7/21/2014

Louisiana Warden Considers End to Inmate’s Solitary Confinement After More Than Three Decades

Black Panther Party affiliation threatens Angola prisoner Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore’s transfer

From: Medill Justice Project website

[photo: Warden Burl Cain of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola weighs the risks of transferring Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore and other inmates out of closed cell restriction. (Annabel Edwards/The Medill Justice Project)]


By Blake Bakkila, Annabel Edwards, Edward Ferguson and Alexa Santos
The Medill Justice Project

Published: July 19, 2014

ANGOLA, La.—A man who has spent 35 years in solitary confinement—one of the longest stints in a U.S. prison—may soon be released into the general inmate population. In an exclusive interview today outside the gates of the largest prison in America, Warden Burl Cain of the Louisiana State Penitentiary said he is prepared to take Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore out of what is known as closed cell restriction if the inmate, who is 59 years old, no longer represents a safety risk.

“We will get him out,” Cain said. He added, “We’d rather him out. I need his cell. I’ve got some young people, predators, that need to be in that cell. When I can conclude he’s not going to cause me the blues, then he can come out of the cell.”

The warden’s remarks came as a result of an impromptu interview with students of The Medill Justice Project investigating Whitmore’s case and the issue of solitary confinement.

Cain, who oversees a prison of more than 6,000 inmates, said he would personally meet Whitmore, who was convicted of murder nearly 40 years ago, in the next two weeks to discuss the matter. If Cain, a devout Christian who talks about inmates’ moral rehabilitation, is convinced that Whitmore isn’t a threat, he said he will transfer the inmate in a matter of months. But first, Cain said he would monitor Whitmore’s letters and telephone calls to see if the prisoner has sincerely changed.

Last year, Whitmore filed by pen a federal suit in Baton Rouge against the warden and other prison officials, claiming his imprisonment in solitary confinement violated his constitutional rights, including the Eighth Amendment guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.

Whitmore has spent the last 28 consecutive years in solitary confinement; he said he suffers from vision damage, hypertension and other ailments, which he attributes to his confinement, 23 hours a day, in a cell that he describes as a 6-foot by 9-foot space. Whitmore also said he is deprived of most human interaction and given no educational or training opportunities. The prison declined to give The Medill Justice Project access to the closed cell restriction unit.

The warden said he is sympathetic toward Whitmore. “He can’t be involved in skills and trades and so forth where he’s living and he needs to have that part of his life,” he said.

Cain said he wasn’t concerned about Whitmore’s federal suit. Prisoners “file suits all the time, that’s not really important to us,” he said. “And that doesn’t keep him in the cell. You know I’ve got inmates that sue me every day, and I don’t lock up the ones that sue me.”

What Cain said he was concerned about is Whitmore’s longstanding affiliation with the Angola chapter of the Black Panther Party, a black revolutionary socialist organization that grew to prominence in the 1960s. Whitmore tried to escape in 1986, which also made him a security risk. Cain said Whitmore has the right to hold his political beliefs—as he himself does—but he expressed concern that Whitmore could spread his beliefs in the prison, sparking violence among inmates.

“The Black Panther Party advocates violence and racism—I’m not going to let anybody walk around advocating violence and racism,” Cain said.

The warden also noted that Whitmore’s confinement could protect him from younger prisoners trying to make a name for themselves by attacking a high-profile inmate; Whitmore is supported by various advocacy groups around the world, including in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, which have created T-shirts and other merchandise with Whitmore’s likeness to help support his cause.

Whitmore calls himself a “political prisoner.”

His attorney, Emily Posner, who is coordinating efforts to reinvestigate Whitmore’s conviction, said in a prepared statement, “It is not surprising that Warden Cain has now affirmed that the torture that Zulu has endured for the last 28 years is a direct result of the BPP’s legacy.”

Michelle Rutherford, Whitmore’s attorney in his federal suit, said in a prepared response, “Warden Cain’s statement confirms the allegations Mr. Whitmore makes in his civil rights suit: he has been held in a 9 by 6 foot cell for over 35 years because of his political beliefs, not because of any demonstrated violent or disruptive behavior.”

Officials with the Black Panther Party could not be reached for comment today.

