what everyone ought to know about Angola 3 and solitary confinement

Published on Amnesty International / Human Rights Now Blog, by Sarah Shourd, August 26, 2013.

Until recently, both Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox had been held in solitary confinement for 4 decades in Louisiana – longer than almost any other known prisoner in recent U.S. history. It’s long enough for one’s body to forget it ever knew anything else but four white walls and for the mind to be reshaped by extreme isolation. Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, says that after 15 days, further isolation can cause permanent psychological damage and constitute torture.  

Herman has just been diagnosed with stage 5 liver cancer. Unless Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana grants him clemency, he may likely die in prison.

After decades in isolation, people experience hyper-anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, hallucinations, emotional detachment, panic attacks and uncontrollable rage. Many start fights with guards just for human contact. Others cut themselves just to be taken out of their cells for a few days in the prison hospital.

I spent over a year in solitary confinement when I was held as a political hostage by the Iranian government from 2009 to 10. I experienced all of these reactions at various times throughout my isolation. In some cases, these symptoms have increased since my release. Almost three years later, I am still trying to shake the mental damage and loss that was inflicted upon me during those 410 days … //

… I recently turned 35. Herman Wallace has survived more years being psychologically tortured in our prisons than I’ve even been alive. I think about him still waking up every morning, tired and sick, but still fighting for his life and his long-deserved freedom. As Herman’s health fails, we have to fight for him – and there’s not much time left.
(full text and links to related articles).

(Sarah Shourd is an author and contributing editor at Solitary Watch currently based in Oakland, California. She spent 410 days in solitary confinement while held as a political hostage by the Iranian Government in 2009-2010. Before being captured Shourd was living in a Palestinian Refugee Camp in Damascus, Syria working as a journalist and teaching for the Iraqi Student Project. She’s written for The New York Times, CNN, Newsweek’s Daily Beast and has a blog on Huffington Post. Her memoir, A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran, will be published by Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt in March 2014. Please visit sarahshourd.com and solitarywatch.com for more information and follow Sarah on Twitter at @SShourd).


on en.wikipedia:

  • Angola Three … (they)  are three men, Robert Hillary King (born Robert King Wilkerson), Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, who were put in solitary confinement for decades in Angola Prison, Louisiana after the death of a prison guard …;
  • solitary confinement;

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