For 35 years, Jim Crow justice in Louisiana has kept Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox locked in solitary confinement for a murder everyone knows they didn't commit.
Despite overwhelming evidence of their innocence, the 2 remaining "Angola 3" prisoners (one has been exonerated) spend 23 hours each day in 6 x 9 cells at Angola--the site of a former plantation--because they challenged the violence and segregation inside the prison1. Prison officials--and the state officials who could intervene--won't end their horrible confinement. They've locked them up and thrown away the key.
Just like in Jena, we can turn things around by making it a political liability for the authorities to continue the racist status quo. Join us in calling on the Department of Justice, which funds Louisiana's prisons with our tax dollars, and Louisiana Governor Jindal, to investigate and intervene:
"Angola", sits on an 18,000 acre former slave plantation and its history is telling: considered among the most violent, racially segregated prison in the 70s, almost a prisoner a day was stabbed, shot or raped2. Inmates were often put in inhumane punishment camps for small infractions.
Although not activists when arriving in prison, brutal, squalid conditions and news of a civil rights movement on the outside prompted the Angola 3--Herman, Albert and Robert King Wilkerson--to begin routinely speaking out against injustice. They organized hunger and work strikes and a Black Panther chapter within the prison to protest corruption and horrific abuse, including systematic rape3, facing the largely Black prisoner population.4
Shortly after these protests became public, the Angola 3 were charged with murdering a prison guard and quickly convicted with fake evidence, by all-white juries. The bloody fingerprints at the scene don't match any of the Angola 3. Both men have alibi witnesses, with nothing to gain--the witnesses who testified against them have admitted to being coerced by prison officials. Even the widow of the correctional officer who was murdered does not believe Herman and Albert killed her husband; she's urging state and federal officials to find the real killer.5
The Angola 3 don't pretend to be saints. They committed crimes many decades ago, and more than served their time. They should not be held in solitary confinement for standing up against unimaginable conditions in prison--including violent segregation and 16 hour, 6 day a week work schedules.
NBC Nightly News6 just aired a piece this week about the plight of the Angola 3. And it's time to finally get some justice for Herman and Albert. When we spoke up about the Jena 6, it was about more than helping six Black youth in a small town called Jena7. It was about standing up against a system of unequal justice. That broken system is at work again and we're joining The Innocence Project and Amnesty International8 to challenge it in the case of the Angola 3.
It's now time for the Governor of Louisiana and the Department of Justice to step in and say enough is enough. Please join us in demanding that they both intervene--to ensure justice for the Angola 3 and to bring about reform and accountability in Louisiana's prison system.
Thank You and Peace,
-- James, Van, Gabriel, Clarissa, Mervyn, Andre, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
March 18th, 2008