“How do you want me to know how it feels to be free?”
January 10, 2017 7:24 AM   Subscribe

 
He has been in solitary longer than I've been alive. He's been in solitary since Star Wars came out.

That this is even legal under our laws against cruel and unusual punishment is... I don't have the correct words for how utterly wrong this is.
posted by sio42 at 7:52 AM on January 10 [27 favorites]


My god. I would have either killed myself or become a vegetable long ago. How horrible and unjust. I realize that's a pathetic understatement, but it's all I've got.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:39 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


The story forced me to ask: How do Americans define a political prisoner?
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:53 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


My god. I would have either killed myself or become a vegetable long ago

I can feel my psyche beginning to fray after 3 days of being snowed in at my comfy townhouse, with all my books and guitars and internets and lots of food to cook. I just can't imagine the damage this would do to a person.
posted by thelonius at 9:23 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


So gross and so unjust. I can say this without knowing a single thing about whatever crime (or "crime") he committed. There is no crime that warrants this barbaric treatment.

(I keep thinking that in many ways Trump is like us finally pulling off the mask and putting a person who represents mainstream (ie white) USA, and their values--as it really is--in charge.)
posted by maxwelton at 9:38 AM on January 10 [9 favorites]


Bet you a dollar that nobody in the whole U.S. of A. thinks that solitary isn't a cruel and unusual punishment. This makes a lot of people support it.

People that don't oppose it just use the heuristic of "well these people are too dangerous so we have no other choice."

Choices abound. We choose not to make them.
posted by radicalawyer at 9:43 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


There are strong opponents of the inmates' release. Louisiana’s Attorney General, James Caldwell, has stated that he opposes releasing the two men “with every fiber of my being,”[31] and that they have never been held in solitary confinement but are in "protective cell units known as CCR [Closed Cell Restricted]".[15] The warden of Angola and Hunt prisons, Burl Cain, has repeatedly suggested that Woodfox and Wallace must be held in solitary because they subscribe to “Black Pantherism.
posted by Postroad at 10:06 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Ah yes, good ol' Burl Cain, notably corrupt and also a total racist fuckface
posted by palomar at 11:03 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I remember hearing about the Angola 3 on NPR a few years ago and was appalled. It seems the criminal justice system is too often more criminal than just.
posted by TedW at 11:45 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Every single detail of this profile is stunning.
At the [National Lawyers Guild] conference, Woodfox had felt himself being turned into a mythological figure, a process that he found uncomfortable. “All these people who have been involved in social struggle for so long want to shake my hand,” he told me. “I don’t have an emotional connection as to what the big deal is. Sometimes I just don’t think that, you know, surviving solitary confinement for forty-one years is a big deal.” I asked if that was a coping mechanism, and he said, “Pretty much everything I did for the last forty-four years was some sort of coping mechanism.”

He said that, in the early two-thousands, inmates at Angola began telling him, “Thanks for not letting them break you.” It was the first time he grasped that, by staying sane, he had done something unusual.

King, who was eating a piece of toast with jelly, recalled one of the first protests in C.C.R., when the Panthers persuaded inmates to refuse the strip search. After a few days, King had realized that inmates were being beaten so badly that they could die, and he wrote a letter to Woodfox recommending that they end the protest. “It is the man who creates the principles,” he wrote. “The principles shouldn’t kill the man.”
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:45 PM on January 10 [8 favorites]


At Angola, Woodfox and Wallace had seen themselves as “village elders,” but at the new prisons the other inmates treated them like ordinary criminals. Wallace told Haney that he felt as if he were reaching his “end point.” His voice cracked, and he seemed hesitant and slow. He thought that there was something wrong with his heart. Crying, he said, “I can’t stand up to it.”

Wallace lost fifty pounds. He complained of stomach pain, which the prison doctors diagnosed as a fungus. “No palpable masses—exam limited by prison room chair,” one doctor wrote in June, 2013. Five days later, a doctor hired by Wallace’s lawyers found an eight-centimetre bulge in his abdomen. He received a diagnosis of liver cancer. Wallace told Haney, “The majority of my life I have been treated like an animal, so I guess I will die like an animal.”

posted by Frowner at 1:21 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I really encourage reading this entire profile. I haven't had such a strong emotional response to a piece of writing in a long time. It's unimaginable what these men went through and for what reason. Pretty much anything I say about it will sound trite but the article is excellent.
posted by armadillo1224 at 4:29 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I hope Woodfox writes that book.
posted by No-sword at 6:24 PM on January 10


These days it's hard for me to reconcile the number of "not racist" people who reject the Black Panthers.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:20 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


This is a truly excellent piece of journalism.

For those so moved, it's worth looking into the Ella Baker Center, which is doing great work on resisting the expansion of prisons. It was founded by Van Jones, who gives a great talk.

Another org doing great work is the Equal Justice Initiative. Their focus is on hitting the most egregious legal abuses, like trying juveniles as adults and throwing them in prison for life. They're also working on a national monument on lynchings, in a similar spirit to the German Holocaust memorials. Their founder, Bryan Stevenson, is also a joy to hear, and had written an excellent book called Just Mercy about his work on civil rights and criminal law.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:09 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Five days later, a federal judge responded to Wallace’s habeas petition, which had been lingering in the courts for years. The judge overturned his conviction, ordering that he be released.

At dusk, Wallace was loaded into an ambulance and taken to New Orleans, to stay with a friend who lived half a block from where he’d been raised. Family and friends, some of whom he hadn’t seen for forty years, gathered around his bed. One friend read him the last chapter of Eldridge Cleaver’s “Soul on Ice.” Another held flowers to his nose.

On Wallace’s second day of freedom, the state impanelled a grand jury, which reindicted him for Miller’s murder. Wallace was never told. He died the next day.
I can't comprehend the uselessness and pettiness and vindictiveness of the people behind this. There really was no point to it, was there.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:02 PM on January 10 [10 favorites]


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