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A3 Newsletter: Going to Amsterdam, Widows, Non-Unanimous Juries and more
We have just released the new edition of our newsletter, featuring a range of subjects, including Albert Woodfox and Robert King's upcoming trip to the Netherlands in support of Amnesty International's Write for Rights Campaign. The full newsletter is featured below.
A3 Newsletter, November 30, 2018:
Another Years Draws to a Close
Albert and King are ending their year with a short trip to Holland to support the Dutch branch of Amnesty International's " Write for Rights Campaign" which kicks off on December 10, International Human Rights Day. The Dutch section of Amnesty has now existed for 50 years and is one of the world's largest Amnesty sections.
Amnesty featured Albert in their 2015 Write for Rights and the prison received bags of mail addressed to him from all over the world! Albert and King are both happy to be able to support this highly successful effort at protecting prisoners by shining the world's light on them and helping them reach for freedom.
On Friday December 7th, they will appear in Amsterdam, and Den Hague and for the first time, Amnesty has a Write for Rights train ride across the country, where people can get on and write during their ride! Albert and King will ride the train with Amnesty from Den Hague back to Amsterdam before heading home. The featured prisoners this year are eight women who have dared to speak out about human rights abuses from eight different countries.
In one of many interesting interviews and events that occurred this year, Director Steve McQueen (Twelve Years A Slave) asked Albert to read a quote from one of his interviews to open his new film Widows. Several supporters have been stunned to hear Albert's voice at the start of the movie.
For those of you who have been fighting the good fight by illuminating the torture that is solitary confinement, there is a new project that you may find useful. Solitary Watch, in conjunction with Unlock the Box, has started the Solitary Confinement Resource Center, where information, statistics, resources, tools and articles about solitary have been compiled into a huge searchable database. Check it out when you can.
This has been a year full of travel and interviews for both Robert and Albert. Two years free and Albert has become a well-seasoned traveler, sharing how his experience of 44 years in solitary motivates him to stay involved and keep spreading the word about this dreadful penal practice. After fourteen years of advocating for Albert's release and the freedom of all political prisoners, King is happy to share the podium and the plane with his comrade of decades. March of next year brings the long-awaited release of Albert's book, Solitary, which will be released by Grove Press and, undoubtedly more travel.
Join Albert Woodfox and Amnesty International: Take Action for 10 Women Human Rights Defenders
In conjunction with Amnesty International, Albert Woodfox has issued a call to action in support of ten different human rights defenders from around the world. Albert writes:
In 2015, I was featured in Write for Rights, Amnesty's annual campaign that focuses the actions of a global movement of activists - like you - on a few priority cases.
I am now free and am so thankful for Amnesty's remarkable support. I must help others. That's why I'm writing you today.
Ten cases of human rights defenders - all of them women - are counting on you.
Some are in jail. Others are under dire threat. All of them targeted for their human rights work. All need your voice. Take action for all 2018 Write for Rights cases.
--Read Albert's full message here.
--Sign the online petition here.
Victory! Louisiana votes to require unanimous juries in felony cases --Ends Jim Crow Era Law
"You, now, ladies and gentlemen have ended 138 years of Jim Crow," said state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, at a campaign victory party Tuesday night. Morrell sponsored the legislation that resulted in the amendment. "You have fundamentally changed criminal justice in Louisiana."
SULC Law Professor and longtime A3 supporter Angela A. Allen-Bell was recently interviewed on Conscious Council's Podcast. Asked about how she became involved in opposing non-unanimous juries in Louisiana, Allen-Bell explains that she had first come across it when working in the courts as a lawyer:
"So, it never left me and I had always said when I got a chance, I was going to make this a research project. I spent probably close to six years doing advocacy work on the Angola 3 case, and near the very end of the case, around 2015 when Mr. Albert Woodfox was getting ready to be tried for the third time, the State tried to introduce this request to have a non-unanimous jury. When I saw the words appear yet again, I said 'this is the moment. I have to understand this.'"
--For more about non-unanimous juries, read our previous interview with Professor Bell here.
A Path-Breaker for the Release of Other Angola Inmates, John Esteen isn't Home Just Yet
A new article published by The Advocate spotlights the case of Angola prisoner John Esteen:
For 16 years, Esteen filed appeal after appeal to his 150-year sentence for cocaine possession with intent to distribute and racketeering. Each was denied.
But the 50-year-old Avondale native persisted. In 2016, Esteen had filed another long-shot bid to the Louisiana Supreme Court aimed at overturning 12 years of precedent on state sentencing law.
The prisoners who waited for Esteen that day were there to tell him he had done the impossible. In a 4-3 decision, the court sided with Esteen.
"Man, are you serious?" Esteen replied. "I'm going home!"
Like Clarence Earl Gideon, the impoverished Florida inmate who in 1962 wrote an appeal in pencil to the U.S. Supreme Court that created the constitutional right to counsel, a new precedent now had Esteen's name on it."
--Read the full article here.
Meek Mill in NY Times: "Prisoners Need a New Set of Rights"
In a recent editorial written for the New York Times, rapper and former prisoner Meek Mill reflects that "Like many who are now incarcerated, I was the victim of a miscarriage of justice. I got lucky, but because of dysfunctional, discriminatory rules, most don't."
In his important new article, Meek Mill argues:
It's clearer than ever that a disproportionate number of men and women of color are treated unfairly by a broken criminal justice system. The system causes a vicious cycle, feeding upon itself - sons and daughters grow up with their parents in and out of prison, and then become far more likely to become tied up in the arrest-jail-probation cycle. This is bad for families and our society as a whole.
We, as a free and democratic society, must do better. Since my release, I've had the opportunity to meet with several lawmakers such as Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, and I'm determined to use my platform to help those without the resources to make their voices heard.
We all need to hold our lawmakers accountable for supporting unfair or inhumane policies and all practices that perpetuate injustice, especially for the blacks and Latinos who fall prey to them most frequently. The reality is African-Americans and Latinos who come from poverty-stricken neighborhoods are assigned public defenders too overburdened to do anything in most cases other than negotiate the most favorable plea deal, regardless of guilt or innocence.
Soon, some friends and I will be announcing a foundation dedicated to achieving real change. In the meantime, if you're interested in joining us and lending your support to solving what is the moral crisis of our time, please visit www.reformnow.com and sign up.
--Read the full NY Times editorial here.