An End to Solitary is Long Overdue

California’s Savage System of Confinement

Less than two weeks ago the United Nations Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the U.S. record on a number of issues, among them the extensive use of solitary confinement. While the U.S. uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, California uses it more than any other state. It’s one of the few places in the world where someone can be held indefinitely in solitary. This practice is designed to break the human spirit and is condemned as a form of torture under international law.

Despite these repeated condemnations by the U.N., the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is harshening rather than easing its policies, currently with three new sets of regulations. The administration’s iron-fisted strategy is emerging: project the appearance of a reforming system while extending its reach, and restrict the ability of prisoners and their loved ones to organize for their rights.

First, the CDCR has instituted a “Step Down Program” ostensibly to create a pathway out of indefinite solitary. However, the program actually widens the net of who can be considered a threat and therefore eligible for placement in solitary. Recently adopted regulations replace the old language of “gang” with “Security Threat Group” (STG) and the previous list of a dozen identified gangs is now replaced with a dizzying list of over 1500 STGs. Under these new regulations, even family members and others outside the prisons can be designated as part of an STG. Given the fact that indefinite solitary is used disproportionately against people of color – in Pelican Bay, 85% of those in isolation are Latino – the language used to justify placement in solitary eerily mirrors the rhetoric of the federal government and its permanent state of war against its declared enemies, all of whom are people of color.

The CDCR promulgated a second set of rule changes last summer with sweeping new “obscenity” regulations governing mail going both in and out of prisons. The original proposal was to explicitly ban any “publications that indicate an association with groups that are oppositional to authority and society,” yet after coming under heavy criticism, CDCR decided to mask its Orwellian motives by hiding behind the above mentioned language of STGs. This ominous language violates First Amendment rights, and reveals a broader agenda: to censor writings that educate the public about what is actually occurring inside the prisons, and to stifle the intellectual and political education and organizing of prisoners themselves.

A third element of CDCR’s strategy of containment is the implementation of highly intimidating visiting procedures designed to keep family members away from their loved ones. Draconian new visiting regulations authorize the use of dogs and electronic drug detectors to indiscriminately search visitors for contraband, even though both methods are notoriously unreliable. These procedures effectively criminalize family members and deter them from visiting, especially in a period of a growing family-led movement against solitary.

The three new policies are also intended to extend CDCR’s reach beyond the prison walls. As an organizer and family member of a prisoner, I’m censored when sending letters to my brother, Sitawa N. Jamaa, subjected to gratuitous and intimidating searches during visits, and susceptible to being labeled an STG associate. These are all ways that CDCR is trying to keep me from knowing how my brother and others are doing, and to repress my organizing.

Taken individually, these regulations may seem to address unrelated issues. But given they are all coming down simultaneously – just a year after the last of a series of historic hunger strikes by people in California prisons has given rise to the highest level of self-organization and empowerment among imprisoned people since the 1970s – these regulations are nothing less than a systematic attempt to silence and retaliate against prisoners’ growing resistance. Over 30,000 prisoners participated in 2013’s strike, some for 60 days, risking their health and lives for an end to indefinite solitary. Prisoners’ family members and loved ones also took up leadership roles in political organizing in unprecedented ways. The movement to abolish solitary continues to gain momentum around the country.

The hunger strikes were a significant part of an ongoing national sea change regarding the use of solitary, as states are waking up to its dangers. Illinois, Maine and Mississippi have closed or drastically downsized their solitary units without any loss of institutional safety. New York and Arizona were recently forced to reduce their use of isolation, with Colorado and New Jersey following suit.

Yet California steadfastly remains an outlier seemingly impervious to change, led by an administration that relies on tired rhetoric about “the worst of the worst” to justify torture. People locked up in California have a decades-long history of fighting for the rights and dignity of prisoners, affirming their humanity in the face of inhumane conditions and demanding change. The U.N. report calls on this government to “ban prison regimes of solitary confinement such as those in super-maximum security detention facilities.” It’s time for California to listen.

