To: The Louisiana State House and The Louisiana State Senate
Demand a Congressional Hearing on Solitary Confinement in Louisiana
The Administration of Criminal Justice Committee in the Louisiana Legislature should convene a public hearing on the use and governing regulations concerning long-term solitary confinement as practiced in Louisiana prisons and jails.
Why is this important?
Born and raised in New Orleans, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox have been held in solitary confinement by the State of Louisiana longer than any inmates on record in the United States.
For over 41 years Wallace and Woodfox have been kept in six-foot-by-nine-foot cells a minimum of 23 hours a day (for more information about their case see http://www.angola3.org). These types of conditions are notorious throughout US prisons, where isolation units have become common practice rather than being used under the most extreme of cases. As of today, about 80,000 prisoners throughout the United States are kept in solitary confinement.
A movement with international support calls for Louisiana authorities to end the deplorable prison conditions experienced by these men for over 4 decades (see http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/cases/usa-the-angola-3).
Recognizing that Wallace and Woodfox are not alone, United States House Representatives Cedric Richmond, Jerrold Nadler, Scott Lead, and John Conyers, drafted a letter to the Department of Justice calling for investigations into the alarming conditions of several Louisiana state prison facilities. In their letter, the Representatives condemn the patterned use of long-term solitary confinement as a violation of the US Constitution's Eighth and Fourteenth Ammendments (protection against cruel and unusual punishment and due process) and also call for an independent investigation of its widespread practice in Louisiana, in particular solitary confinement in Angola Prison. (http://democrats.judiciary.house.gov/press-release/reps-richmond-conyers-nadler-and-scott-lead-letter-calling-investigation-several)
Herman and Albert are at the forefront of a campaign that affects hundreds of Louisiana inmates CURRENTLY being held in long-term solitary confinement units with no meaningful opportunity to be returned to general population. Many of these inmates have been held in solitary confinement for years, while still others have been held for decades. Over 70% of those held in solitary confinement will leave prison, and reenter our communities far physically, emotionally and psychologically more damaged than when they were admitted to prison.
The practice of solitary confinement has been universally condemned by many organizations including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Furthermore, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, recently urged the US Government to abolish the use of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement. Méndez stresses that “even if solitary confinement is applied for short periods of time, it often causes mental and physical suffering or humiliation, amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and if the resulting pain or sufferings are severe, solitary confinement even amounts to torture.”
Considering that Louisiana has lagged behind as other states join in the growing movement to end mass incarceration and the use of solitary confinement, the TIME HAS ARRIVED to review how this inhumane prison practice is being used in Louisiana prisons and jails.
Please join this call to demand that the Louisiana Legislature's Administration of Criminal Justice Committee host a public hearing on the use of long-term solitary confinement before the beginning of the 2014 legislative session.
For more information, resources and dialogue about the use of long-term solitary confinement in US prisons please visit: