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Hullabaloo


Saturday, April 21, 2012

 
Dispatch from torture nation: no country for old men edition

by digby

This is the most horrible story about torture in America you will read this week. Unfortunately, it's not the only one:

On the world stage, Guantanamo may well stand as the epitome of American human rights abuses. But when it comes to torture on US soil, that grim distinction is held by two aging African American men. As of today, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox have spent 40 years in near-continuous solitary confinement in the bowels of the Louisiana prison system. Most of those years were spent at the notorious Angola Prison, which is why Wallace and Woodfox are still known as members of the Angola 3. The third man, Robert King, was released in 2001; his conviction was overturned after he'd spent 29 years in solitary.

Wallace and Woodfox were first thrown into the hole on April 17, 1972, following the killing of Brent Miller, a young prison guard. The men contend that they were targeted by prison authorities and convicted of murder not based on the actual evidence—which was dubious at best—but because they were members of the Black Panther Party's prison chapter, which was organizing against horrendous conditions at Angola. This political affiliation, they say, also accounted for their seemingly permanent stay in solitary.


For four decades, the men have spent at least 23 hours a day in cells measuring 6 feet by 9 feet. These days, they are allowed out one hour a day to take a shower or a stroll along the cellblock. Three days a week, they may use that hour to exercise alone in a fenced yard. Wallace is now 70; Woodfox is 65. Their lawyers argue that both have endured physical injury and "severe mental anguish and other psychological damage" from living most of their adult lives in lockdown. According to medical reports submitted to the court, the men suffer from arthritis, hypertension, and kidney failure, as well as memory impairment, insomnia, claustrophobia, anxiety, and depression. Even the psychologist brought in by the state confirmed these findings.

There have been documentaries made about this case and books written. And nothing will change the outcome. And this is mainly because the United States (or rather the "states" which we are all supposed to worship as if they were ordained by God)tolerates institutions run by psychopaths and barbarians.

Case in point:
Burl Cain, the warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola—profiled here—holds power over the lives of more than 5,100 men living at the notorious plantation prison, which occupies a piece of land the size of Manhattan. Widely celebrated in Christian evangelical circles for having brought thousands of incarcerated sinners to Jesus, Cain has stated that he believes the only true path to rehabilitation is Christian redemption. Those who follow his lead and become born again see their freedoms and opportunities expand at Angola, while those who defy him are dealt with harshly.

In a 2008 deposition, attorneys for Woodfox asked Cain, "Let's just for the sake of argument assume, if you can, that he is not guilty of the murder of Brent Miller." Cain responded, "Okay, I would still keep him in CCR [solitary]…I still know that he is still trying to practice Black Pantherism, and I still would not want him walking around my prison because he would organize the young new inmates. I would have me all kind of problems, more than I could stand, and I would have the blacks chasing after them…He has to stay in a cell while he's at Angola."

The good news is that racism is dead in America so we don't have to worry about it anymore. Well, except for the current "Black panther" scare that's sweeping the feverswamps of the right wing.

Just remember, they hate us for our freedoms.

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