Amnesty: Slavery still reigns in US prisons

Robert King, the only one of the Angola 3 who has been released from prison, talks about how he coped with 29 years in solitary confinement.

The Guardian: Forty years in solitary: two men mark sombre anniversary in Louisiana prison

I can make about four steps forward before I touch the door,” Herman Wallace says as he describes the cell in which he has lived for the past 40 years. “If I turn an about-face, I’m going to bump into something. I’m used to it, and that’s one of the bad things about it.”

On Tuesday, Wallace and his friend Albert Woodfox will mark one of the more unusual, and shameful, anniversaries in American penal history. Forty years ago to the day, they were put into solitary confinement in Louisiana’s notorious Angola jail. They have been there ever since.

They have spent 23 hours of every one of the past 14,610 days locked in their single-occupancy 9ft-by-6ft cells. Each cell, Amnesty International records, has a toilet, a mattress, sheets, a blanket, pillow and a small bench attached to the wall. Their contact with the world outside the windowless room is limited to the occasional visit and telephone call, “exercise” three times a week in a caged concrete yard, and letters that are opened and read by prison guards. […]

Wallace, Woodfox and a third black man, Robert King, came together to form a chapter of the Black Panther movement inside the prison, hoping to organise African American inmates against the brutal treatment they endured. Then on April 17, 1972, a prison guard called Brent Miller was murdered during an arrest on one of the wings.

The Angola 3 were immediately accused of the murder, and placed that same day in solitary. They have insisted ever since on their innocence, pointing to the lack of any physical evidence linking them to Miller’s death and suggestions that the main eyewitness against them was bribed by prison officials.

They say that the murder charge was trumped up to punish them for their political activities.

Since 1972, Wallace and Woodfox have been brought before more than 150 prison boards where their unprecedented duration in solitary confinement has been reviewed only for them to be sent straight back to their cells. The only explanation given: “Nature of the original reason for lockdown”.

“This is a case of innocence and the abuse of human rights,” Robert King said on the eve of the anniversary. King’s conviction was overturned and he was released in 2001, and he said he fears for his former fellow inmates now bearing in mind that they have spent more than a decade longer in solitary than he did.

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~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on April 18, 2012.

2 Responses to “Amnesty: Slavery still reigns in US prisons”

  1. Thank you for publishing this. Only through speaking out about the truth will changes occur and this is most definitely a case of racism. So I am outraged at this inumanity. How does this man recover from this. i HOPE FOR MORE JUSTICE AND PEACE IN OUR WORLD EVERYDAY.

    • Thanks Laara, good to hear from again. Hope your painting is going well. Yes, truth is our only hope, in all respects. Problem is, people often seem to have different truths, and the question then becomes how do we get to agree on our most important truths/values in terms of saving the planet and building a sane, participatory society… P.

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