Cain’s position on Whitmore reflects the warden’s efforts to reduce the number of inmates in solitary confinement. Recently, Cain said he released 16 inmates to the general prison population on a trial basis. But one of the inmates stabbed another prisoner, and Cain expressed disappointment that the other inmates didn’t step in. That’s why Cain said that while he is interested in removing inmates from what’s also known as extended lockdown, he is hesitant to take risks with inmates’ lives.

“I can’t afford to gamble, I can’t afford to lose,” Cain said. “It’s a little bit different because I’m dealing with human lives.”

The Louisiana warden is among other prison leaders across the country who are reconsidering the use of solitary confinement as some lawmakers have begun to scrutinize the practice.

Whitmore was sentenced to life at Angola in 1977 for second-degree murder following the 1975 murder of former Zachary, La., mayor, Marshall Bond.

Videos by Alexa Santos.

3/11/2014

My Prolonged Isolation of 35 Years on Angola's CCR - the Equitable of Solitary Confinement



This was written by Zulu to be read out at a Conference at Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA in March 2014. It was published in Voices from Solitary, by SolitaryWatch.com.

I am Kenny Zulu Whitmore, a political prisoner, and a former member of the Angola Chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

On February 19th, 1975, I was arrested and charged with two counts of armed robbery. While awaiting arrangement, I was also charged with the 1973 murder of a Zachary, LA Mayor. I was twenty years old at the time of my arrest. I am now 59 years old.

On September 27 to 30th, 1976 and on January 3rd-6th, 1977, I was wrongfully convicted of armed robbery and murder.

On March 14th, 1977, I was sentenced to Life imprisonment and a total of 225 years.

Presently, the Innocence Project has my case under advisement. I also have two attorneys representing me: Attorney Emily Posner and Attorney Emily Turner. My case is currently under review in the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Shortly after I was sentenced on March 14th, 1977, I was transferred here to LA State Penitentiary at Angola. I was immediately paced in CCR: solitary confinement. I was placed on the tier with  members of the Angola Chapter of the Black Panther Party, where educational courses in reading, writing, math, and politics were being taught, along with how to file briefs into the Court. Of course, those courses were being taught by the Panthers and not by the Administration.

Thereafter, I joined the Party, and took my oath to uphold the Platform of the BPP, and I advocated and took a stand against prison rape and sex slavery.

Conditions of Solitary Confinement

I have been on CCR for 28 consecutive years, but for a total of 35 years. In 1985 I made the Reclassification Board out of CCR after spending seven years and eight months in there. In July 1986 I attempted to escape. So did five White guys during that same month from different camps. All of whom were released back into General Prison Population. I am the only one still being held in violation of the U.S. Constitution and Federal Law. The 14th Amendment against Due Process, and the 8th Amendment against Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

I have now been held on CCR for a total of 35 years in a 6x9 cell, but because of the bunk bed on one side-wall and the lavatory-washbasin-combination toilet on the back wall, I have only 4x3 feet of actual floor space to live in, 24/7. This has been my existence for 35 years with the exception of one hour a day I am given an hour on the tier to shower, exercise or just walk the hall. Three days a week, weather permitting. I am placed in full restraints: waist chain, with handcuffs, leg irons. We are only permitted to wear a jump-suit with only boxers & a  tee-shirt. Like now during the cold winter months there are only none (9) coats for fifty-two men. Some of who exercise in the coat and blow their noses on the sleeves of the coat. Either you wear it or you refuse yard call.

The cells are poorly lighted and ventilated, which is the cause of many health problems. Most guys on CCR wear prescription glasses, because of the lack of light in the cells. Then, inside the cell you have a vision span of only 11 ft, because you cannot see out of the small window.

Because of the out-dated ventilation system, during the hot summer months, the temperatures in the cells are easily 100-110 degrees, which causes stress and hypertension. I am now on two different kinds of high blood pressure medication (Carzaar, Novac). My eye sight has greatly deteriorated. That has nothing to do with age, I have a degenerative muscle in my left eye that allows it to involuntarily move, causing double vision. 
CCR is a non-punitive housing unit, but the men housed on CCR are prohibited from participating in any of the educational and religious programs. We are not allowed to learn meaningful job skills, that are transferrable. Pipe fitting, welding, carpentry, culinary, I cannot even earn a GED, but CCR inmates are kept in the cells on average of 10-42 years…

After 35 years on CCR solitary confinement, my visitors have been restricted to only immediate family. I can no longer have visits with my nieces, nephews, cousins, friends. This restriction was put in place only to punish inmates.

