life with sticks in one's head

The Angola 3

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My housemate brought to my attention this morning an article in The Guardian outlining the story of the Angola 3, three African-American men, Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox, and Robert King, who spend decades in solitary confinement for crimes they did not commit. None of them had anything resembling or even attempting to resemble a fair trial. None of them were allowed to speak with their lawyers before trial. Police did virtually no investigation of the crimes, preferring to a) take the words of repeat jailhouse snitches and b) targeting “black militants”, as they called members of the Black Panther Party attempting to educate their fellow inmates.

Erwin James paints a horrifying picture of Angola Penitentiary: “Angola prison, the state penitentiary of Louisiana, is the biggest prison in America. Built on the site of a former slave plantation, the 1,800-acre penal complex is home to more than 5,000 prisoners, the majority of whom will never walk the streets again as free men. Also known as the Farm, Angola took its name from the homeland of the slaves who used to work its fields, and in many ways still resembles a slave plantation today. Eighty per cent of the prisoners are African-Americans and, under the watchful eye of armed guards on horseback, they still work fields of sugar cane, cotton and corn, for up to 16 hours a day. “You’ve got to keep the inmates working all day so they’re tired at night,” says Warden Burl Cain…”

Could our criminal injustice system be expressed with a more painful lack of irony?

For more information about the Angola 3 and how you can help, check out:

Vadim Jean’s film about the Angola 3, In the Land of the Free, is due out on 26 March.


Written by sticksinthehead

11 March 2010 at 1:23 am

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