|(Herman Wallace, left, with Albert Woodfox, right.)|
We are reprinting in full, two recent articles by Katti Gray, writing for The Root. Part one, entitled “Freedom After 40 Years in Solitary?,” focuses mostly on the pending decision from US District Court Judge James A. Brady, who in 2008 ruled to overturn his conviction. That ruling was ultimately reinstated on appeal by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Part two, entitled “Reforming Prison’s Harshest Tactic,” focuses mostly on solitary confinement in US prisons. You can read parts one and two at The Root, or you can read the two articles reprinted below, with our own photos added (quick link here).
Reforming Prison’s Harshest Tactic
–The Angola 3 case may help change the arbitrary and sometimes abusive use of solitary confinement.
(The second of two parts)
by Katti Gray
(This article was originally published by The Root on January 30, 2013 and is being reprinted here by Angola 3 News with permission from the author. Click here to read part 1, “Freedom After 40 Years in Solitary?” on The Root website or scroll down to view the full article by Angola 3 News below. Special thanks to Katti Gray, whose articles for The Root are archived here.)
In December 2012 the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit to curb the use of solitary confinement in that state’s prisons, broadly decrying it as “extreme isolation” that imperils the physical and psychological well-being of inmates on solo lockdown and risks undermining prison safety overall.
Also in 2012, Maine lawmakers — including a Republican governor considered tough on crime — voted to formally ratchet back the use of solitary confinement in that state. In addition, Congress hosted a rare special hearing on the practice, highlighting the fact that the United States has no federal guidelines precisely defining when solitary confinement should begin, when it should end and which infractions merit such an added punishment for prisoners.
Prison watchers and reformers, however, say that incremental activity in 2012 does not in itself suggest that the nation is anywhere near a wholesale crackdown on what many deem to be arbitrary decisions about who is placed in solitary confinement. But in Louisiana, where the remaining two members of the Angola 3 are approaching 41 years in solitary confinement, there is cautious optimism.
“It’s exactly the kind of movement on this issue that we’ve been pushing for,” said attorney and law professor Angela Allen-Bell of Southern University Law Center. Allen-Bell is a member of Free the Angola 3, an international coalition of attorneys, human rights groups, grassroots activists and moneyed benefactors who are helping to pay legal fees related to the cause of Albert Woodfox, Herman Wallace and Robert Hillary King.
The three black men have consistently held that white officials of the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola punished them for organizing an arm of the Black Panther Party at the facility — and, as self-taught jailhouse lawyers, for challenging systematic rape of inmates, racial segregation and other ills — by falsely claiming that the men killed a 23-year-old white prison guard in 1972. All three, who did not know one another before Angola, landed at the prison in the 1960s after being convicted of robberies that did not involve physical assault.
|(Flyer from a recent New York City event featuring Robert King and other important critics of solitary confinement|