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CI: Razor Wire, Prison Cells, and Black Panther Robert H. King’s Life of Resistance –An Angola 3 News interview with filmmaker Ron Harpelle

April 09, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights, What People are Doing to Change the World

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.

Razor Wire, Prison Cells, and Black Panther Robert H. King’s Life of Resistance –An interview with filmmaker Ron Harpelle
by Angola 3 News

A new 40-minute documentary film by Canadian History Professor Ron Harpelle, entitled Hard Time, focuses on the life of Robert Hillary King, who spent 29 years in continuous solitary confinement until his conviction was overturned and he was released from Louisiana’s infamous Angola State Prison in 2001.

 Along with Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, Robert King is one of three Black Panther political prisoners known as the Angola 3. Last October, Herman Wallace died from liver cancer just days after being released from prison. Albert Woodfox remains in solitary confinement to do this day, with the upcoming date of April 17, 2014 marking 42 years since he was first placed there.

Robert King and Ron Harpelle w/ Kathleen Cleaver at the Montreal Black Film Festival. View more photos here

Robert King and Ron Harpelle w/ Kathleen Cleaver at the Montreal Black Film Festival. View more photos here

When Albert Woodfox’s conviction was overturned for a third time in February 2013, his release was halted because the Louisiana Attorney General immediately appealed to the US Fifth Circuit Court, despite an Amnesty International campaign calling on the AG to respect US District Court Judge James Brady’s ruling and not appeal. The Amnesty campaign (take action here) is now calling for Woodfox’s immediate release.

 In March, Amnesty released a new interview with Teenie Rogers, the widow of correctional officer Brent Miller, the man who Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace were wrongfully convicted of murdering. “This needs to stop, for me and my family to get closure,” Rogers says. She expresses sadness that she tried but was unable to see Herman before he passed and explains: “I am speaking out now because I don’t want another innocent man to die in prison.”

In an email message sent out by Amnesty, Robert King said: “Teenie believes me. She believes that the Angola 3 had nothing to do with her husband’s murder. She believes that Albert Woodfox, Herman Wallace and I suffered years of cruel solitary confinement as innocent men…The state hasn’t done justice by her, either. She’s angry. We both are. Louisiana authorities are hell bent on blaming the wrong person. Well, I’m hell bent on setting him free.”

 Hard Timewas recently shown in Canada at both the Toronto and Montreal Black Film Festivals, following Robert King’s testimony in Chicago about solitary confinement at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Scienceearlier that month. On April 20, Hard Time will be shown in Paris, with French subtitles, at the Ethnografilm Festival.

 The full, 40-minute version of Hard Time can now be viewed online, along with Ron Harpelle’s previous film, entitled In Security. Our interview with him is featured below.

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Herman Wallace (October 13, 1941 – October 4, 2013): “I am Free”

October 04, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

Hermans’ House

Obituary/Press Statement at Angola 3 News: The Muhammad Ali of Criminal Justice

black line Capture

After 41 years in Solitary, Herman Wallace is Finally Freed

October 01, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

Free At Last! Herman Wallace Has Finally Been Released, Angola 3 News

herman-wallace

Despite all the exciting drama of the day, this is obviously a deeply bittersweet moment for all those involved in the campaign as we know Herman may not have much longer amongst us, but thanks to the unwavering commitment to justice that those on this list have demonstrated over the years on A3′s behalf, he will not die in prison behind solitary bars.

Now we must resolve collectively to harness this rediscovered energy and excitement and dedicate ourselves to getting Albert the same result without delay.

More at The Times Picayune (with photos)

A Message form Herman Wallace (And Us)

Another Angola 3 Inmate Released

Judge Jackson Ruling on Herman Wallace Release

CI: A Message from Herman Wallace (and Us)

September 18, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

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.

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Herman’s House: Resisting the Cage

July 08, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

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Herman Wallace may be the longest-serving prisoner in solitary confinement in the United States—he’s spent more than 40 years in a 6-by-9-foot cell in Louisiana. Imprisoned in 1967 for a robbery he admits, he was subsequently sentenced to life for a killing he vehemently denies. Herman’s House is a moving account of the remarkable expression his struggle found in an unusual project proposed by artist Jackie Sumell. Imagining Wallace’s “dream home” began as a game and became an interrogation of justice and punishment in America. The film takes us inside the duo’s unlikely 12-year friendship, revealing the transformative power of art. Premiering on PBS’s POV July 8, 2013.

CI: Four Score and One Too Many Years

April 17, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, International Law, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

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.

Four Score and One Too Many Years
by International Coalition to Free the Angola 3/Angola 3 News

Today, April 17, 2013, marks 41 years that Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace have been unjustly incarcerated in solitary confinement in Louisiana. This is 41 years of living in concrete and metal cages of 6 x 9 feet; 41 years of being separated from their families and loved ones; 41 years of being wrongly accused of a murder they did not commit.

