CI: A Message from Herman Wallace (and Us)

September 18, 2013 at 6:41 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

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Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

A Message from Herman Wallace (and Us)
reprinted with permission from Angola 3 News with commentary by nancy a heitzeg

Over the years, CI  has had the privilege of publishing a variety of pieces from Angola 3 News, including many updates on the status of the Angola 3 – Herman Wallace, Robert King, and Albert Woodfox – and their decades of solitary confinement at LSP Angola.. Today, with great sadness, we  bring you this message from Herman Wallace and add our own requests.

Fighting Spirit

angola3On Saturday. August 31st, I was transferred to LSU Hospital for evaluation. I was informed that the che of the mo treatments had failed and were making matters worse and so all treatment came to an end. The oncologists advised that nothing can be done for me medically within the standard care that they are authorized to provide. They recommended that I be admitted to hospice care to make my remaining days as comfortable as possible. I have been given 2 months to live.

I want the world to know that I am an innocent man and that Albert Woodfox is innocent as well. We are just two of thousands of wrongfully convicted prisoners held captive in the American Gulag. We mourn for the family of Brent Miller and the many other victims of murder who will never be able to find closure for the loss of their loved ones due to the unjust criminal justice system in this country. We mourn for the loss of the families of those unjustly accused who suffer the loss of their loved ones as well.

Only a handful of prisoners globally have withstood the duration of years of harsh and solitary confinement that Albert and myself have.  The State may have stolen my life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast.
In 1970 I took an oath to dedicate my life as a servant of the people, and although I’m down on my back, I remain at your service. I want to thank all of you, my devoted supporters, for being with me to the end.

CI would like to ask you to please join Amnesty International‘s now urgent request for the compassionate release of Herman Wallace. The related press release:

Amnesty International Appeals for Release of Terminally Ill ‘Angola 3’ Prisoner, after 40 Years in Solitary Confinement

Contact: Suzanne Trimel,, 212-633-4150, @AIUSAmedia

amnesty(NEW YORK) – Amnesty International appealed to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal today to immediately release from prison on humanitarian grounds. Herman Wallace, one of the ‘Angola 3,’ is terminally ill with cancer and has been imprisoned in solitary confinement for more than 40 years.

“Herman Wallace is 71 years old and has advanced liver cancer,” said Tessa Murphy, USA campaigner at Amnesty International. “After decades of cruel conditions and a conviction that continues to be challenged by the courts, he should be released immediately to his family so that he can be cared for humanely during his last months.”

Wallace was diagnosed with cancer after being taken to hospital on June 14. He had been on medication for some time for what was diagnosed as a stomach fungus and over the last months, has lost considerable weight. He is now being held in isolation in the infirmary at Hunt Correctional Center.

Wallace and fellow prisoner Albert Woodfox were first placed in isolation in 1972; since then they have been confined for 23 hours a day to cells measuring 6 by 9 feet.

Both men were convicted of the murder of a prison guard in 1973, yet no physical evidence links them to the crime – potentially exculpatory DNA evidence has been lost and the testimony of the main eyewitness has been discredited. Citing racial discrimination, misconduct by the prosecution, and inadequate defense, state and federal judges have overturned Woodfox’s conviction three times, while Wallace’s case is once again up for review before the federal courts.

The two men are believed to have spent longer in solitary confinement than virtually any other U.S. prisoner in recent history. During this time, prison authorities have broken their own policies to justify their continued incarceration in harsh and inhumane conditions.

Before Wallace’s cancer diagnosis, the harsh environment had already had an impact on both the man’s physical and psychological health as acknowledged by a federal judge in 2007. The severe toll of solitary confinement on inmates’ mental and physical health has been extensively documented in studies. In recognition of this damage, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, has called on states to prohibit the practice in excess of 15 days.

Amnesty International is also extremely concerned about the worsening conditions of confinement for Woodfox in David Wade Correctional Center. For approximately two months, Woodfox has been subjected to additional punitive measures – including strip searches each time he leaves or enters his cell, being escorted in ankle and wrist restraints, restricted phone access, and non-contact visits through a perforated metal screen. Temperatures in the prison cells are reportedly extremely high, regularly reaching up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

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We would to ask you too to consider  how we will rightly remember Herman Wallace when he is gone. How will we honor the unrelenting commitment to the principles of the Black Panther Party, never wavering in the face of more than 40 years of torture? And what will Angola 3 mean when the 3 are – one way or another – finally free?

It is easy to say the names –  Angola 3Peltier, Troy Davis, Mumia, Trayvon Martin. So many more.

It is easy to be lulled into believing that this might be enough.

It is not.

On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the murder of 4 Little Girls in a church bombing in Birmingham, Diane McWhorter noted this in “Civil Rights Justice on the Cheap”:

seal 2PNGThe Congressional leaders’ bipartisan homage to “the four little girls” could not overcome the unintentional theme of this anniversary year: half a century after the prime of the civil rights movement, why does so much of its promise remain unfulfilled, the sacrifice unrequited? The recent 50th anniversary celebrations of the March on Washington were mocked by the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act and the violent death of yet another black innocent, Trayvon Martin.

We are understandably drawn to cheaper correctives: posthumous pardons for the Scottsboro Boys in Alabama; plaques at the Birmingham city hall dedicated, in August, to Virgil Ware and Johnny Robinson, two other black children killed by whites on Sept. 15, 1963. If the structural changes achieved by these symbolic gestures are roughly none, their appeal is that they also cost nothing. To wit: the Congressional resolutions conferring the medal last spring passed unanimously.

Modern-day Americans seem loath to do the right thing unless it’s also the smart thing — even “compassionate release” has to be touted for its cost-saving virtues…

Angola 3Peltier, Troy Davis, Mumia, Trayvon Martin. So many more.

The names called us, their stories resonate because of what they represent; they evoke both personal sacrifice and the larger struggles faced by literally millions. We must remember it, honor it all. We may say the names, but we must do the work. We cannot not settle any longer for memorials or medals.

Ask for it all – accept nothing less.

United, always, in struggle, in love.



Innocent lives stolen and thrown into cages :(

Thanks for reposting Nancy

This is a horrible horrible injustice(?) ...    ..well....   in this case injustice does not seem strong enough a word..   it is so incredibly wrong what they have done to these men..

I wish all the best to Herman..  whatever that may be..


Thank you, Nancy, and thank Angola 3 News for always being on the beat.  Thanks to Amnesty for their ongoing efforts.

My prayers are with Herman Wallace now.  They are also with Albert Woodfox.  And with Brent Miller's family.  All are entitled to real justice.  None of them have received it.

As for Angola's warden  - I am not holding my breath.  Has that man ever done one thing that was truly compassionate?

Finally, I struggle mightily with the Congressional medal for the 4 children of Birmingham Sunday.  What utter hypocrisy.  The true legacy should be a renewed determination to fight like hell for civil rights - including voting rights and the abolition of the prison industrial complex.  I have no medals to bestow, but I have the rest of my life in which to fight like hell.

nancy a heitzeg
nancy a heitzeg moderator

I will always be grateful to @jackiesumell for Herman's House  and for helping Wallace be a little more free

Incredible documentary -- see it if you can