(Photo of John Clutchette in the 1980s.)’Soledad Brother’ John Clutchette Granted Parole; Will CA Governor Jerry Brown Reverse the Decision?–An interview with Law Professor Angela A. Allen-BellBy Angola 3 NewsOn January 12, 2018, the California Board …
Blog News from the Angola 3
(PHOTO: Albert Woodfox at a meeting of VOTE-Shreveport on October 21. Albert is standing in the back row, sixth person from the right. Click on the photo for a larger image).
A3 Newsletter, Nov. 18, 2017:
On The Road Again
As another year draws to a close, Albert and King are busier than ever traveling the country and the world, sharing their stories and providing inspiration and hope that good things can happen in this horribly broken criminal justice system.
Next week they’ll be heading to Belgium and Germany to work with their friends at Amnesty on launching another Write for Rights Campaign.
It’s been a whirlwind of a year for the guys that began with trips to San Francisco to speak at the Exploratorium and UCSF Psychology Dept., then to Toronto and Montreal before heading to Denmark and Sweden, the premiere of their film, Cruel and Unusual in NYC and Los Angeles and a myriad of other events across the county to support multiple efforts. We look forward to wrapping up the year with A3 supporters next month with a report back from their European tour.
One of the most difficult things that Albert has had to deal with since his release is the many, many requests he receives from prisoners for assistance. As A3 supporters know, success in this effort took over 20 years to achieve, with hundreds of individuals using all their creativity and energy and resources to draw attention to this case, not to mention a rafter of skilled lawyers and investigators. It is heart breaking for Albert to receive letter after letter from prisoners and their families and friends who share their stories of abuse and denial of rights inside and to have so little one can offer as help.
We recall several years ago reading about a wrongfully convicted prisoner who wrote ten letters every day for the 14 years he was incarcerated to lawyers and organizations before he reached someone who heard his story, agreed to help and he was released. There are no silver bullets and no straight path towards justice, just lots of hard work, searching for legal assistance, a committed support group and some lucky breaks seem to be the only advice we can pass on.
We’re so grateful that Albert is finally free and that he and Robert are able to enjoy their lives out here in minimum security with family and friends. However, as wonderful as it is to have come this far and to have both Albert and Robert free, justice was not served in this case. Freedom is the consolation prize that has committed them to keep on working for the freedom of others.
Albert and Robert Will Return to Europe for a Visit to Belgium and Germany with Amnesty International
Later this month, Robert and Albert will be going to Germany and Belgium to launch Amnesty’s annual Write for Rights campaigns which encourages activists to write to political prisoners around the world. They will also be meeting activists at public events and continuing to campaign & lobby for an end to solitary confinement and the release of political prisoners.
In Brussels, Belgium, Albert and Robert will appear at the “Write for Rights” kickoff on Saturday the 2nd and on Tuesday the 5th at a screening of the film “Cruel and Unusual.” If more information about these Brussels events becomes available, we will post it on our twitter and facebook pages.
For all of our A3 supporters in Germany, Amnesty International and the Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland (Initiative Black People in Germany) would like to invite you to two events, both entitled BEING POLITICIZED – Talking about Justice Systems and Racism with Albert Woodfox and Robert King. The events are in the cities of Berlin and Cologne.
Event information, written in German, is below.
BERLIN: Dienstag 28.11.2017, 19 Uhr (Einlass 18.30 Uhr)
Ort: STUDIO Я (Maxim Gorki Theater), Hinter dem Gießhaus 2, 10117 Berlin
Mit: Albert Woodfox, Robert King, Bafta Sarbo (Vorstandsmitglied der Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland Bund e.V.), Sumit Bhattacharyya (USA-Experte von Amnesty International)
Moderation: Karen Taylor (Vorstandsmitglied des European Network Against Racism, ENAR)
Eintritt frei, Anmeldung nicht möglich
KÖLN: Mittwoch 29.11.2017, 19.30 Uhr (Einlass 19 Uhr)
Ort: Bürgerzentrum Alte Feuerwache (Großes Forum), Melchiorstraße 3, 50670 Köln
Mit: Albert Woodfox, Robert King, Grußwort: Jessica Böhner (Vorstandsmitglied von Amnesty International Deutschland e.V.)
