marine Corps detainment facility in Quantico, VA.

In my visit to see Bradley at the Quantico brig, it became clear that the Pentagon’s public spin from last week sharply contradicts the reality of Bradley Manning’s detainment. In his five months of detention, it has become obvious to me that Manning’s physical and mental well-being are deteriorating. What Manning needs, and what his attorney has already urged, is to have the unnecessary “Prevention of Injury” order lifted that severely restricts his ability to exercise, communicate, and sleep.

My Visits to Manning in Quantico

I am one of the few people allowed to visit Bradley Manning while he is detained in the Quantico brig.

Manning is held in “maximum custody,” the military’s most severe detention policy. Manning is also confined under a longstanding Prevention of Injury (POI) order which limits his social contact, news consumption, ability to exercise, and that places restrictions on his ability to sleep. Read the rest of this entry →