Marie Levin is the sister of Sitawa N. Jamaa, a prisoner in solitary confinement at Tehachapi. She is a member of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).

Mohamed Shehk is the Media and Communications Director of Critical Resistance, and also contributed to this piece.

Pack the Courthouse on Dec. 2nd! Support Keith LaMar!

Keith LaMar (aka Bomani Shakur) was placed on death row after the State framed him for crimes he can prove he did not commit during the 1993 Lucasville Prison Uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. He has been held in solitary confinement for the past 21 years.

Please show up to events, come to the oral argument on December 2nd, read Keith’s book, Condemned, and spread the word. Let’s join Keith LaMar in his fight to stay alive!

Keith’s death sentence is nearing its most critical stage. His final appeal will be heard through oral arguments, scheduled for 2 p.m. on Tuesday, December 2nd at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The address is:

540 Potter Steward U.S. Courthouse
100 East Fifth Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Phone: 513-564-7000

Schedule of Events for Tuesday, December 2nd — Keith LaMar Oral Arguments, Cincinnati, Ohio

12:45 p.m. — Supporters’ Rally before Keith’s Oral Arguments. Let’s come together in Lytle Park, East 4th Street, 2 blocks east of the Potter-Stewart Courthouse in downtown Cincinnati. Wear or carry your shirt if you have one (more will be available for $15).

1:10 — March to the Potter-Steward U.S. Courthouse together. Family and close friends will lead us there (per Keith’s wishes). Address: 100 East Fifth Street in Cincinnati.

1:20 — (T-shirts off/covered/put away). Check in through security and be seated.

2-3 p.m. — Oral Arguments will take place. Be Keith’s ears and eyes and please conduct yourselves peacefully (per Keith’s wishes).

3-3:15 p.m. — Please make your way to a private Vigil for Justice for friends and family at 1st Unitarian Church of Cincinnati. Address: 536 Linton Street (In Avondale off Reading Rd). Free parking and security provided.

3:15 — Fellowship and refreshments in the Fellowship Hall

3:45-5:15 — Vigil for Justice in the Sanctuary

Keith’s is a story about racialized injustice, State corruption, struggle, perseverance and truth. He has laid it all out in Condemned–a soulful, fiery, and captivating book. In it, he traces how the prosecutors fabricated a case against him, dismantles their lies by highlighting their inconsistencies, and proves that his Constitutional rights were violated by their willful withholding of evidence favorable to his defense. Most importantly, Keith compels readers to consider their place within the larger social system, inviting those who would stand on the side of social justice to join him, on his behalf and also for the countless other nameless, faceless people caught up in the struggle for humanity.

A documentary film that focuses on the State’s intentional railroading of Keith LaMar has just been completed (October 2014).

Message from Marie Mason Calling for Compassionate Release of Lynne Stewart

From: Blog for and by Marie Mason, Dec. 18, 2013:

I would like to add my voice to the many who have called for Lynne Stewart to be granted compassionate release. Though we are nominally at the same prison facility at Carswell, we have been unfortunately unable to meet. The Admin Unit (where I am housed) is an isolated unit, separate from the rest of the facility here. But I would have been proud to make her acquaintance and to thank her for her years of tireless work on behalf of those in need of defense and advocacy. From all that I have read about her, she is a formidable attorney – both fearless and compassionate.

It is tragic that this hero of the people, this astute, talented and conscientious woman, is prevented from accessing the care she needs to give her the best chance at survival, and to at least be given the closeness and connection to her partner, Ralph, and family during this time of grave illness. I have had the opportunity to thank the Warden here for speaking on Ms. Stewart’s behalf in her request for compassionate release. If the decision were his, Ms. Stewart would be home now. So I am still hopeful that other prison officials will also come to the opinion that Ms. Stewart should be allowed to go home.

I hope that the ever increasing numbers of good hearted people working together to apply some pressure will eventually bring about her release. If you are able to call or write on Ms. Stewart’s behalf, I urge you to do so now. She is precious to us all, and worth fighting for. Wishing you well, Ms. Stewart, with love and solidarity
– Marie Mason
A life and Death appeal from Lynne Stewart:

by Lynne Stewart

I need to ask once again for your assistance in forcing the Bureau of Prisons to grant my compassionate release. They have been stonewalling since August and my life expectancy, as per my cancer doctor, is down to 12 months.

