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Posts tagged ‘Louisiana’

40 Years of Isolation

Dear Gabriel,

No human being deserves this.

23 hours a day isolated in a small cell, four steps long, three steps across. Three times a week for exercise in an outdoor cage, weather permitting. A few hours every week to shower or simply walk. Rare, fleeting human contact with prison guards, let alone with family.

This describes four decades of existence for Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace in Louisiana, two members of the so-called “Angola 3” who pass their remaining hours “in the hole” to this day.

April 17 will mark 40 years — 14,600 days — of their nightmare. The conditions in which these two men are held, as well as the tragically absurd duration of this punishment, violate a host of human rights treaties to which the US is a party, including those covering basic standards for treatment of prisoners. Prisons simply shouldn’t operate this way in the US.

Demand an end to the cruel and unnecessary solitary confinement for Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace.

Our goal is to collect 14,600 petition signatures from just this email alone — one signature for every day each man has spent in isolation. Gabriel, can we count on your voice?

Woodfox and Wallace may be in isolation, but they are not forgotten. Our calls for justice will ring loud — on April 17 we’ll make sure Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal hears us when we arrive at his Baton Rouge doorstep with tens of thousands of petition signatures in hand.

We can’t let more days pass without justice. Herman Wallace is now 70 years old, Albert Woodfox is in his mid-60s, and both men are suffering from serious health problems — made worse by the appalling deprivation in which they live.

Ill, advancing in age, with clean disciplinary records for the last 20 years — what is so dangerous about these men that could possibly warrant this inhumane treatment, for so long?

Because the prison authorities see them as a threat. The “Angola 3” organized their fellow prisoners against inhumane treatment and racial segregation in the early 1970s. Angola Prison’s warden, Burl Cain, has suggested that Woodfox and Wallace’s continued isolation is based on their political activism — particularly their association with the Black Panthers.

The “Angola 3” case highlights the failings of a Louisiana justice system that is undermined by discrimination. No physical evidence links Woodfox and Wallace to the 1972 murder of a prison guard. Inmate testimony is questionable. And judges who twice overturned Woodfox’s conviction for the murder cited racial discrimination, prosecutorial misconduct, and more.

14,600 days in solitary is far too many. But today, we can do something about it — demand justice for the remaining “Angola 3”.

And on April 17, we won’t take no for an answer in Baton Rouge!

For justice,

Bryna Subherwal
Individuals at Risk Campaigner
Amnesty International USA

No Parole for Children

Dear Gabriel,

Locked up for life at 16. No possibility of parole. Christi Cheramie is living a nightmare.

When Christi was 16 years old, back in 1994, she couldn’t vote, drink alcohol, serve on a jury, or buy lottery tickets. She was considered a minor — a child. But that didn’t stop the state of Louisiana from giving this 16-year-old a sentence of life without parole.

Ask Louisiana’s governor and the state Board of Pardons to grant clemency to Christi Cheramie.

Only in the U.S. — where children as young as 11 have faced life in prison — are such harsh sentences against juveniles allowed. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits life without parole for offenses committed under the age of 18. This is not about excusing or minimizing the consequences of crimes committed by children, but about recognizing that children are not yet fully responsible for their actions and have special potential for rehabilitation and change.

Christi, now 33 years old, has spent more than half of her young life in prison. She’s earned her high school equivalency diploma and an associate’s degree in Agriculture Studies, and teaches classes to her fellow inmates. A prison warden who oversaw Christi considers her a “model inmate” who has grown into a “remarkable young woman” deserving of “a second chance in society.”

But if we don’t act, a mandatory sentence of life without parole means that Christi will die in prison. A victim of sexual abuse and depression, and caught in the web of an aggressive and controlling older fiancé, Christi found herself at the grisly murder scene of her fiancé’s great aunt. She was charged with murder just for being there — even though it was her fiancé who wielded the knife.

The victim’s closest family members are sympathetic to Christi’s case. But Christi’s fate is now in the hands of Louisiana’s governor and Board of Pardons.

Our 2011 Write for Rights campaign highlighted Christi’s case, and thousands of letters have already poured into Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s office. Next week, the Board of Pardons will meet to decide whether or not to move forward with Christi’s clemency application — a decision that the governor can influence. We must keep the momentum going from Write for Rights — and the time to act is now!

Christi has already changed people’s lives through her work at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, but she will never be able to realize her full potential — and society won’t benefit from her potential contributions — if she spends the rest of her life behind bars.

It’s time for the U.S. to join the rest of the world and end the cruel and unusual punishment of juvenile life without parole. People convicted of crimes while still children — like Christi Cheramie — should be given a chance at rehabilitation. They shouldn’t be left to grow old in a jail cell.

You can make a difference in Christi’s case. Sign our petition now calling for clemency for Christi Cheramie.

Thank You,

Michael O’Reilly
Senior Director, Individuals at Risk Campaign
Amnesty International USA

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