Moderation: Hadija Haruna-Oelker (Politikwissenschaftlerin und Redakteurin, aktiv in der Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland Bund e.V.)
Eintritt frei, Anmeldung nicht möglich
Ripples Become Waves: Rigo 23’s Leonard Peltier Art Exhibit in Los Angeles on Sunday
Artist, Rigo 23 has actively supported the Angola 3 case and traveled extensively with Robert over the years. As part of his ongoing work on political prisoners, Rigo’s recent project on Leonard Peltier will be exhibited this Sunday, November 19th at The Main in Los Angeles, using a title that A3’s Robert King coined: “Ripples Become Waves.”
(Photos by Ashlyn Forbes)
Albert Woodfox Appears in Premiere Episode of “The Story of Us With Morgan Freeman”
On October 11, the National Geographic Channel premiered the new TV show entitled “The Story of Us With Morgan Freeman.” With the title and focus of the episode being “The March of Freedom,” Albert was interviewed and his story was spotlighted alongside several other survivors of prison and torture.
You can watch an excerpt from the section of the show focusing on Albert here, but you will need to subscribe to the National Geographic website, or possibly catch it via On Demand on your TV or as a rerun on the Nat Geo channel where it is next being rebroadcast this Sunday, November 19 at 6pm EST.
Albert Woodfox Event With VOTE-Shreveport
(Click on graphic for larger image)
On October 21, Albert Woodfox traveled to North Louisiana for a meeting organized by the Shreveport, Louisiana chapter of VOTE (Voices of the Experienced). An exclusive article written for the A3 Newsletter by Deborah Allen provides background on the important history of VOTE in Louisiana, as well as a report-back from Albert’s visit last month.
Albert was interviewed by KSLA News 12 and a video report published by the Shreveport Sun Newspaper features excerpts from Albert’s talk. You can watch a video of Albert’s full speech here.
(PHOTO: Deborah Allen with Albert on Oct. 21)
Albert Woodfox Visits VOTE-Shreveport
Written by guest author Deborah Allen
Tucked away in the far northern corner of Louisiana is Caddo Parish. It is so far removed from the rest of the state you would think you are in east Texas. The one thing that cannot be denied; for years Caddo Parish has incarcerated more than anywhere else in the state. With Louisiana incarcerating more than anywhere else in the US, and the US more than anywhere in the world, logically Caddo Parish incarcerates more people per capita than anywhere else in the world.
It is evident Caddo Parish has not changed much since the Reconstruction era. A report issued by the Pew Charitable Trusts in 2016, produced in cooperation with the Democratic Governor John Bel Edward, and the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force found that more than half of prisoners recently sentenced were convicted on drug charges. The Pew report also outlined how the top 10 crimes that received sentencing are nonviolent offenses. This explains why even though arrests and sentencing are high, the crime rate keeps going up.
The Task Force’s consensus recommendations would avert the projected growth in the number of prisoners in Louisiana and move the prison population downward, for an overall reduction in the prison population of 13 percent (4,817 prison beds) by 2027. This decline in the number of prisoners would save Louisiana taxpayers $305 million over the next ten years. Savings in FY2018 alone would exceed $9 million. The recommendations would reinvest over half of the savings – $154 million-into research-based programs that reduce recidivism and services that support victims of crime. (Source)
November 1, 2017 was the release date of nearly 2000 nonviolent inmates in Louisiana. Most of these inmates are being released 60 days earlier that the date that was set for release. Caddo Parish sheriff, Steve Prator wasted no time using fear tactics to scare citizens across north Louisiana. Prator held a press release that went viral across the globe, where he touted the importance of keeping “good” prisoners incarcerated to perform money-saving menial labor. Furthermore, he described state prisoners as a “necessary evil to keep the doors open” at the jail his office runs. Among those are “the ones that you can work, that’s the ones that can pick up trash, the work release programs.”