Ralph Poynter, Lynne Stewart shouting, smiling

Ralph Poynter and Lynne Stewart, loving husband and wife – re-unite them now! – Photo: Channer TV
They know that I am fully qualified and that over 40,000 people have signed on to force them to do the right thing, which is to let me go home to my family and to receive advanced care in New York City. Yet they refuse to act.

While this is entirely within the range of their politics and their cruelty to hold political prisoners until we have days to live before releasing us – witness Herman Wallace of Angola and Marilyn Buck – we are fighting not to permit this and call for a BIG push.”

Send our sister some love and light: Lynne Stewart, 53504-054, FMC Carswell, Unit 2N, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth TX 76127.

Take action between now and the New Year

Telephone and send emails or other messages to Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels Jr. and Attorney General Eric Holder:

  • Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels Jr.: (202) 307-3250 or 3062, info@bop.gov
  • Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Department of Justice: (202) 353-1555, AskDOJ@usdoj.gov

Contact U.S. embassies and consulates in nations throughout the world.
Send an International Action Center petition: iacenter.org/NewLynneStewartPetition/.
Send a petition from Change.org: change.org/petitions/new-petition-to-free-lynne-stewart-support-compassionate-release
Let us create a tidal wave of effort internationally. Together, we can prevent the bureaucratic murder of Lynne Stewart.

Jailers as judges

In a new 237-page report entitled “A Living Death,” the American Civil Liberties Union documents unconstitutional practices permeating federal and state prisons in the U.S. Focused on life imprisonment without parole for minor offenses, the ACLU details conditions of 3,278 individual prisoners whose denial of release is deemed “a flagrant violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment” occurring on an increasing scale.

The ACLU labels the deliberate stonewalling as “willful,” a touchstone of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice’s flagrant violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. These conclusions corroborate the findings of Human Rights Watch in 2012: “The Answer is ‘No’: Too Little Compassionate Release in U.S. Prisons.”

The report is definitive in exposing arbitrary and illegal conduct that infuses every facet of the treatment accorded Lynne Stewart. “(T)he Bureau [of Prisons] has usurped the role of the courts. In fact, it is fair to say the jailers are acting as judges. Congress intended the sentencing judge, not the BOP to determine whether a prisoner should receive a sentence reduction.”

Lynne Stewart’s medical findings show less than 12 months to live as stipulated by her oncologist at FMC Carswell. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has failed to file the legally required motion declaring solely that the matter is “with the Department of Justice.”

Women Over-Incarcerated

There is a new website, petition and hopefully a new movement: 

Womenoverincarcerated.org (WOI.org) is an online advocacy group created to educate the public about the rising epidemic of federally incarcerated women and the consequences of their imprisonment. 

Its focus is on exposing the gross injustice women face in the U.S. judicial system, and the disparities between state and federal, male and female, and minority and non-minority offenders. 

WOI.org aims to challenge the absence of parole, which causes each federal prisoner to serve 85% of her sentence without recourse, and introduce alternatives.

Sign their petition please: click here.

Text accompanying the petition: 

This petition is sponsored by a group called womenoverincarcerated.org. The group is made up of supporters or women in federal prison serving excessive sentences for white collar crime. 

The supporters are family, friends, members of the general public who are appalled by the recent report prepared by CultureQuantiX that shows drastic sentencing disparities between white males and females in white collar sentences. The report documents that women receive sentences averaging 300% higher than those of white males for the same or similar crime (it is 480% for Black women). This % held whether it was comparing women and men defendants in the same case, different cases same judge, different judges same court, different courts same jurisdiction or different courts and different jurisdictions. The % held in every category of white collar crime studied, i.e. wire fraud, bank fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, securities, tax crimes and conspiracy.

