Saturday, February 28, 2009

Angola Prison, Our lives as Citezens of the United States of Imprisonment

I was given the privilege in January to see Robert king a former prisoner of Angola and black panther member speak to me and a group of other new york high school students spending time in New Orleans. He ended on a emphasized note of " We are not Free" this was a striking statement and caused a lot of havoc in our group ( but essentially summarized what he had to say about his experiences and life after prison. I ran across his story again after reading a chapter in Amy Goodman's book Standing Up to the Madness, which briefly mentions him and the Angola 3. Although her narration of the grassroots movement in New Orleans is centered around Malik Rahim of Common Ground Collective, " WE ARE NOT FREE" can account for everything in which i will try to address here.
For some history on Angola Prison, it was originally a slave plantation owned by Isaac Franklin some mother fucker, who named the place after the country in Africa which exported the finest slaves. It eventually turned into a institution created by the state of Louisiana which leased convicts to work on the plantation. At one point the conditions were so terrible a group of 31 inmates cut their own Achilles tendons to protest( Wikipidea?). Today it is a full functioning prestigious penitentiary, with annual rodeo shows, and a prison magazine called the Angolite. The Angolite's purpose is to provide "freedom of expression in the world behind bars," it is said to be relatively uncensored. A side point to my real story; three men are sent to Angola on charges of armed robbery; Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox, and Robert King. Feeding an essential school to prison pipeline, the reasons for there incarceration are endless and go beyond their initial crimes. Angola is one of the most internally violent prisons. Mirrored by the prisons correctional service officers , up until 1991 " gruesome Gertie" an electric chair was used for execution of prisoner's. There was a stabbing in the prison in the same vicinity of the King, Woodfox, and Wallace's holding cells. For this they were immediately convicted; being charged by another inmate who testified abouth their involvement. This inmate was given special privileges; including access to hookers and was soon released from Angola. Robert King, Alfred Woodfox, and Herman Wallace all active members of the black panther party who were working from within the penitentiary to organize inmates against inmate exploitation, ending prisoner rape, were put into solitary confinement, a clear threat to the 100 percent white administration. Their efforts included hunger strikes,sit ins, education, and providing law services to other inmates.

In a 6X9 foot cell they are spending 23 hours of their lives for 36+ and Counting. Herman Wallace unable to obtain access to colored paper at the least ( Free Expression within Prison??) has been in contact with Jackie Sumell a women who i worked with while in New Orleans. She and him are organizing to start a dream house, representative of freedom from Angola.

-African Americans represent 12.7% of the US population, 15% of US drug users (72% of
all users are white), 36.8% of those arrested for a drug-related crime, 48.2% of
American adults in state, and federal prisons and local jails and 42.5% of prisoners
under sentence of death.
-Due to felony convictions, 1.46 million African American men out of a total voting
population of 10.4 million have lost their right to vote.
-One in three black men between the ages of 20 and 29 live under some form of
correctional supervision or control.

In Respect to a man Abraham Lincoln that dude on our 5 smack, i will pose a question?Happy Belated by the way.
Is Slavery truly abolished in the United States, or has it just changed into a different form, under the title of the Prison Industrial Complex?

I personally would like to see a fight between the Warden of Angola Burl Cain, see picture above, and Abe; although his attempt at abolishing slavery was not as successful as some may argue. ex. "The average prison sentence is 88 years. Angola’s prisoner population which is now (only) 77.8% black. Every physically able prisoner is required to work. Wages range between 4 and 20 cents an hour. Relatively, the 13th Amendment to
the US Constitution does not in fact eradicate slavery:
"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any
place subject to their jurisdiction."

Here for the Angolite subscription, it shows a group of inmates picking cotton. Hmm../If i had my way things would be like this...

1 comment:

Lyndell said...

This is an incredible story. The word is incredible, sometimes I can't believe what a world we live in. Keep writing its so important to try to touch as many people as possible.