Angola 3 Newsletter:  May 20, 2011   

International Coalition to Free the Angola 3

39 Years of Solitary

39 Years of Innocence  

April was a busy month with congressional briefings, film premieres, and a remarkable commemorative event in New Orleans.

39 years! It hardly seems possible!

Keep hope alive and take a look at the list of activities we all can do at the bottom of this newsletter, supplied by Lois Ahrens of Real Cost of Prisons.

Free Herman and Albert! Free all political prisoners!


Robert King stands inside a replica of his former 6 x 9 cell.

39 Hour Vigil in New Orleans Marks 39 Years of Resistance   


The NOLA campaign to free the Angola 3 in collaboration with Resurrection After Exoneration held a 39 hour vigil to commemorate the 39th year anniversary of Herman and Albert being held in solitary confinement. 39 people spent an hour each in a 6x9 replica cell, including local musical legends like Kermit Ruffins and Big Freedia, legal legends like Tracie Washington and Danatus King of the NAACP, and many business owners, law enforcement officers, and students.


In the Land of the Free, The Farm, Letters to Angola, and other films were shown along with excerpts from Angola 3 the Play. Robert King had a booksigning, Billy X displayed artwork and print items from the Panther archives, and Jackie Sumell led a yoga class and meditation.  


Most popular were the various panel discussions on 'Art as a Revolutionary Tool' by Angola 3 playwrite Parnell Herbert and artist Jackie Sumell; 'Economics, Education and Our Rights' with Norris Henderson from VOTE, Judge Ernest Jones and Al Coulan from Dillard University; and finally a very engaging panel about current issues in the judicial system by Tracie Washington, Oliver Thomas and Nick Trenticosta.  


Musicians Damion Neville, Truth Universal and Troy Sawyers closed Sunday night's events and The Mario Abney quartet debuted their powerful composition 'Angola' at the closing ceremony.  The event was a huge success, as over 250 people came to learn about incarceration and injustice and to support to the Angola 3. Big thanks to everyone involved!


NEWS COVERAGE:  Photos of A3 Banner on Interstate 10 in New Orleans  II  Solitary Watch  II  The Times Picayune  II  NOLA TV  II Photos by Nicolas Krebill 

Chicago Screening of "In the Land of the Free" with Robert King and Bernadine Dohrn, May 25 

As part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in Chicago, the new British documentary about the Angola 3, which recently won the award for best feature film at the 2011 Patois International Human Rights Film Festival, will be showing on Wednesday, May 25. The reception is at 5:30 PM with the screening following at 6:30 PM, at the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 East Chicago Avenue, Education Center Entrance).

Special guests include Robert King, Bernadine Dohrn, and Jaime Fellner, Senior Counsel of Human Rights Watch's US Program. Buy tickets and learn more about the Chicago event here.   


More Screenings Just Announced


Montreal: May 22, 12pm, 2515 Delisle St., Montreal Metro Lionel-Groulx

Minneapolis:June 1, 6pm, St. Joan of Arc Church, 4537 3rd Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN (A flyer and more information is available here


TAKE ACTION: A new website affiliated with the UK film has been created where A3 supporters can email the UK's US Ambassador.  

Please consider donating to fund more film screenings in the US. 

Report Back From Last Month's Congressional Briefing on Solitary Confinement and the Angola Three 


April's Congressional Briefing on "The Abuses of Solitary Confinement in the Criminal Justice System," followed by a screening of the A3 documentary In the Land of the Free was a huge success. The House conference room was packed with NGOs, hill staffers from over a dozen states, Department of Justice staff, and local constituents--there was standing room only!  At least half of that crowd stayed through at least the first half of the film, and about a third through the entire nearly 4 hour event.  A3 distributed nearly 100 copies of the film to Congressional offices, NGO's, and DOJ personnel.
Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), and Former Congressman Walter Edward Fauntroy all attended personally and delivered remarks about their concerns of the use of solitary confinement.  Representatives Conyers and Richmond additionally spoke on behalf of justice for Herman and Albert.

Hopefully this will serve as another building block to more formal and widespread federal legislative support.


MEDIA COVERAGE:  Solitary Watch Report  II  Russia Today TV (The A3 segment begins 12 minutes into the RTTV video)

New Amnesty International Statement Supporting Herman and Albert

On April 5, a new statement was released declaring: "Amnesty International believes that the confinement of Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox in CCR serves no legitimate penological interest and violates international standards for humane treatment. The prison review board that has for decades rubberstamped the warden's original decision to place the men in CCR has failed absolutely a meaningful review of the men's placement...Amnesty International calls on the Louisiana authorities to immediately remove Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace from solitary confinement and bring an end to the years of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that they have suffered. Failing such action by the state, we urge federal authorities to ensure the men are treated in compliance with international standards and the US Constitution."

Read the full statement here.
Watch AI's new video about the Angola 3 here.