We want Congress to move immediately to reestablish a federal parole system. Congress abolished the parole system in 1984 in response to Pres. Reagan’s planned war on drugs. 

Congress then created the U.S. Sentencing Commission who created Sentencing Guidelines which were supposed to be followed by judges in order to avoid wide disparities in drug cases. 

The Commission soon adopted Guidelines for white collar crime with the same goal, avoiding disparities. It is clear from the report that the plan has not worked.


It is critical that Congress act because barring such, thousands of women, ripped away from their families and communities, are left to serve patently unfair and biased excessive federal sentences. These women have no recourse or redress in the courts which is where the sentences were handed down in the first place. The only relief must come from Congress.

Unlike State sentences where defendants often serve only 1/3 to 1/2 of their sentences and are then paroled, federal defendants, like these women, will serve nearly 90% of their sentences because the federal system has no parole nor anything comparable.

Free Albert Woodfox! Take Action with Amnesty Intl: "Herman died a free man. Let’s help Albert live as one."

Please take action for Albert Woodfox here!

(FLYER: Amnesty Intl actions for Albert Woodfox on Oct. 19 in New Orleans and Oct. 21 at the Capitol in Baton Rouge)


RELATED:  UN statement on Albert Woodfox

Today, Amnesty International kicked off a new campaign in support of Albert Woodfox. The email action alert and a separate press release are both reprinted below, in full:

——
Herman died a free man. Let’s help Albert live as one.

Herman Wallace died nine days before his 72nd birthday. The famed ‘Angola 3′ prisoner succumbed to liver cancer on Friday, 3 days after being released from prison. 

Herman survived more than 41 years of isolation, becoming a fierce activist calling for an end to the cruel, inhuman use of solitary confinement. 

He died a free man, but the search for justice is far from over. The third member of the Angola 3, Albert Woodfox, is STILL being held in solitary confinement.

Enough is enough — call on Louisiana authorities to free Albert Woodfox. 

Albert was placed in solitary after a 1972 murder that he maintains he did not commit. There is no physical evidence linking him to the crime. 

Albert’s conviction has already been overturned three times — most recently by a federal district court — but the state obsessively appeals every time the court rules in his favor.

Tell the Louisiana authorities to free Albert Woodfox today.

Before he died, Herman said this about Albert and their struggle for human rights: 

“I want the world to know that I am an innocent man and that Albert Woodfox is innocent as well…The state may have stolen my life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast.”

I never met Herman, and yet I will always remember him as larger-than-life — a symbol of resistance to human rights abuses and injustice who refused to be silenced. More than 110,000 people like you rose up to free him — Now it’s time to shine the light for Albert — take action. 

In solidarity,

Jasmine Heiss
Campaigner, Individuals and Communities at Risk
Amnesty International USA

(End of email alert. The Oct. 10 Amnesty USA press release begins.)

Louisiana Must End Campaign of ‘Vengeance’ Against Remaining Angola 3 Prisoner Albert Woodfox

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @AIUSAmedia

(NEW YORK) – Following the death of Herman Wallace, who was held in solitary confinement for nearly 40 years, Amnesty International today launches a campaign demanding the release of his co-defendant Albert Woodfox, who also has been held in cruel conditions of isolation following a deeply flawed trial.

‘Enough is enough,’ said Steven W. Hawkins, Amnesty International USA executive director. ‘Nothing can justify the cruel treatment that the state of Louisiana has inflicted on Albert Woodfox. It’s simply unconscionable for the state to hold him one day longer. His trial was flawed and his conviction has been overturned three separate times. Authorities must let the most recent court ruling stand and release Woodfox from prison. At this point, Louisiana officials seem to be out for vengeance; instead, we call on them to act in the interest of justice and see that he is released.’

Woodfox and Wallace were both convicted of the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller. There was no physical evidence to link them to the crime and their convictions relied primarily on the dubious testimony of a sole eyewitness who received favorable treatment in return for his testimony.

Both men have robustly denied any involvement in the crime. They believe they were falsely implicated in the murder because of their political activism in prison as members of the Black Panther Party.