When visitation is such a vital tool in the rehabilitation process, inmate visits with family and friends helps to prepare one to re-enter society. This visiting restriction that has been in place for two years only creates hardship for the inmates and their family and friends. There is no penological reason that justifies this restriction that “only applies to the 100 men on Angola’s CCR/solitary confinement” and no other inmates at the LA State Penitentiary at Angola, LA.

Inmates here at Camp-D CCR are punished and retaliated against when we speak out when our rights are violated under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). Look what happened to Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, and what is happening to Albert Woodfox right now with the degrading, humiliating body cavity searches up to six times a day. Only because he questioned the taking of his contact visitation with family and friends.

No doubt, I too will be retaliated against once this article becomes public knowledge, but sacrifices must be made to bring about change. America is a democratic society today because of those like Crispus Attucks, who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Freedom ain’t never been free.
Kenny Zulu Whitmore

February, 2014

Kenny Zulu Whitmore
86468 D-Hawk/CCR-4L
LA State Prison
Angola, LA 70712

Freezulu.org

2/26/2014

Remember not to forget

Stolen from our homeland in Africa. Yoruba, Zulu, Bantu, and others bound in chains – labeled “chattel,” another name for human cattle.

Sold in the market places of America, to the highest bidders.

Am I supposed to forget that and ask God to bless America?

The middle passage. That ungodly voyage. Thousands of my people’s bones buried in a watery grave. Some would say they were the lucky ones, for they were spared the life of a slave.

The crack of the whip, causing Black skin to rip. Virgins given as sacrifice to massas and overseers.  Producing honey-colored children, wanted by neither.

Am I supposed to forget about that, but remember the Jewish holocaust?

The cries of children taken from their mothers’ arms on the auction block. Families broken apart. Stripped of our names, our spirits crippled, our bodies maimed.

Am I supposed to forget these things and salute the American flag?
Hand on my heart and
pledge my allegiance?

Like withered blossoms, Black corpses hanging from trees here in the South. Their manhood shoved in their mouths. Jim Crow-white only back of the bus-klu-klux-klan treating brothers less than man.

Am I supposed to forget that and celebrate the 4th of July?

Our fathers, brothers, sisters ,sons, cousins and friends are held captive on the New Plantation – Prisons here in the Land of the Free “duly convicted” – isolated – warehoused – restricted – genocide legalized through a criminal enterprise.

Am I supposed to forget them and give uncle Sam the remainder of our men or women to fight your wars in Iraq, Afghanistan for someone else’s liberty?

Night riders – freedom fighters, stagnation, castration. Unjust legal representation.

Am I suppose to forget all of this and stand head held high and proudly sing “Land of the free and the home of the brave”?

Well, you just remember this:

It’s hard to forget all that
When you’re the children of slaves.
Like one whose hand is thrust
Into the fire it’s hard to forget
The pain.

Well, if you remember all of that, then why do we disrespect our women, neglect our children, continue to use the N-word? I’m just saying.
Remember not to forget your history…

I love me.
Kenny Zulu Whitmore
Zulu
For Black History Month 2014

12/02/2013

Other Brothers in Angola: Mumia Abu Jamal speaks about Zulu on PrisonRadio

Posted on November 30th, here is a new commentary "Other Brothers in Angola" (1:42) by Mumia Abu-Jamal, in which he speaks about Zulu.

You can listen to it here:  http://www.prisonradio.org/media/audio/mumia/other-brothers-angola-142-mumia-abu-jamalo

Please also sign the petition to ask UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, to research the case of Zulu, who has been in solitary confinement for 35 years, whereas solitary confinement has been defined as torture by the UN. 


Also, Mr Méndez has asked for the indefinite solitary confinement of Albert Woodfox, who has endured more than 41 years of this torture, to be ended. We ask Mr Méndez to also include Kenny Zulu Whitmore in his criticism of this inhumane issue, and conclude the same for his situation.