Linda Carmichael with the late A3 supporter, Anita Roddick

SOUL ON FIRE: New Online Play Gives Voice to Herman Wallace

Activist, writer, actress, and longtime A3 supporter Linda Carmichael first wrote SOUL ON FIRE seven years ago, based upon many years of writing Herman Wallace. Recently, Carmichael filmed a revised version to be released online. While the full version is being finalized, two short segments have been released. One video features Carmichael herself and the other features the eminent Shakespearian actor, Johnny Lee Davenport, who plays Herman Wallace. 


Carmichael would love the play to be used more as a tool for spreading the Angola Three story. If anyone wants to do a reading, please email her at this address:  


Learn more here

The House That Herman Built, a Documentary Film Receives Fellowship 

The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) has announced the ten documentary projects it has lined up for its year-long Independent Filmmaker Labs fellowship. The Labs focus on independent filmmakers who are in the post-proudction stage of their first film, mentoring the directors in the completion, marketing and distribution of their films.

Among the projects selected is the film in progress (watch trailer here), documenting the project created by Herman Wallace and A3 supporter Jackie Sumell, called The House That Herman Built.

Congratulations to filmmaker Angad Bhalla! We look forward to watching the final version.

Mississippi Flood Renews Gulf Coast Anxieties


In his new article, published by Al Jazeera on May 19, Jordan Flaherty reports that in Louisiana "the US Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency charged with maintaining the levees and overseeing the flood controls, has acted to preserve the safety of Baton Rouge and New Orleans" by letting "water flow through the Morganza Spillway, flooding farmland and rural communities upriver from Baton Rouge, including thousands of houses, farms and oyster fisheries. The Morganza, a flood control structure designed and built in the aftermath of a devastating 1927 flood of the Mississippi, has only been opened once before, in 1973. While no one can say for sure the lasting effects of this flooding, optimism is rare.


Read the full article here.

"Control Unit" by Thomas Silverstein, featured by Solitary Watch
Solitary Watch Releases First Print Issue

The important news website called Solitary Watch, run by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella has announced the beginning of a new print edition with the release of their first issue.

We wish them all the best as they continue to expand this badly-needed project working to expose the dark underbelly of the US prison system, where, as A3 supporters know, torturing prisoners with the use of solitary confinement is routine.

Recent website articles include Voices From Solitary: A Mother's Story and
America's Most Isolated Federal Prisoner Describes 10,220 Days in Extreme Solitary Confinement.

Report from UC-Berkeley Law School Symposium: In Post-Racial America, Prisons Feast on Black Girls

An important symposium was recently organized by the Thelton Henderson Center for Social Justice at the University of California, Berkeley's Boalt Law School, titled, "African American Girls and Young Women and Juvenile Justice System: A Call to Action." While opening the conference,  Meda Chesney-Lind from the University of Hawaii revealed how truly dire the situation is today, explaining that "in 2008, we knew the arrest rate in California was 49 out of every 1,000 for black girls, 8.9 per 1,000 for white girls and 14.9 per 1,000 for Latinas."


After attending the event, Rachel Pfeffer, a writer for New America Media, recalled that "the breadth of the problem seems overwhelming, yet no one at the conference seemed daunted. The resolve in the room at Boalt Law School was palpable and the ideas for action began to flow. Formerly incarcerated participants, who work at the Center for Young Women's Development (CYWD), and other formerly incarcerated African American girls will lead these efforts. They are the experts."


Read the full article here.

Baltimore City Council Passes Resolution Seeking the Pardon of Black Panther political prisoner Marshall "Eddie" Conway

On May 9, following an April 23 protest rally and a formal request by the NAACP Baltimore City Chapter, the Baltimore City Council passed a resolution, to be sent to the Maryland General Assembly, calling for the pardon of Marshall "Eddie" Conway.  


Conway's new book, Marshall Law: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther, has just been released. The books summary explains that when he was arrested in 1970, at the age of 24, Conway was Minister of Defense of the Baltimore Black Panther Party. "In 1969, he uncovered evidence of the FBI's infiltration of the Panthers as a part of the COINTELPRO initiative, and found himself locked away, just one year later, convicted of a murder he did not commit. Currently in his fortieth year of incarceration in a State of Maryland correctional facility, he has played a leading role in a variety of prisoner support initiatives, including the formation of the Maryland chapter of the United Prisoner's Labor Union, and the ACLU's Prison Committee to Correct Prison Conditions."


Learn more at

3rd Circuit Rules That Mumia Abu- Jamal Must Have New Sentencing Trial For The Death Sentence To Be Reinstated

--Philly DA Will Appeal to the US Supreme Court

On April 26, the US Third Circuit Court upheld earlier rulings from 2001 and 2008 that overturned the death sentence and stated that if the DA wants to re-instate the death penalty, then death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal must first be given a new sentencing phase jury trial where Mumia can present evidence of innocence but the jury can only decide between execution or life in prison without parole (View full ruling).  