Earlier this year a federal judge overturned the conviction. However, Woodfox continues to languish in prison after the state of Louisiana appealed against his release.

During a legal process that has spanned four decades, Woodfox’s conviction has been overturned three times.

‘Were it not for the state of Louisiana’s dogged determination to appeal against these rulings, Woodfox would almost certainly be a free man by now,’ said Tessa Murphy, an Amnesty campaigner.

Wallace was released last week just days before he died of liver cancer. A federal judge who overturned his conviction said it would hold the state in contempt of court if it attempted to appeal the case.

For most of the last four decades, Woodfox has been confined to a small cell for 23 hours a day, denied access to meaningful human interaction and rehabilitation.

Prison records show that Albert has not committed any serious disciplinary infractions for years and that he doesn’t pose a threat to himself or others.

Take action: Demand the release of Albert Woodfox.

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.

Guantánamo Bay: The Hunger Strikes – video animation

This is posted on The Guardian: In March 2013, reports of a hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay, the US detention camp in Cuba, began to surface. Details were sketchy and were contradicted by statements from the US military. Now, using testimony from five detainees, this animated film reveals the daily brutality of life inside Guantánamo. Today there are 17 prisoners still on hunger strike, 16 of whom are being force-fed. Two are in hospital

Warning: contains scenes some viewers might find disturbing

شاهد هذا الفيلم مع ترجمة بالعربية

The "Muhammad Ali of the Criminal Justice System" Passes On

From: Angola3News:
Oct. 4th 2013

-Special thanks to PBS, who is currently honoring Herman by streaming the film Herman’s House. Watch the full movie here.

MEDIA COVERAGE:  NY Times  II  Amnesty International  II  Times-Picayune  II  ABC  II  Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC  II  NBC  II  The Independent, UK  II  UPI  II  Common Dreams  II Toronto Sun / Reuters  II  NY Daily News / Associated Press 


This morning we lost without a doubt the biggest, bravest, and brashest personality in the political prisoner world.  It is with great sadness that we write with the news of Herman Wallace’s passing.

Herman never did anything half way.  He embraced his many quests and adventures in life with a tenacious gusto and fearless determination that will absolutely never be rivaled.  He was exceptionally loyal and loving to those he considered friends, and always went out of his way to stand up for those causes and individuals in need of a strong voice or fierce advocate, no matter the consequences.

Anyone lucky enough to have spent any time with Herman knows that his indomitable spirit will live on through his work and the example he left behind.  May each of us aspire to be as dedicated to something as Herman was to life, and to justice.

Below is a short obituary/press statement for those who didn’t know him well in case you wish to circulate something.  Tributes from those who were closest to Herman and more information on how to help preserve his legacy by keeping his struggle alive will soon follow.
——————
 On October 4th, 2013, Herman Wallace, an icon of the modern prison reform movement and an innocent man, died a free man after spending an unimaginable 41 years in solitary confinement.

Herman spent the last four decades of his life fighting against all that is unjust in the criminal justice system, making international the inhuman plight that is long term solitary confinement, and struggling to prove that he was an innocent man.  Just 3 days before his passing, he succeeded, his conviction was overturned, and he was released to spend his final hours surrounded by loved ones.  Despite his brief moments of freedom, his case will now forever serve as a tragic example that justice delayed is justice denied.

Herman Wallace’s early life in New Orleans during the heyday of an unforgiving and unjust Jim Crow south often found him on the wrong side of the law and eventually he was sent to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for armed robbery.  While there, he was introduced to the Black Panther’s powerful message of self determination and collective community action and quickly became one of its most persuasive and ardent practitioners.

Not long after he began to organize hunger and work strikes to protest the continued segregation, endemic corruption, and horrific abuse rampant at the prison, he and his fellow panther comrades Albert Woodfox and Robert King were charged with murders they did not commit and thrown in solitary.  Robert was released in 2001 after 29 years in solitary but Herman remained there for an unprecedented 41 years, and Albert is still in a 6×9 solitary cell.