Over 41 years ago, prison officials at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (aka ‘Angola’), an 18,000-acre former slave plantation, were first confronted by the Angola 3′s challenge to the obscene human rights atrocities that were a daily reality for prisoners there. They responded to these efforts by fabricating a case against Albert and Herman for the tragic murder of prison guard Brent Miller in 1972. Shortly thereafter, when Robert King entered Angola, he was ensnared in the aftermath of that murder and joined Herman and Albert in solitary.

Art by Emory Douglas

Art by Emory Douglas

Although the flame for justice for the Angola 3 continues to burn bright these many decades later, words cannot express the profound rage and frustration we feel commemorating one more year of Herman and Albert’s confinement. But we will not lose hope or forget how much we have already accomplished and just how close we are to winning both Herman and Albert’s release. Solitary confinement’s daily assault on Herman and Albert’s mind, body and spirit has not been able to deter them. Inspired by their heroic resilience on the frontlines of the struggle, we too, will never give up our fight for their release.

Continuing this fight for Albert, Herman and all prisoners, today we are launching an action to kick-start the call for a State Congressional Hearing to end the use of prolonged solitary confinement in Louisiana. Our friends at The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) have enabled this through their campaign calling “upon state legislators and departments of corrections to begin now to take steps to end prolonged solitary confinement” in all 50 states and the federal prison system.

We need only 500 people within a particular state to sign the statement and NRCAT will send these endorsements to that state’s governor, top corrections officials, and every member of that state’s legislature. When we hit 1,000 signatures they will do the same again. PLEASE spread the word to help us achieve our petition goal for Louisiana and in states across the country. Please sign this now.

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CI: The Campaign to Free the Angola 3 Intensifies

March 06, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights, White Privilege

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.

The Campaign to Free the Angola 3 Intensifies
–Amnesty International responds to Albert Woodfox’s third overturned conviction

By Angola 3 News

(The video embedded above is a trailer for an upcoming UK documentary film about the Angola 3.)

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CI: The PIC – Old School/New School

January 23, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Education, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

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. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

The PIC – Old School/New School
by nancy a heitzeg

Editors Note: For the past several  years now, I have taught courses on dismantling racism that encourage a critical examination of the prison industrial complex via direct on – site observation.  First in the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans — the incarceration capitals of the world. There is No Where to better explore the deep and undeniable connections between the old system of plantation slavery and its’ current manifestations in the contemporary prison industrial complex.

It is all revealed in brutal starkness at LSP Angola.  This is the nations’ largest maximum security prison and the only prison with its own zip code, houses more than 5200 inmates, all serving sentences of at least 30 years, most serving life.  Otherwise known as The Farm, Angola is located on the site of an old 18,000 acre plantation, converted after Reconstruction into a state penitentiary. Angola depends on neo-slave inmate labor starting at 2 cents per hour. The highest available wage for a few rare jobs is 20 cents per hour.

This year, we examined that the epicenter of the contemporary PIC – California, which until recently imprisoned in sheers numbers more than any state. More prisoners than Louisiana, than Florida, probably still more than Texas even if we count those transferred to county jails — nearly a quarter million locked away. Numbers so excessive they made the SCOTUS blink and declare that the extreme over-crowding must be reduced by as many as 46,000 inmates. This over-crowding is especially egregious at the Central California Women’s Facility at Chowchilla, the world’s largest prison for women, which is currently housing nearly double capacity. (For those of you in California, please join the California Coalition for Women Prisoners Chowchilla Freedom Rally  on January 26 or support this in any way you can. More on that next week.)

It is California – the Golden Gulag -  that brings us the expansion of the modern pic – driven by a draconian three strikes law ( just recently revised), the proliferation of gang legislation, correctional spending that far outstrips educational investments, excessive use of solitary confinement and SuperMax conditions,  and a powerful police officer and prison guard union that stands in the way of any meaningful efforts to reduce mass incarceration.

The contrasts and connections between these two “leaders” in incarceration is instructive, as is an examination at the multitude of grassroots efforts at resistance. Because, yes, wherever there are cages –there are those seeking to open them.

You can read 10 million books, but there is no substitute ever for Being There. So in the next few weeks, CI will take a closer look at the Old School version of the prison industrial complex as exemplified by Louisiana and the New School configuration as evidenced in California. We will “be there” and see what lessons are revealed for all of us as we continue to challenge both the premises and practices of mass imprisonment.

I was reminded again recently of a provocative post by our comrades at Prison Culture: What Should We Make Of Prison Tourism? Always mixed feelings and a deep sense of obligation about visiting prisons both defunct and especially active. At least this: if you have been there you must report back. You must add your voice to the rising opposition.

One of my students — a woman who herself had done time in prison – put it best, with these remarks after a “tour” of Angola.

“Prisoners don’t have a voice,” she said”, “At least now they have 20 more.”

We Need a Million More.

Please join us.

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