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