Herman’s criminal case ended with his passing, but his legacy will live on through a civil lawsuit he filed jointly with Robert and Albert that seeks to define and abolish long term solitary confinement as cruel and unusual punishment, and through his comrade Albert Woodfox’s still active and promising bid for freedom from the wrongful conviction they both shared.

Herman was only 9 days shy of 72 years old.

Services will be held in New Orleans. The date and location will be forthcoming.

For more information visit http://www.angola3.org and http://www.angola3news.com.

Herman Wallace in April 2013: All Power to the People!

Free At Last! Herman Wallace Has Finally Been Released

 From: Angola3News

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2013/10/2/after_4_decades_in_solitary_dying

MEDIA COVERAGE:  Oct. 2 episode of Democracy Now (embedded above)  II  NY Times  II  CNN  II  Times-Picayune (with photos of Herman’s release)  II  NBC  II  ABC / AP  II  South China Morning Post / AFP  II NY Daily News / Reuters  II  Huffington Post Live TV (w/ Robert King)  II WAFB CBS News Baton Rouge (video)  II  CBS National News  II  UPI  II  Catholic Online (w/ WGNO ABC video of Herman’s arrive at LSU)  II  The Independent, UK  II  Medical Daily

(Herman upon release, on route to the LSU hospital. 
You can click on the photo above to enlarge.)

–View A3 Coalition photos from Herman’s release at Flickr and Indybay.

After a long, dramatic day, we are humbled to report that the indomitable, irrepressible Herman Wallace has just been released after spending over 4 decades in solitary confinement.

Even after Judge Jackson’s late evening ruling denying the State’s attempt at a stay and again ordering his immediate release, the State continued to stall.  Once notified of the continued delay, Judge Jackson stoically refused to leave his quarters until Herman was released, and just minutes ago, Herman was driven away from the prison a free man, awake and able to revel in this miraculous turn of events.

The State will likely still appeal to the 5th Circuit and attempt to have the order reversed, and may even re-indict him, but it seems that Herman, against all odds, has won.

Despite all the exciting drama of the day, this is obviously a deeply bittersweet moment for all those involved in the campaign as we know Herman may not have much longer amongst us, but thanks to the unwavering commitment to justice that those on this list have demonstrated over the years on A3’s behalf, he will not die in prison behind solitary bars.

Now we must resolve collectively to harness this rediscovered energy and excitement and dedicate ourselves to getting Albert the same result without delay.

If you happen to be in New Orleans, supporters are holding a vigil tonight starting in just a few moments at 8pm. Everyone is welcome to come and celebrate this incredible news. Coliseum Square was the original location, but it has been changed to LSU, outside the hospital emergency room, at 2021 Perdido St New Orleans, LA 70112.

With awe, bewilderment, and a renewed optimism, we will keep supporters updated.

Herman Wallace, April 2013: All Power to the People!

Herman Wallace of Angola 3 ill: Plz send messages of Support to Herman and Albert!

Photo of Herman taken in April 2013

Today, our allies at Amnesty International and Solitary Watch released articles and statements reporting on Herman’s condition and calling for increased public support at this critical time.

As Solitary Watch writes, two months ago Herman “complained of feeling ill. Prison doctors diagnosed his condition as a stomach fungus and put him on antibiotics. By last week, he had lost 45 pounds, and was sent to a local hospital, where he received the news that he has liver cancer. He was returned to prison after a few days.”

“A team of lawyers, an outside doctor who has taken care of Wallace for years, and a psychologist briefly visited Wallace last week in a prison hospital room. Wallace was not manacled or shackled. The door was locked. There is no television and little contact with the outside world. Telephone privileges which were made available in the beginning have been revoked by the prison. According to one source, a warden ordered visitors out after ten minutes,” reports Solitary Watch, quoting lawyer Nick Trenticosta, who reflected that this “level of inhumanity I am not used to.”