In Caddo Parish and north Louisiana, the services provided for reentering society do not exist, thereby creating even greater challenges for those reentering these communities to be productive citizens. While the system is broken across the state, in north Louisiana it is even worse.
VOTE (Voice of the Experienced) is a grassroots, membership organization founded and run by Formerly Incarcerated Persons (FIPs) in partnership with allies. VOTE is dedicated to ending the disenfranchisement and discrimination against people with convictions. The mission of VOTE – We believe that FIPs, their loved ones, and their communities can use their experiences and expertise to improve public safety in New Orleans. Through civic education and participation, VOTE increasingly mobilizes a strong group of leaders to transform our city’s criminal justice system. VOTE-NOLA was at the table with Pew, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Louisianans for Prison Alternatives, and the ACLU in formulating the Justice Reinvestment Package. An amazing coming together of allies and a bi-partisan legislation came together to get smart about how the state incarcerates.
(Click on the image above for a larger version)
During this meeting of minds, activists and allies came together and identified the need for VOTE chapters across north Louisiana. Executive director Norris Henderson and field director Robert Goodman Jr. recruited Curtis Davis and Stephanie Rogers-Jones to organize VOTE-Shreveport. In less than 6 months, VOTE-Shreveport is seeing a great response from formerly incarcerated people and their allies. The services provided by the New Orleans VOTE chapter will greatly benefit those in northwest Louisiana. The services provided by VOTE are to help with reentry health care, housing, and leadership development, all of which Shreveport is in dire need of.
Albert Woodfox graciously accepted an invitation to speak at our meeting and share his experiences of 43 years in solitary and his counsel on helping others successfully reenter. It’s a five hour drive from NOLA to Shreveport. Albert left early to make the 1PM meeting and had to race back for an 8PM meeting in NOLA.
He told the audience about his time in solitary confinement, how he gathered strength to carry on day after day. When someone asked him what he focused on during his solitary confinement he stated, “If possibly dying in prison could be an inspiration to someone following me, then I was willing to make that sacrifice. I believe my cause was noble.”
Albert also credited the lessons his mother taught him as a child. “That was my foundation. I realized that great men and women and sometimes children that I read about were not putting something in me, but were pulling something out of me that my mother had already instilled from me. I believed something so strongly that I was willing to give my life for it. With that belief they had no ability to break me.”
Albert called on those in attendance to get behind the efforts of VOTE Shreveport with so much work to do across the state of Louisiana to make this justice reinvestment work and to keep up the good fight. As he told one young supporter when ask why he is still active after his release.
“Old men like me struggle so that young men like you can know victory. As strong as I am, I cannot do by myself. It doesn’t matter how strong I am, my strength is no greater than your support. As stron
g as I am, I cannot do this by myself. I have to have the strength to take the first blow but beyond that are the people sitting in this room, people of the city of Shreveport, of the state of Louisiana, people in the United States of America, and the world that make the difference.”
–Guest author Deborah Allen, (shown alongside Albert in the above photo from Oct.21) is a long time supporter of the Angola 3. Deborah is a criminal justice activist, author, and executive director of the North Louisiana Civil Rights Coalition who recently established the first civil rights museum in north Louisiana.
Flyer for an upcoming VOTE event in New Orleans:
Join VOTE on December 12, 2017 as we march for the rights of formerly and presently incarcerated women and girls. We will be marching from the First 72+ to City Hall. Email Lead Organizer Dolfinette Martin, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.
According to The Sentencing Project, there has been a 700% increase in the number of incarcerated women and girls since 1980. These women face greater threat of sexual assault, restricted access to necessary feminine hygiene products, prohibitive health care choices, and inhumane isolation from family and allies. We will be marching to show our support to the women and girls who have experienced, and are experiencing, the injustices of female incarceration firsthand.
