It is with an extremely heavy heart that I bring you news about a decline in Herman Wallace’s health. Herman is one of the so-called ‘Angola 3’ and has been incarcerated in solitary confinement for 41 years in Louisiana, USA.
On 17 April 1972, Herman was one of three young black men put into solitary. Herman and another of the three, Albert Woodfox, remain there. The third member of the Angola 3, Robert King, was released in 2001. He has since dedicated his life to fighting for justice for his friends.
In total, the three men have spent more than 100 years in solitary, mostly in the Louisiana State Penitentiary known as 'Angola' prison. But the Angola 3 refuse to be silenced; their fight for justice continues. It's a fight that Amnesty supports, and I work on the case for Amnesty in the UK. Over the past few years, thousands of you have asked Louisiana authorities to grant the three men the justice they deserve. And now we need you to take action again.
Herman’s deteriorating health
Writing these words fills my eyes with tears and my heart with pain, but it is important to let you know that Herman Wallace has very recently been diagnosed with liver cancer. His full prognosis at this stage is unknown.
Herman Wallace is an old and sick man who has spent 41 years in a room no bigger than an average bathroom, for 23 hours a day, every day (for a crime he maintains he did not commit). And while Herman did not receive the death penalty – he was sentenced in 1972 after the Furman v Georgia ruling which temporarily placed a moratorium on the death penalty in the USA – it looks increasingly likely that he will die in these conditions too.
This is heart-breaking news and everyone associated with the campaign remains shocked. But, taking our lead from the Angola 3, we are determined to fight, and we desperately need you to stand beside Herman, Albert and Robert at this difficult time. We need to put our collective voices together, louder than ever, and link arms with these men across the ocean. Please send a message to Herman and Albert, let them know that they have support around the world.
A life in isolation
Solitary confinement is one of those words that people in authority don’t like to use. Some call it Closed Cell Restricted (CCR) Units, others call it isolation. Regardless of the chosen terminology, one can only refer to this condition as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. This has been Herman and Albert’s life for the last 41 years. And it appears to be continuing indefinitely.
Why do the prison authorities remain so committed to keeping Herman and Albert in these conditions, when records show that neither man has committed any serious disciplinary for decades, and the prison’s own mental health records indicate that neither pose a threat to themselves or to others? Well, the short answer is that none of this seems to matter. The view of the prison warden in 2006 was that:
"[Herman's] record...doesn’t really matter a lot. The original sentence, that’s why he’s there, that’s why he’s there and that’s why he’s going to stay there."
Show Herman that despite being in solitary, he’s not alone
One of Amnesty’s roles is to shine a light on injustice wherever it takes place. So I’m asking you to please shine the brightest possible light upon Louisiana, and to send a message or write a postcard (preferably with a picture of your hometown) to Herman and Albert. Please let them know that you are standing beside them at this difficult time. They really do need your support. Albert is taking this news very badly - so while we need to send Herman our support, Albert needs this too.
Any messages or letters will not only give much-needed support to Herman and Albert, but it will also show the Louisiana authorities that the world is watching them.
I’ll update you as soon as I can over what steps Amnesty is able to take in terms of challenging the authorities over the men's conditions.
I usually listen to music when I’m writing, and as I write these words, I’m listening to ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ by Sam Cooke. A change is so desperately needed for Herman and Albert, and for Herman a change is needed more than ever. A change could prolong his life, but more than that, a change could ensure that the time he has left with us all is spent in conditions which do not amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
As well as their ongoing criminal appeals, the Angola 3 have also collectively taken out a civil suit against the State of Louisiana over their incarceration in solitary confinement. The civil suit is due to be heard in court next year. The men have waited many, many years for their case to be heard and it is so desperately sad that Herman may not be able to see the outcome. But we can all make sure that Herman knows that we will continue campaigning for justice.
"We’re not asking for sympathy. We’re asking for justice. We’re asking for humanity."
- Robert King, 2010
Justice and humanity need to be forthcoming immediately for Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King.
Please show both Herman and Albert - who has been in solitary alongside Herman for 41 years and is taking the news of Herman's health badly - that we are standing with them at this difficult time.
Post a message of support for Herman and/or Albert on this blog, by leaving a comment below. We'll collect the messages and post them to the prisons where Herman and Albert are being held.
You can also post your own letter. A postcard from your hometown would be perfect, and will help show the prison authorities that the world is watching and knows of this injustice.
Herman and Albert are being held in separate prisons now, so if you're posting letters, please write to them both individually at the addresses below. Please also include a line to let Herman and Albert know that they don’t need to respond to you. We need to make sure we don’t increase the pressure on them at this time to respond to all their correspondence.
EHCC PO Box 174
St Gabriel, LA 70776
David Wade Correctional Center, N1A3
670 Bell Hill Road
Homer, LA 71040
About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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