It is with great sadness that we write to share the news of Herman Wallace’s recent liver cancer diagnosis.
In a statement of support released on Monday, Jasmine Heiss, Amnesty International USA’s Individuals & Communities at Risk Campaigner said: “Herman’s condition is grave and we are still waiting for details of his prognosis. Once we know more, we will ask you to make your voices heard to the Louisiana authorities so that our calls for justice ring from the state’s northern border to the very end of the Mississippi river.”

Until then, Amnesty is urging supporters to write letters to Herman and Albert “reminding Herman and Albert that they are not alone – that there are hundreds of thousands of people standing with them, even as the state tries to keep them in total isolation. You can download cards to send to Herman and Albert here. You should add a personal message and, if possible, also send pictures of your hometown, nature or animals to lift the two men’s spirits. Albert and Herman are held in two different prisons, so please be sure to write to both of them separately – Albert is struggling with the news of his friend’s illness, so he needs your words of support just as much as Herman.”

The importance of writing both Herman and Albert cannot be overstated. The Solitary Watch article reports on Albert’s visit last weekend with his brother Michael Mable, where Albert was very distraught over news of Herman’s health. Exemplifying the punitive conditions that Albert continues to endure, “Mable was only able to see Woodfox through a glass partition, and Woodfox sat with his hands manacled and feet shackled while a captain and a lieutenant stood behind him, Mable said. Woodfox was strip searched, even though the interview was just a short ways from his cell. He is allowed one visit a month.”

Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, 2002

In another statement of support released on Monday, Amnesty International UK’s Urgent Action

Further calling for letters to be sent to Herman and Albert, Amnesty UK declares: “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 write postcards (preferably with a picture of your home town) to Herman and Albert. Please let them know that you are standing beside them at this difficult time. These 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.”

We promise to keep you updated in the coming days as we learn more about Herman’s health and further develop our approach for best supporting both Herman and Albert. For now, please heed Amnesty International’s call to action and write to Herman and Albert today.
Address your cards to:

Herman Wallace
#76759 SNU/CCR
EHCC PO Box 174
St Gabriel, LA 70776
USA

Albert Woodfox
#72148
David Wade Correctional Center, N1A3
670 Bell Hill Rd.
Homer, LA 71040

Network wrote: “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.”

Advocates for Judicial Reform to Prevent Wrongful Convictions, Seek Congressional Inquiry into Missing Transcript in the IRP6 Case

This was reblogged from here. May 7th 2013

Six executives of IRP Solutions appeal their criminal case, where they are convicted of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States of America (Free-Press-Release.com) May 7, 2013 — A Just Cause and Friends of Justice have been investigating a Colorado federal criminal case involving six businessmen believed to have been wrongly convicted. “This is a case involving six executives of a software development company called IRP Solutions Corporation,” says Sam Thurman of A Just Cause. “A Just Cause, Friends of Justice and other advocates for the defendants refer to the case as the IRP6 (http://www.freetheirp6.org),” adds Thurman. Court records show defendants as Kendrick Barnes, Gary L. Walker, Demetrius K. Harper, Clinton A. Stewart, David A. Zirpolo and David A. Banks.

After reviewing court records, A Just Cause and Friends of Justice are convinced that this case represents the dark side of our justice system. “This is a story about how prosecutorial tunnel vision created a tragic communication failure,” says Dr. Alan Bean, Executive Director, Friends of Justice.

“Anyone that looks at this case says that it should have been handled as a civil matter from the very beginning. We trust that the appellate process works to give justice to the IRP6,” says Thurman. “Court documents even show an FBI letter dated August 8, 2005 from Supervisory Special Agent Jean Andersen, Denver Division, replying to an alleged victim of the IRP case, that it was a civil matter and there was no basis for criminal action,” adds Thurman. But, Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Kirsch pursued prosecuting the case. According to a 2005 search warrant affidavit, the men were accused of mail and wire fraud. The indictment did not come until June, 2009. Trial and conviction occurred in 2011.

According to court documents, the six Colorado businessmen developed software which could be used by law enforcement agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the New York City Police Department.

