Friday, May 18, 2012

Amnesty International delivers A3 petitions but Governor Jindal refuses to meet the delegation


  Photo of the delegation after delivering petitions.
On April 17, Amnesty International was joined by a delegation of supporters, holding a press conference at the Louisiana State Capitol building in Baton Rouge, LA, and hand delivering to Governor Bobby Jindal's office the petition initiated by Amnesty International demanding the immediate release of the Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox from solitary confinement.

Governor Jindal refused to meet with the delegation despite several attempts made by Amnesty International to contact him in the weeks leading up to the petition delivery.

In a statement released that day, Everette Harvey Thompson, Southern Office Regional Director of Amnesty International USA, argued that "the 40-year isolated incarceration of these two men is scandalous. There is no legitimate penal purpose for keeping these men in solitary - Louisiana authorities must end this inhumanity." The day before, Thompson told Between the Lines: "We've contacted Gov. Jindal's office many times over the past couple of weeks, requesting a meeting to discuss the case of the Angola 3, to inquire about the use of solitary confinement in this case, and there's been no response. Gov. Jindal has the opportunity to stand on the right side of justice and order removal of Albert and Herman from isolation. We really hope he will take heed and make some moves."

Herman and Albert each prepared statements for April 17. Herman reflected: "Exactly 40 years ago today, April 17, we will have been incarcerated for 40 years in solitary confinement in the USA. This is nothing new to Albert and I, nor to hundreds of thousands in US prisons." Commenting on the effects of solitary, Albert said: "To be honest I am not sure what damage has been done to me, but I do know that the feeling of pain allows me to know that I am alive. If I dwelled on the pain I have endured and stopped to think about how 40 years locked in a cage 23 hours a day has affected me, it would give insanity the victory it has sought for 40 years."

That morning Robert King was interviewed live by Democracy Now! and many others have reported on the 40 year anniversary, including BBC, The Guardian UK, Mother Jones, and KPFA's Africa Today (1,2). Following the event, King writes that "standing on the State Capitol steps on Tuesday 17 April, I felt the power of the people, of 65,000 people and more - all those who have supported the Angola 3 over the years were also with us. We could not be ignored - the media were there and wanted to report on this, organizations stood by our side in support. Amnesty's presence was felt. For me the day was bitter sweet, bitter with a deep sadness that we were marking this day but sweet seeing the years of efforts and struggle culminating in this day. The tide is changing and the time for change is now. We have the wind at our back and we need to keep on moving."

We want to thank everyone who has supported this campaign! Among the powerful lineup of A3 supporters at the petition delivery and press conference were Alfreda Bester-Tillman, Esq. from the Baton Rouge Chapter of the NAACP, Pastor Kathleen Bacon from the Slidell Chapter of the National Action Network, US Representative Cedric Richmond and State Representative Patricia Haynes-Smith, Chair of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus.

Please stay tuned for our next action! Join our new Facebook page for all the latest news.


View more photos from the State Capitol and read the full statements by Robert King, Herman Wallace, and Albert Woodfox here.

Professor Angela A. Allen-Bell speaks at the State Capitol press conference on April 17.

Law professor Angela A. Allen-Bell, based out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, spoke at the April 17 press conference and was part of the delegation that delivered the petition. She has also written an article about the Angola 3, to be published in the upcoming Spring issue of the Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly. Bell's article is entitled "Perception Profiling & Prolonged Solitary Confinement Viewed Through the Lens of the Angola 3 Case: When Prison Officials Become Judges, Judges Become Visually Challenged and Justice Become Legally Blind."

David A. Newton, the Editor in Chief of the Constitutional Law Quarterly recently spoke (watch video) about Professor Bell's article at our April 6 event "The Outer Limits of Solitary Confinement." He announced that when published early this summer, it will be available online. Once published, Professor Bell can also be contacted for a copy via email: ABell@sulc.edu.

Recently interviewed by KPFA's Africa Today show, she argued that the treatment of the Angola 3 is a violation of both federal and international law. Among the many types of violations she described is under the US Constitution's 14th Amendment's due process clause. She explains that "in the case of a person subjected to prolonged isolation, the due process clause affords them a hearing on a periodic basis and in Louisiana that's every 90 days." Furthermore,"there has to be some legitimate penoligical reason to keep that inmate in isolation. What is happening in these hearings, not just with the Angola 3, but also universally across the country is institutions are treating them as formalities" where "the hearing lacks any substance. The inmate really doesn't have a meaningful voice in this, and the prison of course doesn't have to really meet any burden of proof," and "articulate what a legitimate penological reason is. They only have to say 'we have some evidence, we have some reason for doing this' and courts have deemed that acceptable."

"It amounts to nothing more than procedural automation in a legal assembly line where unfavorable reviews are mass-produced." This "completely undermines the due process clause because due process means" being "genuinely in search of a fair resolution," argued Bell.

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