In the Land of the Free

16 Apr

Sentenced to prison in the 1970s  for offences of burglary and robbery and subsequently convicted of the murder of a prison guard in Angola prison in Louisiana, the Angola 3 have been detained in solitary confinement  or ‘Closed Cell Restriction’ for 37 years – one of their member – Robert King was released last year following an appeal, the remaining two men – Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace remain in solitary confinement in prison.

Angola prison built on the site of a former slave plantation, at 18,000 acres  and with 5,000 inmates, is the largest prison in America. The slaves from the former plantation predominantly originated from Angola – hence the name, and the analogy with slavery will be familiar to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the American correctional system which incarcerates a disproportionate number of African American and Hispanic males. The conditions within the prison, through testimony and footage are vividly portrayed – perhaps most chillingly, the systematic sexual abuse of prisoners, an endemic occurrence within the institution is documented – ‘Turning out’ is the phrase used by prisoners to refer to male rape.

In the Land of the Free – tells the story of the Angola 3, and presents evidence that seriously questions their conviction for the murder of prison guard Brent Miller in 1972:

There was no physical evidence against them. The main eye-witness was bribed with a carton of cigarettes every week and promised his freedom by the warden in exchange for testifying. Another eye-witness was a legally blind, mentally retarded sociopath. A bloody fingerprint from the scene was shown not to belong to Herman or Albert and yet never tested against the rest of the prison population.

The men’s involvement in the Black Panther movement which they describe as a source of some solace within the brutal environment of Angola  is presented as the reason for their targeting and subsequent treatment by the authorities. The tenacity of the men – whom we hear via phone-calls from the prison is astonishing after their lengthy period of incarceration.

To read more about this case, you can visit: http://www.angola3.org/default.aspx

To read about In the Land of the Free – http://www.inthelandofthefreefilm.com/

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