Please Sign and Share the Petition:

http://www.change.org/petitions/plz-examine-the-case-of-kenny-zulu-whitmore-who-has-been-held-in-solitary-confinement-for-a-total-of-35-years-in-louisiana-state-prison-angola-la

Thank you!

11/18/2013

Spotlight on Zulu: First Email-Newsletter

Today we published the first Spotlight on Zulu, an Email Newsletter which you can also be subscribed to by filling out the form in the right sidebar here on the site.

Here is a link to the Newsletter, please read, share, thank you!

Please do not forget to sign the petition for Zulu, to request the UN Special Rapproteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, look into the case of Kenny Zulu Whitmore being in solitary confinement / secregation for decades, thank you!

11/12/2013

Please sign the petition UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to research Zulu's case of being in Solitary Confinement for 35 years!

from Zulu's first prison ID
Solitary Confinement is torture. There is no-one else besides Albert Woodfox held in solitary confinement in Louisiana longer than Kenny Zulu Whitmore. The background for being kept on solitary confinement for so long is due to his political beliefs and his friendship with the “Angola 3,” being  a member of the Angola Chapter of the Black Panther Party.
To:
Juan E. Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture
Dear Mr Méndez,
 
We re-urge you to look at the case of Mr. Kenny Zulu Whitmore who has been held in Solitary Confinement for 35 years (of which 27 consecutive years) in Louisiana State Prison, Angola, LA. This, in light of your calling on the United States to immediately end the indefinite solitary confinement imposed on Albert Woodfox since 1972 (on Oct. 7th, 2013, after the passing of Herman Wallace).

There is no-one else besides Albert Woodfox who has been held in solitary confinement longer in Louisiana than Kenny Zulu Whitmore has. The background for being kept on solitary confinement for so long is due to his political beliefs and his friendship with the “Angola 3,” being a member of the Angola Chapter of the Black Panther Party.

We sent in Mr Whitmore’s 2012 Statement, the UN Questionaire on Reporting Torture, and a personal letter by the supportgroup to you, Mr Méndez, on January 20th 2013 (and via email on Nov. 16th 2012), we are still awaiting a response from your office. We know that your office receives many such documents and stories, but our concern is Mr Whitmore and time is ticking away while he is still being held in solitary confinement.

Address of Kenny Zulu Whitmore:

Kenny Zulu Whitmore
86468 - D/HAWK - 4L
LA State Prison
Angola, LA 70712
USA

Website made by his International Supportgroup: Freezulu.org.

Background in Zulu’s own words: http://www.freezulu.org/p/2012-statement-by-kenny-zulu-whitmore.html

A quote from Albert Woodfox about Zulu:

“ “Zulu is a true warrior, Panther, a servant of the people. Like Herman and I, he has fought a good battle, for so long, unrecognized, unsupported!

This must stop, just as all of the freedom fighters fight everyday, just to breathe, without any support, this must stop now!!! So many political prisoners, prisoners of war, and prisoners of conscience have sacrificed their lives and freedom, because they believed in the people but somehow, the people have stopped believing in them!”

Albert Woodfox, July 9th 2008
Sincerely,
 
Please Sign by clicking here! 

11/11/2013

They can kill a revolutionary, but never the revolution



Zulu wrote a text to be read out at the Memorial service of Herman Hooks Wallace. We want to share it with you all:

From Zulu:

The untimely death of my beloved Comrade, Herman Hooks Wallace, has left an emptiness in my heart. He wasn’t just my Brother, Friend, Comrade & Mentor. Hooks was a man I love and respected. And I will miss his teaching.

But why lying here feeling sorry for myself? I could hear his voice in my inner ear saying: “Zulu, enough mourning, you must continue this mission, to expose this system of corruption! There are far too many serving endless sentences on false charges. Too many brothers and sisters languishing in the nation’s dungeons and in solitary confinement. Zulu! They can kill a revolutionary, but never the revolution. I live on within you, Albert, and King, my Comrades.”

You know he would be right. I vow from this day forward to do whatever I can to expose this injustice. My People, I am a tough old elephant. I am going to be alright. Forward forever, backwards never.

Kenny Zulu Whitmore
Oct, 2013

In the Land of the Free

In the Land of the Free
A film about the Angola 3