Forty years in solitary: two men mark sombre anniversary in Louisiana prison

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

in New York,guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 April 2012

Herman Wallace, left, and Albert Woodfox in Angola prison in Louisiana. Robert King, the third member of the Angola 3, had his conviction overturned and was released in 2001.

“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

China: “Liu Xiaobo Deserves an Ig-Nobel Peace Prize”

[A number of Chinese activists and international China scholars have pointed out that Liu Xiaobo is a strong advocate of the US imperialist “democracy” banner, and has expressed his strong support for the Iraq war by the U.S.  It should be noted that the head of the Nobel Peace Prize committee has promoted the idea of Norway sending more troops to fight in Afghanistan.–ed.]

South China Morning Post, Oct. 12, 2010

Barry Sautman and Yan Hairong

In non-peace related fields, there are Nobel Prizes and, somewhat less famously, “Ig Nobel Prizes.” A group of scientists presents the latter annually, as a joke, but also to make a point about undeserving activity in their fields. One of the winners of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics had several years back also received an Ig Nobel Prize.

 

2010 Nobel Peace Prize awardee Liu Xiaobo

The award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo is being celebrated globally, mainly by elites who claim to know what Liu is about. They say he is for human rights and democracy, but there is more to it than that, because much of what he is about is ignoble.

When people living in authoritarian societies demand freedom of speech, they usually do so with goals in mind that go beyond just allowing everyone to have a say. Liu Xiaobo’s political and social goals have scarcely been mentioned in the current wave of adulation, yet these goals are distinctly at variance with the interests of the vast majority of Chinese, as they perceive them.

What a few people in China know about Liu, but hardly any outsiders do, is his prescription for China’s development, first made when Liu was already in his 30s. In 1988, an interviewer asked him what condition China needs to have real historical change. He answered that China needs to have 300 years of colonization. Liu attributed what Hong Kong is today to a hundred years of colonization, so China would need 300 years of colonization for it to become like Hong Kong. Continue reading