Thursday, April 17, 2014

A3 Newsletter: Beyond Imagining - 42 Years in Solitary (April 17, 2014)

RELATED:  Albert Woodfox Speaks to the Experts II  Amnesty International Blog -- 42 Years of Injustice: When Will Louisiana Wake Up? 

(PHOTOS: A billboard campaign to mark the 42-year commemoration launched in New Orleans today.)

As we mark the 42nd year since the tragic and as yet, unsolved murder of Angola correctional officer Brent Miller, and the 42nd year since Albert Woodfox was first put in solitary for a crime he didn't commit, we are confident that it will be the last.  We remain hopeful that the 5th Circuit will finally side with justice and affirm Judge Brady's second decision to throw out Albert's conviction once and for all.  Although he will then have to petition for bail and potentially face a retrial, freedom will not be far behind.  With the civil case only months from trial, thousands of others who languish in long-term solitary could soon have the necessary legal precedent to challenge their conditions as constitutionally cruel and unusual.

In the past year, challenges and resistance to the widespread use of solitary confinement have proliferated. New York finally decided that keeping pregnant women and youth under 18 in solitary was beyond the pale. Maine has dramatically reduced solitary, Colorado is not far behind, and several other states are reviewing their policies regarding solitary confinement pushed on by a groundswell of opposition to this horrific practice which has too long gone unchecked.

Adding to the growing body of excellent writing on solitary is the recent Newsweek article "Solitude's Despair." The Final Call reported on a "two-day review by the United Nations Human Rights Committee tasked with studying reports concerning Washington's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty ratified by the U.S. in 1992." They cited Angola 3 when they discussed their ongoing concern with the use of solitary confinement and asked that the Special Rapporteur on Torture be given unfettered access to all U.S. prisons.

For the 42nd commemoration of this travesty of justice, Amnesty International once again stands up for human rights and dignity by demanding Albert's release, while law students at Southern University devote a week to learing more about solitary and how they can assist in the effort to abolish the practice. A new initiative has formed in Louisiana, Citizens Against Solitary, which is asking for a legislative review of the numbers and costs involved in Louisiana's extensive use of solitary as s.o.p. penal practice. Jackie of Herman's House fame is asking all A3 supporters and justice seekers to tweet for Albert's release and to stop solitary, and King continues to travel the world speaking out for Albert's release and a total overhaul of the criminal justice system in this country.

Following in the footsteps of Maine, Illinois, Mississippi, Texas and Washington, Representative Moreno of New Orleans has introduced a resolution (HR1) asking for the legislative auditor of Louisiana to evaluate the use of solitary confinement. We hope that this is a significant step towards change in a state that has shamefully held many inmates in solitary confinement for decades. If Bill HR1 passes, the report will be complete by January 1, 2016, and will include details on the effectiveness of solitary confinement, closed-cell restriction and extended lockdown, it's impact on housing costs, prison violence, inmate safety, recidivism, and the mental health of the inmate placed in such conditions. A public hearing is yet to be announced on this topic, but will likely take place in the coming weeks. In the meantime we encourage supporters to contact Rep. Moreno at expressing thanks for her important efforts thus far. Look for updates soon.

To all Angola 3 supporters that have stood by Albert, Herman and Robert all these years, take a moment to send your prayers out to the Miller family and align your energy with ours for this final push for freedom for Albert!

Amnesty International: "The only remedy for Albert Woodfox is his immediate release from prison"

Today, Amnesty International released a new statement marking 42 years, renewing their call for Albert's immediate release. The new release is reprinted in full below. If you have not yet done so, please take action by adding your name to Amnesty's online petition.


USA: After decades in isolation, time to release Albert Woodfox

April 17, 2014

Forty two years ago today, Albert Woodfox was placed in an isolation cell in a Louisiana prison on suspicion of murdering a prison guard. He remains there today. While his solitary confinement has remained unchanged over four decades, during the last 14 months Albert Woodfox has again lived with hope on hold, after the state appealed the latest court ruling overturning his conviction.

In February 2013, a federal judge ruled that Albert Woodfox's conviction for the murder of the guard should be overturned due to a finding of racial discrimination in the selection of his grand jury foreperson. This was the third time a court has ruled to overturn his conviction.

The state of Louisiana immediately appealed this 2013 ruling and a decision from the Court of Appeals is expected soon.

Albert Woodfox has been held in solitary confinement for longer than virtually any other prisoner in the USA. He is confined alone for 23 hours a day in a small cell, and allowed out for only five hours a week for solitary exercise or showers. He has had no opportunities for meaningful social interaction, nor rehabilitation programmes.

In the past year, conditions worsened for Albert Woodfox as the state subjected him to strip searches each time he left or entered his cell. A court ruled in January 2014 that the prison should discontinue this humiliating practice. These conditions amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment and violate international human rights law and standards.

During the decades in solitary confinement, Albert Woodfox has not been afforded any meaningful review by the Louisiana authorities as to why he should continue to be held in such cruel conditions of isolation. He has not committed any serious disciplinary infractions for decades, and prison records indicate that he does not pose a threat to himself, others, or the institution.

Amnesty International's concerns about this case go beyond the inhumane conditions of confinement to which Albert Woodfox has been subjected since 1972, but also the serious legal flaws that have emerged over the decades of litigation in his case and remain without resolution.

There is no physical evidence to link Albert Woodfox to the crime he is acussed; the only eyewitness to the crime was rewarded by the State for his testimony; testimony from other witnesses gave conflicting account of the crime - and much of it was subsequently retracted; the State suppressed exculpatory evidence and Albert Woodfox received ineffective assistance of counsel at both his trials.

Amnesty International considers that given these circumstances, the only remedy for Albert Woodfox is his immediate release from prison.

(End of Amnesty Statement)

Solitary Confinement Exhibition Plants Seed for Advocacy Among SULC Student Body

Report-back by Arisa A. Banks (3L Class Representative; Symposium Editor, Journal of Race, Gender, & Poverty)

The seed for advocacy was planted among the student body stirred by the Solitary Confinement Exhibition, during 2014 Law Week activities at the Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Oliver B. Spellman Law Library's Civil Rights Room was the site for the exhibit throughout Law Week, March 17-21. Inspired by the remarkable story of the Angola 3, this exhibition was pulled together to create a platform to solicit discussion, activism, awareness, and advocacy to end prolonged solitary confinement practices in penal systems across this nation, according to the exhibit organizers.

Read the full article here.

Interview with Ron Harpelle: Razor Wire, Prison Cells, & Black Panther Robert H. King's Life of Resistance

Asked about how he decided to style Hard Time in a recent interview with Angola 3 News, filmmaker Ron Harpelle described what audiences can expect: "Hard Time begins with some basic information about Robert King and the Angola 3 and ends with some statistics about incarceration in the United States. Connecting this basic information is a history lesson told by Robert King. His way of speaking combined with the archival footage and images I was able to find tell a compelling tale of the 1960s and the rise of Black Power. We do hear a bit about the brutality of prison, but this is mainly left to the imagination of the viewer because Hard Time is meant to be an inspirational film."

Watch the full, 40 minute version of Hard Time here.

Keep in Touch with Albert:

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