A3 Newsletter, Sept 27, 2017: Continuing the Struggle to Free Political PrisonersAlbert and Robert continue tirelessly traveling around the country and the world, bringing attention to other cases and issues around the criminal “in”justice system here …
(PHOTO: Robert King and Albert Woodfox with a former Los Angeles Panther named Hakim, taken at the Los Angeles premiere of Cruel and Unusual)A3 Newsletter, June 14, 2017: We Stand With the Prisoners Human Rights MarchAngola 3 stands strong with the upc…
The video embedded above is from a May 19, 2017 talk given by Albert Woodox in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. View the announcement for the event as well as the report published afterwards.Special thanks to our friends in Montreal for hosting Albert!(PHOTO…
Join Albert Woodfox and Robert King for a Q & A and screening of the new documentary film about the Angola 3, entitled “Cruel and Unusual,” premiering in New York City on May 26 and in Santa Monica, CA on June 2. See flyers for more information.
(PHOTO: Albert at the Innocence Project’s Network Conference in San Diego this last month, alongside Valerie Jarret, a Chicago lawyer and former top adviser to President Barack Obama.)A3 Newsletter, April 17, 2017: Taking on the Clarion Call – “F…
‘Cruel and Unusual’ – The Angola 3 story, US Cinema Release
Help get the Angola 3’s story into cinemas to support their campaign against long-term solitary confinement & qualify for the Oscars
Cinema release in NY and LA to bring ‘Cruel and Unusual’ – the story of the Angola 3 – to the big screen and qualify for Academy Award consideration.
‘Cruel and Unusual’ is the story of three men who have spent longer in solitary confinement than any other prisoners in the US because of the murder of a prison guard in 1972 at Angola, the Louisiana state penitentiary.
Robert King, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were convicted by bribed and blind eye witnesses and with no physical evidence. Targeted as members of the Black Panther Party, the film follows their struggle against the miscarriage of justice and their cruel and unusual treatment.
Their story culminated in 2016 with the release of Albert Woodfox after 43 years in solitary confinement.
‘Cruel and Unusual’ has been eight years in the making. But that pales into insignificance compared to the 43 years that Albert Woodfox spent in a 6 foot by 9 foot cell for a crime he did not commit. After years left forgotten in the depths of America’s bloodiest prison, their struggle against this injustice had become an international scandal; when on the 19th February last year, on his 69th birthday, Albert was finally released, it was headline news around the world. Here is a small selection of that coverage:
‘Cruel and Unusual’ shines a light on the overuse of long-term solitary in US prisons. It is also the story of three remarkable men who as members of the Black Panther Party have been fighting for justice since the early 1970s. Even though the Angola 3 have been released, their struggle continues. On any given day it is estimated that ten to fifteen thousand prisoners are kept in solitary in the US. We want to make sure as many people as possible hear the Angola 3’s story and support the continuation of their campaign to end long-term solitary confinement in US prisons.
A US cinema release aims to give a platform for their story and campaign. By starting in New York and Los Angeles, the film also becomes eligible for the Academy Awards, which hopefully will give the campaign even more visibility.
Vadim Jean – Director
I first heard about the Angola 3 from Anita and Gordon Roddick, the founders of The Body Shop stores, who had been helping the Angola 3 fight their case since 2001. Anita told everyone she knew about them. But she didn’t just talk about issues, she did something about it. In fact her big thing was, “just do something”. Do it from kindness, do it because you have faith, do it because you’re guilty, do it because it’s right; for her it didn’t matter. Just do something.
So when in 2007 I sat at her Memorial to celebrate her life, and Robert King came onto the stage to speak, I should have guessed that as this was Anita, it might change the course of the next eight years of my life. Robert was full of dignity, grace, sanity, courage and it must be said charisma. He also played two crackly telephone messages from Herman and Albert in solitary. It was profoundly moving. I cried. In seemingly one of the worst of the worst places on earth, somehow they had managed to find the best of the best that the human spirit has to offer. And like all of us that knew her, Anita had changed their lives. So now, her big finger was pointing down at me. And it had a big sign on it saying, “just do something”. For me, that thing was to make this film.
