Solitary Confinement Exhibition Plants Seed for Advocacy Among SULC Student Body

Solitary Confinement Exhibition Plants Seed for Advocacy Among SULC Student Body

Written for Angola 3 News by Arisa A. Banks

(3L Class Representative; Symposium Editor, Journal of Race, Gender, & Poverty)

The seed for advocacy was planted among the student body stirred by the Solitary Confinement Exhibition, during 2014 Law Week activities at the Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The Oliver B. Spellman Law Library’s Civil Rights Room was the site for the exhibit throughout Law Week, March 17-21. Inspired by the remarkable story of the Angola 3, this exhibition was pulled together to create a platform to solicit discussion, activism, awareness, and advocacy to end prolonged solitary confinement practices in penal systems across this nation, according to the exhibit organizers. The Solitary Confinement Exhibit Committee included the following: Arisa Banks, Chair; Nana Mireku-Boateng- Volunteer Coordinator; LeBuria Johnson- Volunteer Coordinator; Iriane Lee- Law Week 2014 Chair; Larry Williams- Law Week 2014 Co-Chair; and Professor Angela Allen-Bell, Faculty Advisor. 

The use of solitary confinement in modern penal institutions has been officially implemented to discipline prisoners that are considered unruly. These prisoners confined to solitary confinement typically spend 23 hours of their day in isolation, with a brief period for exercise outside of their cell that often takes place in isolation as well. Being placed in solitary confinement is usually the most severe disciplinary punishment. Recently there has been an increase in prolonged solitary confinement practices in the country.

The story of the Angola 3 has exposed the use of long term solitary in the Louisiana State Penitentiary system and has brought attention to this issue nationwide and internationally. From the compelling stories of the injustice experienced by these three inmates, this exhibit was given life.

Professor Angela Allen-Bell has been a prominent advocate of the Angola 3 here on Southern University Law Center’s campus. She has done extensive research about long-term solitary confinement practices, particularly at Angola State Penitentiary. She has written numerous articles on the Angola 3, and has become heavily involved in the grass-root movement for their freedom. Her passion and commitment to this movement has been one that she has successfully passed on to her students. It is her vision, passion, and tenacity in continuing the fight for justice that planted the seed for the solitary confinement exhibit at the 2014 Law Week.

This week-long public display included documentaries on the Angola 3 and a two dimensional cell that displayed the actual dimensions of a 6X9 solitary confinement cell. The recreated cell included a depiction of a bed, desk, and toilet to illustrate how such a cell may look. The featured documentaries included In the Land of the Free, Hard Time and The Angola 3: Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation. The exhibition also featured keynote speakers Checo Yancy, the state president of Louisiana Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE,  a national organization whose mission is to help reduce crime through criminal justice reform), prison advocate and longtime Angola 3 supporter Malik Rahim, a prison advocate and Robert King, the first freed member of the Angola 3.

King and Rahim honored the campus with their presence during the Herman Wallace Memorial Program. The Herman Wallace Memorial Program occurred on March 20, 2014. It was a program that was part of the speaker series event for the exhibit to commemorate the efforts of Mr. Wallace in his fight for justice and to honor his legacy. King spoke to the student body about his experience while in solitary confinement for 29 years at Angola State Prison. While addressing the conditions of living in solitary confinement, King challenged the student body to advocate for justice and human rights. He ended his speech by arguing that Wallace’s legacy must not end because of his death, but that the fight continues.

The audience was so engaged by King’s presentation that the silence was deafening and students were still talking about its impact for weeks following the event. Carlton Miller, a graduating senior and participant in the program, stated how he was impacted and moved from the event. In reflection, Miller said: “Learning of the significant impact solitary confinement has on human beings’ mind, body, and spirit has truly inspired me to seek justice for those forgotten in the deep pits of prisons across this country. This isn’t an isolated issue affecting only those who are imprisoned, but rather is an issue that plagues our whole country. It is a stain on our reputation and a testament of our character if we continue to let this issue go unresolved. Hearing the vivid descriptions some inmates are facing in solitary confinement is unsettling. We can and must seek to use and influence the legal and political system to be sensitive to this issue.”

Felicia Hamilton, a graduating senior, felt that this program and exhibit was among one of the best events of Law Week, and said further that “the exhibit was both chilling & thought-provoking! Hosting the exhibit in the Civil Rights Room was an appropriate backdrop to learn more about the injustice experienced by the Angola 3.”

Below are photos from the Civil Rights Room exhibit and the event with Robert King:

Azadeh Zohrabi on CA Hunger Strikers, Solitary Confinement, and Herman Wallace

(Stayed tuned for footage of Robert King, speaking after Zohrabi, and the Q and A session afterwards.) 

Azadeh Zohrabi has almost 10 years of experience visiting and advocating for people in California’s prisons. During this time, she has worked on a range of issues including improving the conditions of confinement for pregnant women and limiting the use of solitary confinement in both juvenile and adult institutions.

Azadeh recently graduated from UC Hastings College of the Law and was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship to work with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children on minimizing the use of long term solitary confinement in California. She is the author and co-author of two scholarly articles: Resistance and Repression: The Black Guerrilla Family in Context, and Creating the “Bad Mother”: How the U.S. Approach to Pregnancy in Prisons Violates the Right to be a Mother. Azadeh has been inspired by LSPC’s work long before she even thought about law school and is grateful for the opportunity to work with such experienced, dedicated and passionate advocates.

