The United States has imprisoned so many people that some politicians and judges are finally questioning the laws that have put so many behind bars — like the draconian drug laws that snare only the poor and don’t make a dent in real addiction. Some of this may be a reluctant response by the authorities to the dogged movement against the death penalty, the heroic hunger strike against solitary confinement by thousands of California prisoners, and the growing popular awareness that the U.S. “justice” system really is a “new Jim Crow.”
But the main reason seems to be that locking up so many people just costs too much money, at a time when public services are being slashed and another budget crisis looms. While it’s true that for-profit corporations today make big money off prison labor, they are able to do so only because state, county and federal governments cover the basic costs of incarceration. The state subsidizes the exploitation of these workers who are held against their will, but the profits go to the cronies of the politicians.
One of the worst hell-holes of this kind for over a century has been Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana. It is basically an 18,000-acre plantation — larger than Manhattan island — that became notorious for working inmates in the fields “from dawn to dusk” in the stifling heat. Today 5,000 men are held there in maximum security. The conditions they endure continue to echo the system of human bondage that once prevailed in the South. And just like then, most of the men doomed to enter Angola are Black.
One who has endured Angola for 41 years is Herman Wallace. Many years ago Wallace helped form a chapter of the Black Panther Party in Angola. For that he and two other men were framed up after an uprising in the prison. Known as the Angola 3, they have attracted much support from the outside.
Today Wallace is 71 years old and dying of cancer, yet the authorities are keeping him locked up in a hospital ward. Ebony magazine in July compared Wallace to Nelson Mandela, and Amnesty International has launched a campaign for his compassionate release.
Wallace and his comrade Albert Woodfox are still appealing their convictions, as well as seeking an end to solitary confinement in 6-by-9-foot cells imposed on them for decades. Woodfox is also appealing for an end to the frequent and demeaning strip searches he has been subjected to since March.
We urge our readers to go to angola3news.blogspot.com and take action to demand compassionate release for Herman Wallace by following the link to the Amnesty International petition. Free Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and all political prisoners!