If I’m honest, during most of the making of this film I doubted that Herman and Albert would ever be free. That these incredible men have been released is the consequence of a remarkable coalition against the injustice. But most of all it is because they are two of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. They fought for decades for justice and ultimately won their struggle, though for Herman, his freedom was won at the ultimate cost…
I hope the film may do its small part in helping to bring attention to this injustice. If you would like to “just do something” please help us to support the Angola 3 and their ongoing campaign by backing the US cinema release of ‘Cruel and Unusual’.
The Mob Film Company
As well as documentaries, the Mob also produces feature films and television drama, including the multi-BAFTA winning Terry Pratchett Discworld adaptations, which remain the highest ever rating shows on Sky One. They are currently completing the movie ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’, the story of Charles Dickens writing ‘A Christmas Carol’ starring Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer and Jonathan Pryce.
For more information on the Angola 3 and the ongoing campaign to end the long-term use of solitary confinement please see their website.
WHERE WILL THE MONEY GO?
While there will be distribution for DVD, streaming and online, we are doing our own cinema release in support of the campaign. This means taking a financial risk on the booking of cinemas and other associated costs, including prints, publicity, and travel for Albert and Robert – and it’s expensive. Sadly we don’t have budget for this. So it’s these costs that your support will contribute towards.
A one week release in New York and Los Angeles will also qualify the film for Academy Award consideration. Traditionally for feature documentaries this is one of the best ways for a film to get maximum exposure.
If we should exceed our Kickstarter goal we will introduce stretch goals to expand our release to other US cities, such as New Orleans, Louisiana (for obvious reasons!), Washington, Austin and Miami.
As thanks for your support we are offering some great rewards: tickets to either the NY or LA premieres with Albert and Robert or to a private screening with the filmmakers in London, exclusive ‘Cruel & Unusual’ T-shirts; DVDs; posters, etc.
Amnesty International UK has released a new interview with Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3. Listen to the podcast here.
Accompanying the podcast interview is a post on Amnesty UK’s blog that features an extended statement by Albert Woodfox, entitled: It’s a human right to agitate the ‘injustice’ system. Albert’s full statement is featured below:
A year ago on 19 February 2016 I walked out of a Louisiana prison a free man after serving 44 years in solitary confinement.
At that moment I became ‘famous’ as the longest serving person in solitary confinement in the world, as well as being the last member of the Angola 3 to be free.
For over 44 years – along with fellow Black Panthers Herman Wallace and Robert King – we turned our death chambers into classrooms and courts of law from which we educated fellow inmates and stood up against a violent, racist and brutal prison system which targeted us for our activism.
We believed then, as we believe now, that it is a human right to challenge and agitate the ‘injustice’ system.
The confinement the Angola 3 endured was not only cruel and unusual punishment but also torture and as a result of our case, solitary confinement was recognized as such by the UN Rapporteur on Torture in 2013 and then later by Amnesty.
Also, since our freedom, we have seen positive legislative changes curbing the use of solitary confinement – most recently in Louisiana itself.
But the spotlight was not always on the Angola 3 and I know too well what it is to be an ordinary man put into extraordinary circumstances.
And so since my release I have travelled throughout the US and to Europe with King to continue to take a stand against the flawed US prison system and against the use of solitary confinement on behalf of the political prisoners still incarcerated in the US, including seventeen Black Panthers such as Russell Maroon Shoatz and Kenny Zulu Whitmore. I also continue to take a stand in honor of Herman Wallace who stands by my and King’s side in spirit and who we deeply miss.
Since my release, one of the questions I am most frequently asked is why after over four decades of struggle I continue to take a stand after what I have been through. To a young man who asked me this in England last year, this is what I said:
“So future generations do not have to suffer like we did.
So that people can be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.
Old men like us are fighting to make sure you see victory – as one day we are going to win.”
So even when it feels like you are not going to win, when you grow disillusioned with politics which put greed before people’s human rights, when you don’t think you can make a difference – please remember that if you had not taken a stand to support the Angola 3 and joined the hundreds of thousands of activists around the world who did, I may not have been able to write this to you today.
The struggle continues.