The DA is asking the Supreme Court to review this decision, seeking to execute Mumia without having a new sentencing trial. Notably, despite his death sentence being overturned since 2001, Mumia remains on death row without general population 'privileges' like contact visits with family.

RELATED: NAACP LDF press release II Linn Washington Jr. II Jeff Mackler II Democracy Now interviews Judith Ritter and Linn Washington Jr. II Amy Goodman in Guardian UK II



We Must Act to Save Troy Davis' Life

--An interview with Laura Moye of Amnesty International


In our new interview, Laura Moye, director of the Amnesty International USA Death Penalty Abolition Campaign, talks about 42-year-old Troy Davis. An African American who has been on death row in Georgia for over 19 years-having already faced three execution dates, Davis is now closer than ever to being killed.


On March 28, 2011, the US Supreme Court's rejected his appeal against a federal district court's ruling that Davis did not prove his innocence in an evidentiary hearing held last year. This month Amnesty International released an email action alert, emphasizing that now, more than a month after the Supreme Court ruling, Davis' execution date can literally be scheduled any day. 


To take action, visit Amnesty International's page on Troy Davis, as well as the Color of Change petition, and

The Real Cost of Prisons
--An interview with Lois Ahrens


Lois Ahrens is the Founder/Director of The Real Cost of Prisons Project (RCPP) and has been an activist/organizer for more than 40 years. First started in 2001, RCPP brings together justice activists, artists, justice policy researchers and people directly experiencing the impact of mass incarceration to work together to end the U.S. prison nation.


Towards the end of our interview, we asked:  

"In your opinion, what are the best forms of practical action that those of us living outside the prison walls can do to help to improve present conditions for those incarcerated, and to challenge the broader criminal 'justice' system, with abolition as the long-term goal?" We liked her answer so much that we decided to reprint it in full below:


Lois Ahrens:   As abolitionists we must find smaller and larger steps along the way to stay engaged and connected to activists inside and out. There's a lot of work to do:


--Connect to prisoners via books through bars projects and pen pal programs.


--Create true community-based alternatives programs that are not affiliated with sheriff's departments and other law enforcement, for people with non-violent convictions to stay at home, connected to family and communities, and not go to jail.


--Create bail reform programs so that jails are not debtors prisons- examples include unsecured appearance bonds, setting lower amounts of bail and lowering bail based on the circumstances of someone's life. For example, do they have children they are taking care of? Do they have a job that will be jeopardized? Many people plead guilty and then end up jail because they know they can't make bail.


--Create affirmative action campaigns for people with criminal records, based on models of other affirmative action categories, to begin a conversation with employers about the need for second chances. Expand the campaign to housing fairness.


--Talk about the growth of solitary confinement in the U.S. People will be disbelieving, but Solitary Watch is a great resource for information and activism.


--Work to expand parole, rather than restricting it! Attend parole hearings and write letters in behalf of people seeking parole


--Communicate with your governor to reinstate commutation. Most governors no longer commute sentences, although this used to be standard practice. Actively support people seeing commutation through letter writing campaigns and public events.


--Work to end the unnecessary and costly systems designed to send parolees back to prison based on minor violations. Strategically speaking, right now with state budget deficits, is a good time to focus attention on this.


--Challenge the drug laws that criminalize addiction and work with 

harm reductionists to provide needle exchange, safe injection sites, community education.


--Decriminalize sex work by joining forces with organizations of sex workers and make public the harassment from the police suffered by sex workers.


--Work with organizations such as Families Against Mandatory Minimums nationally and in your state to end mandatory minimum drug sentences.


--Begin a conversation with state legislators on the extreme length of sentences, not only for people convicted of non-violent offenses, but for those convicted of violent offenses as well. The new report by the Justice Policy Institute, Finding Direction: Expanding Criminal Justice Options by Considering Policies of Other Nations, provides models of what other countries are doing.


--Model the successful organizing strategies and legislation in NY State to end the shackling of women in labor and childbirth.


--Join with family groups and others organizing to end "life without the possibility of parole." Introduce parole review for everyone beginning at 15 years.


--Make compassionate release real for states where it is already a law. Work with faith-based groups and involve faith-based communities in organizing for compassionate release.


--Work with Families to Amend California's Three Strikes (FACTS) and other organizations to end three strikes and habitual offender sentences.


--Join forces with community-based mental health and addiction treatment centers to advocate for money needed for treatment in communities, rather than jails and prisons filled with people suffering from untreated mental illness and no drug treatment. Drug addiction is a mental illness.


--Question the propaganda about who is criminal and the unchanging nature of people who have committed crimes and how they are portrayed in the media.


--Finally, each of us must fight racism wherever we find it. Fighting racism is a blow to mass incarceration.

Albert & Herman


Herman Wallace
CCR - D - #11
EHCC Po Box 174
St Gabriel LA 70776

Albert Woodfox


David Wade Correctional Center
N1 A3

670 Bell Hill Rd.
Homer, LA 71040