Fighting Spirit: A Message from Herman Wallace

Times Picayune: Federal Magistrate rules against Herman Wallace’s writ of habeas corpus petition PLEASE TAKE ACTION: Demand Humane Release for Herman! USA, UK, France, Belgium, and elsewhereOn Saturday. August 31st, I was transferred to LSU Hospital fo…

Bail request filed by Herman Wallace’s legal team

(Recent photo of Herman Wallace)

On the evening of August 20, the Angola 3 legal team filed a request for bail in Herman’s habeas case.  This comes only days BEFORE a recommendation is expected from the Magistrate Judge reviewing the case.  Judge Jackson has the authority to issue bail at any time while the case is under consideration, but especially when the facts are compelling and failure to release on bail could “leave the petitioner without remedy.” 

In addition to an overwhelming body of evidence pointing to actual innocence, his habeas claim presents not one but 4 strong constitutional violations each sufficient on their own to trigger release.  According to the prisons own mechanisms of review, he does not pose a danger to himself or others and has not had a disciplinary write up for any incidence of institutional violence in over 30 years.  Most crucially at this time, his health continues to deteriorate rapidly, in no small part due to “the sub-standard care of the Louisiana Department of Corrections,” and if bail is denied, he may not survive the weeks or months possibly needed to complete the litigation of his claim, even if the Court rules in his favor.

According to the legal team, this sort of request for bail pending habeas review was once relatively routine 20 years ago but is only very rarely granted now.  However, as we all know well, and as the attorneys do an excellent job of summarizing for the Court, Herman’s case is “exceptional,” and “deserving of special treatment in the interests of justice.”

Let us hope Judge Jackson agrees.

We will update you as soon as we hear anything from the Court.

Herman Wallace Removed From Solitary: More humane conditions for Herman, one big step towards compassionate release

(Recent photo of Herman by

Last Friday, July 12, Louisiana’s Hunt prison reduced Herman Wallace’s classification from maximum to medium security meaning Herman is no longer being held in solitary confinement. He will stay in the prison hospital in a 10-bunk dorm, with access to a day room, and won’t have to wear leg irons. This was confirmed by visitors who saw Herman over the weekend and who took this photo of him using the exercise bike. Herman wanted to show supporters he is fighting to survive.

This is not enough. The call for Herman’s release continues with Amnesty International leading the campaign. “The wind is at our back and with your continued help our objective will be realized – freedom is in sight” says Robert King.  We ask you to join us in this fight for justice.

Take Action: Join Amnesty International to Demand Compassionate Release for Herman Wallace Now!

Please take action here!

(RELATED: article by The Advocate: “Amnesty International wants Jindal to free one of the Angola 3”)

Today, in response to the tragic news that Herman Wallace is terminally ill with cancer, Amnesty International has launched a campaign calling for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to immediately release Herman on humanitarian grounds.

Following his initial diagnosis on June 14, Herman continues to be held in isolation at Hunt Correctional Center’s prison infirmary. Reflecting on his confinement while battling cancer, Herman says: “My own body has now become a tool of torture against me.”

“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,” says Tessa Murphy, USA campaigner, about Herman Wallace.

Amnesty International has long criticized the legal process and lack of evidence that has resulted in both Herman and Albert Woodfox’s original murder convictions. In confronting Herman and Albert’s continued cruel confinement in solitary for over 40 years, Amnesty has declared it to be in violation of international human rights law, as well as the US Constitution itself.

In today’s statement, Amnesty declares that in the decades of Herman and Albert’s confinement, the “prison authorities have broken their own policies to justify their continued incarceration in harsh and inhumane conditions.” Amnesty also states that they are, “extremely concerned about the worsening conditions of confinement” for Albert in David Wade Correctional Center.

Creating public pressure for Herman is now more important than ever. We need Governor Jindal to get hundreds of thousands of emails demanding Herman’s immediate release, so please take action now and help us spread the word by posting on Facebook and forwarding it to your friends.

–The full text of the ‘take action’ email to Bobby Jindal – Governor of Louisiana, Paul Rainwater – Chief of Staff, Emily Riser – Executive Assistant,  and Tammy Woods – Assistant Chief of Staff reads:

Subject: We Call For Humane Release!

As I write you, 71 year old Herman Wallace is being held in isolation in the infirmary in Hunt Correctional Center. After spending more than four decades held in cruel and unusual solitary confinement, he has been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. The time to act is now. I ask you to release Herman to his family on humanitarian grounds, so that they can care for him during his last months on earth.

Both Herman Wallace and fellow ‘Angola 3’ prisoner Albert Woodfox have spent most of the past 41 years of their lives alone in a tiny cell for 23 hours a day. Such conditions are cruel, inhuman and degrading. Prior to Wallace’s cancer diagnosis, these conditions had already negatively impacted both men’s physical and psychological health. In fact, in 2007, a US federal judge ruled that the conditions constituted a deprivation of a basic human need and that prison officials should have been aware of the potential for serious harm to physical and mental health.

Contrary to requirements under both international human rights law and the US Constitution, Herman has had no meaningful review of his continued isolation. Herman’s prison records do not demonstrate that he is a threat to the security of the institution, himself or others. Furthermore, there are substantial concerns about the fairness of the legal process that resulted in Herman’s conviction; a conviction that is still being challenged before the courts today. Evidence suggests that the decision to keep him in solitary is based at least in part on his political activism and association with the Black Panther party.

Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox are believed to have spent more time in solitary confinement than virtually any other US prisoner in recent history. Now, after surviving 41 years of a nightmare, Herman doesn’t have much time left. Please release Herman to his family today.

(end of email text)

–Below is the full text of Amnesty International’s July 10, 2013 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

(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.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists, and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.