I have just learned that Herman Wallace -- one of the Angola 3 prisoners whose case for freedom I am actively supporting -- has been thrown in Angola prison's "dungeon" after prison officials planted contraband in his cell. Herman was already in a punishment camp where he has been held for almost 9 months. Herman insists that prison guards routinely "shake down" his cell, rifling through his meager belongings, and planting forbidden items among his papers.
His attorney, Scott Fleming, wrote to tell me, "[Herman] is alright, but this is very frustrating for him. He doesn't even know anything about the charges against him; it all happened while he was in the shower, when he returned he was told to pack up his property so he could go to the dungeon. He didn't even know what he was charged with until I told him."
"The only good thing I can say about this is that the more they keep 'finding' these types of things in his cell, the more it stretches the bounds of plausibility. He is in the highest-security part of their prison, is searched regularly, has no need for these items (reported by guards as a handcuff shim and a screwdriver fashioned from nail-clippers), has no history of being found with them, and is smart enough to know that being caught with them would jeopardize his court cases and his support from people on the outside. I'm hoping the judge will see it this way as well."
Herman now faces a disciplinary hearing, where it will be his word against a clutch of white guards' in a system rigged to their advantage. Scott tells me, "I have a copy of the form they prepare at the disciplinary hearing. There are two boxes to check off for 'guilty' or 'not guilty' and then a number of boxes to check off for 'reasons for disposition.' However, there are no reasons for finding someone not guilty. The only reasons on the form are reasons for finding someone guilty, such as 'the officer's version is determined to be more credible than the inmate's' or 'the inmate's demeanor led the board to believe that the inmate's testimony was untrue.' There is no box for 'the officer's demeanor led the board to believe that the officer's testimony was untrue.' You get the point."
This treatment I find horrifying, and it speaks to the brutality, corruption, and inhumanity of Angola prison that Herman is never, ever surprised by it. He recently sent me a letter to calm my fears that my involvement in this case has caused an increase in the harrassment.
In 1972, Herman and his friend Albert Woodfox were convicted of a crime they surely did not commit, because they were the victims of a frame-up devised by these same prison officials.
Herman and Albert were Black Panther Party members, and their political convictions and skill at organizing their fellow inmates made their presence in Angola a threat to the racist system. They were tried for the murder of a white prison guard. Their convictions came on the testimony of several witnesses who later recanted or were later revealed to have been coerced or paid for their testimony. Evidence that would have proven their innocence was lost or ignored by the prosecution. Another man reportedly confessed to the crime. Their case is one of the baldest instances of injustice I have ever known.
This increased abuse and harrassment of Herman may stem from my involvement in his case, and the increased publicity it has generated. And although I hate to think I have contributed to their suffering, I know them and know their strength and I am certain justice will prevail.
And I know one thing for certain: I will be standing outside the gates of Angola prison the day Herman and Albert walk free.
Help us move that day closer. Contribute to the Angola Three legal defense fund, write a letter of outrage to your elected officials, sign our petition, download and print these posters and paste them in your neighborhood.
For more information on the history of the Angola 3, visit or anitaroddick.com/angola.