Voices from Solitary: The Louder My Voice the Deeper They Bury Me
by Herman Wallace, who has been held in solitary confinement in Louisiana’s prison system for almost 41 years, mostly in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola.
A Defined Voice
They removed my whisper from general population
To maximum security I gained a voice
They removed my voice from maximum security
To administrative segregation
My voice gave hope
They removed my voice from administrative segregation
To solitary confinement
My voice became vibration for unity
They removed my voice from solitary confinement
To the Supermax of Camp J
And now they wish to destroy me
The louder my voice the deeper they bury me
I SAID, THE LOUDER MY VOICE THE DEEPER THEY BURY ME!
Free all political prisoners, prisoners of war, prisoner of consciousness.
Click here to listen to Herman Wallace read his poem.
for more about Herman Wallace: http://www.whoishermanwallace.com/
By Angola 3 News, 15 February, 2013
–An interview with author/activist Nancy Kurshan
Author and longtime activist Nancy Kurshan’s new book, entitled Out of Control: A Fifteen Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons , has just been released by the Freedom Archives . Kurshan’s book documents the work of The Committee to End the Marion Lockdown (CEML), which she co-founded in 1985 as a response to the lockdown at the federal prison in Marion, Illinois. It quickly turned into a broader campaign against control unit prisons and human rights violations in US prisons that lasted fifteen years, until 2000. The following excerpt from Out of Control details CEML’s origins:
I had been living in Chicago for about a year when I heard the news that two guards had been killed by two prisoners in the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, 350 miles south of Chicago. Although it was an isolated incident with no associated riot conditions, the prison was immediately placed on lockdown status, and the authorities seized on the opportunity to violently repress the entire prison population. For two years, from 1983 to 1985, all of the 350 men imprisoned there were subjected to brutal, dehumanizing conditions. All work programs were shut down, as were educational activities and religious services.
During the initial stage of this lockdown, 60 guards equipped with riot gear, much of it shipped in from other prisons, systematically beat approximately 100 handcuffed and defenseless prisoners. Guards also subjected some prisoners to forced finger probes of the rectum. Random beatings and rectal probes continued through the two-year lockdown. Despite clear evidence of physical and psychological brutality at the hands of the guards, Congress and the courts refused to intervene to stop the lockdown…
…Although the terrible conditions at the prison were striking, what drew us to Marion in particular was the history of struggle of the prisoners and their allies on the outside. When the infamous Alcatraz was closed in 1962, Marion Federal Penitentiary was opened and became the new Alcatraz, the end of the line for the “worst of the worst.”
In 1972 there was a prisoner’s peaceful work stoppage at Marion led by Puerto Rican Nationalist Rafael Cancel Miranda. In response to this peaceful work stoppage, the authorities placed a section of the prison under lockdown, thus creating the first “control unit,” essentially a prison within a prison, amplifying the use of isolation as a form of control, previously used only for a selected prisoner. That was 1972.
At this time, in 1985, after two years of lockdown, they converted the whole prison into a control unit. Importantly, because Marion in 1985 was “the end of the line,” the only “Level 6” federal prison, there were disproportionate numbers of political prisoners—those who were incarcerated for their political beliefs and actions. These included people such as Native American Leonard Peltier who had spent years there until recently, and now (in 1985) Black Panthers Sundiata Acoli and Sekou Odinga , Puerto Rican independentista Oscar López Rivera , and white revolutionary Bill Dunne . These were people we knew or identified with, activists of the 1960s and 1970s incarcerated for their political activities. Marion, like its predecessor Alcatraz and its successor ADX Florence, was clearly a destination point for political prisoners. Continue reading
Herman’s House – Trailer – Herman Wallace / Angola 3 Documentary 2012
Published on Mar 19, 2012 by HermansHouseTheFilm
|Please sign the Amnesty Int’l petition to end the decades of isolation in Louisiana state prisons http://bit.ly/amnestyactionFor more information about our film please visit the website http://www.hermanshousethefilm.comThere are 2.2 million people in jail in the U.S. More than 80,000 of those are in solitary confinement. New Orleans native Herman Wallace has been there longer than anyone.In 1972, Herman was serving a 25-year sentence for bank robbery when he was accused of murdering an Angola Prison guard and immediately thrown into solitary. Many believed he was wrongfully convicted. Then in 2001 he received a letter from art student Jackie Sumnell, who posed the provocative question:”What kind of house does a man who has lived in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell for over 30 years dream of?”An inspired creative dialogue led to a collaborative art project: “The House That Herman Built.” The exhibition has brought thousands of gallery visitors around the world face-to-face with the harsh realities of the American prison system.But as Herman’s House reveals, the exhibition is just the first step.