Trial records show that the men defended themselves pro se. “Our court appointed attorneys were not doing their job to put together a viable defense,” says Gary Walker, CEO, IRP Solutions Corporation. “They wanted us to do a plea deal,” Walker adds. The case is currently under appeal based on Fifth Amendment Prohibition of Compulsory Testimony, Sixth Amendment Right to Present a Defense and Speedy Trial Act Violation.

The prosecution rested its case nearly a week and a half earlier than anticipated. As a result, defense witnesses were not available to testify. During a sidebar discussion, Judge Christine M. Arguello stated that the defendants would need to take the stand or she would rest their case for them. “If we didn’t take the stand and the judge rested our case, it would have eliminated any opportunity to present a complete defense,” recalls David Banks, COO IRP Solutions Corporation.

When the defendants requested the transcripts for the date of October 11, 2011, they discovered the sidebar discussion was missing. “That short sidebar discussion implicates Judge Arguello making statements that violated our Fifth Amendment right against being compelled to testify in a criminal trial,” says Banks. “We had absolutely no intention of testifying. We were forced to either testify or kiss our defense goodbye,” Banks adds. “This makes you step back and say, ‘What? In America? This happens in America?'”

“The Court Reporters Act, 28 U.S.C.A 753(b) makes it mandatory by Congress, that a court reporter shall record all proceedings verbatim in criminal cases held in open court which includes sidebars”, says Attorney Gwendolyn Solomon (attorney for five of the six defendants). According to Solomon the statute reads, “…all original notes are required to be preserved and available in the clerk’s office. The reporter or other individual designated to produce the record shall attach his official certificate to the original shorthand notes or other original records so taken and promptly file them with the clerk who shall preserve them in the public records of the court for not less than ten years.”

Court records show repeated motions and requests by defendants to Judge Arguello for the unedited version of the sidebar transcripts, but all requests were denied by the court. Subsequently, multiple post-trial motions were filed by attorneys requesting a hearing to resolve the transcript issue with the court reporter, but those requests were also denied by Judge Arguello. “I made several attempts to obtain the transcripts from the clerk’s office, but have been continually told by the court reporter and the clerk’s office that the sidebar portion is unavailable,” says Ethel Lopez of A Just Cause. “We believe that this critical piece of the transcript was deliberately destroyed or purposely not being provided to protect the Judge,” adds Lopez.

“Mr. Dorschner (Public Relations Officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver) told me that we should file a lawsuit against court reporter Darlene Martinez,” says Tanique Wright of A Just Cause.

“A Just Cause is planning to assist with any lawsuit that is filed against Ms. Martinez,” Thurman adds. “A Just Cause feels that destruction of court records is a criminal act to obstruct justice and we will continue to seek relief from the Department of Justice,” says Thurman.

“It seems that there is no accountability when something like this happens (court records missing) so A Just Cause has sought assistance from both Congressman Doug Lamborn (R- Colorado , 5th Congressional District) and Senator Mark Udall (D – Colorado) to inquire into this matter,” Thurman concludes. A Just Cause has also made request of the United States Attorney John Walsh (Denver) to investigate the matter regarding missing transcripts, but those requests have been denied.
For more information about the story of the IRP6 or for copies of the legal filings go to http://www.freetheirp6.org . For more information on the ongoing appeal or A Just Cause, contact Sam Thurman at (877) 573-5554 or visithttp://www.a-justcause.com.
Related story: Racial Bias Is the Foundation for a Federal Criminal Case Against African American Businessmen in Colorado http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/5/prweb10693207.htm

(Case of the IRP 6 is currently under appeal – US District Court for the District of Colorado, Honorable Christine M. Arguello, D. Ct. No. 1:09-CR-00266-CMA; Case Nos: NO. 11-1487, Case Nos. 11-1488, 11-1489, 11-1490, 11-1491 and 11-1492)

Note: A Just Cause is collaborating with Jabar International on the development of documentary telling the IRP Story – “What Color Is The American Dream? The IRP6 Story: An American Dream Turned Nightmare” (available on YouTube).

See for the IRP 6: http://www.a-justcause.com/#!irp6—the-irp-solutions-story/c1im3