Their journey takes an unpredictable turn when Herman asks Jackie to make his dream a reality. As her own finances dwindle, Jackie wonders if she will ever succeed. Meanwhile, the Louisiana courts consider Herman’s latest appeal. Along the way we meet former “stick-up kid” Michael Musser; Herman’s sister Vickie, a loyal and tireless supporter; and former long-term solitary inmate and fellow Black Panther activist Robert King.
With compassion and meaningful artistry, Herman’s House takes us inside the lives and imaginations of two unforgettable characters–forging a friendship and building a dream in the struggle to end the “cruel and unusual punishment” of long-term solitary confinement.
- They’ve spent 23 hours of each day in the last 40 years in a 9ft-by-6ft cell. Now, as human rights groups intensify calls for their release, a documentary provides insight into an isolated life
“I can make about four steps forward before I touch the door,” Herman Wallace says as he describes the cell in which he has lived for the past 40 years. “If I turn an about-face, I’m going to bump into something. I’m used to it, and that’s one of the bad things about it.”
On Tuesday, Wallace and his friend Albert Woodfox will mark one of the more unusual, and shameful, anniversaries in American penal history. Forty years ago to the day, they were put into solitary confinement in Louisiana‘s notorious Angola jail. They have been there ever since.
They have spent 23 hours of every one of the past 14,610 days locked in their single-occupancy 9ft-by-6ft cells. Each cell, Amnesty International records, has a toilet, a mattress, sheets, a blanket, pillow and a small bench attached to the wall. Their contact with the world outside the windowless room is limited to the occasional visit and telephone call, “exercise” three times a week in a caged concrete yard, and letters that are opened and read by prison guards.
A new documentary film takes us into that cell, providing rare insight into the personal psychological impact of such prolonged isolation. Herman’s House tracks the experiences and thoughts of Wallace as he reflects on four decades banged away in a box.
The film is based on recorded telephone conversations between Wallace and the documentary’s director Angad Bhalla. Wallace, a New Orleans native now aged 70, speaks with powerful understatement about his time in solitary.
“Being in a cage for such an extended period of time, it has its downfalls. You may not feel it, you may not know it, you may think you’re OK, and you’re just perfunctory about it.” Continue reading
By Angola 3 News, AlterNet, June 13, 2011
Prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison in California have announced they are beginning an indefinite hunger strike on July 1, 2011 to protest the conditions of their imprisonment, which they say are cruel and inhumane. An online petition has been started by supporters of the strikers. While noting that the hunger strike is being “organized by prisoners in an unusual show of racial unity,” five key demands are listed by California Prison Focus:
1) Eliminate group punishments; 2) abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria; 3) comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long term solitary confinement; 4) provide adequate food; 5) expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.
Notably, Pelican Bay is “home” to the only US prisoner known to have spent more time in solitary confinement than the 39 years that Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3, have spent–since April 1972. Imprisoned now for a total of 47 years and held at Pelican Bay since 1990, Hugo Pinell has been in continuous solitary for over 40 years, since at least 1971–probably even since the late 1960s. Pinell was a close comrade of Black Panther leader George Jackson, who organized a Panther chapter inside California’s San Quentin Prison, similar to the prison chapter organized by the Angola 3 in Louisiana. Continue reading