8/09/2014

No Word from Warden Cain of Angola About Prisoner’s Fate


Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore remains in solitary confinement in Louisiana


More than two weeks ago, Warden Burl Cain, outside the gates of 
Louisiana State Penitentiary, addressed the imprisonment of 
Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore who has been held in solitary confinement for 
35 years. (Annabel Edwards/The Medill Justice Project)

By Edward Ferguson, Alexa Santos, Ellen Schmitz and Tori Simkovic
Published on and reblogged from: The Medill Justice Project
Published: Aug. 4, 2014
Is Warden Cain still feeling the blues?

Sixteen days ago, Burl Cain said within two weeks he would personally talk with Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore to consider removing the prisoner from solitary confinement, where he has been held for 35 years—28 of them consecutively—at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. “When I can conclude he’s not going to cause me the blues, then he can come out of the cell,” the warden said July 19 to Medill Justice Project students who were at Angola, researching Whitmore’s case and the issue of solitary confinement.

When the students bumped into the warden outside the prison gates, he agreed to an impromptu interview in which he said he would consider removing Whitmore from what is known as “closed cell restriction” or CCR and placing him in the general prison population if the warden determines Whitmore is no longer a risk.

Cain, who oversees the largest prison in America, declined to comment today through a spokesman who said the warden had a “horrible schedule.”

The Medill Justice Project sent a JPay, an electronic communications message for prisoners, to Whitmore today, asking whether he had heard from the warden but no response was received; Whitmore can make occasional telephone calls but has described that he gets only one hour a day outside of his 6-by-9-foot cell. Now 59 years old, he said he suffers from vision damage, hypertension and other ailments, which he attributes to his confinement. Whitmore also said he is deprived of most human interaction and given no educational or training opportunities.
Angola prisoner Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore, pictured on the left with his sister Joycelyn Dyson and her husband Joseph in 1997, has spent 35 years in solitary confinement—28 of them consecutively. (Photo courtesy: Joycelyn Dyson)

Whitmore’s younger sister, Sheila, said on Saturday she visited her brother who told her the warden had not seen him and “he don’t think he will.” Reached for comment, his lawyers said they were not aware the warden had contacted Whitmore in recent days.

“It is my understanding that Warden Cain has yet to meet with Kenneth ‘Zulu’ Whitmore,” said one of his lawyers, Emily Posner, in an email. “The Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) has now held Zulu for 28 consecutive years in solitary confinement. The institution’s long-standing commitment to isolating Zulu within such conditions demonstrates its ongoing practice of discriminating and persecuting advocates for racial justice.

“While I was hopeful that Warden Cain would take the necessary steps to release Zulu from solitary confinement, his inaction is sadly in line with LSPs historic treatment of political prisoners.”

Two weeks ago, Cain said he was concerned about 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.

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.
“Once again, the Warden’s actions confirm the allegations made in Mr. Whitmore’s petition: that LSP [Louisiana State Penitentiary] continues to violate his due process rights and has failed [to] provide a constitutionally adequate review of his confinement in solitary,” said one of Whitmore’s attorneys, Michelle M. Rutherford.

Whitmore was sentenced to life at Angola in 1977 for second-degree murder following the 1975 death of former Zachary, Louisiana, mayor, Marshall Bond; at the same time, Whitmore was sentenced to 99 years for armed robbery in the Bond murder and 125 years of hard labor for a shoe-store robbery.

Rutherford and Posner filed a post-conviction petition Thursday to challenge his conviction, citing evidence of a prejudiced investigation and a coerced confession.

After hearing Cain said he would talk to Whitmore, Joycelyn Dyson, the inmate’s older sister, said she is hopeful the warden will see that he poses no threat. Said Dyson: “Violence has never been his motive…I think he would be a model prisoner.”

Videos by Alexa Santos.

8/08/2014

Kenny 'Zulu' Whitmore Challenges His Conviction in Court and in the Press

This comes from the A3 E-newsletter:

Last week Kenny 'Zulu' Whitmore, a friend of A3 who has now spent over 30 years in isolation at Angola, filed his own habeas petition contesting his murder conviction in light of new evidence that his attorneys argue convincingly proves his innocence.  You can read the compelling petition here.

Only days before, Burl Cain, the infamous warden of Angola Prison, was recently asked during an impromptu interview with students of Northwestern University's Medill Justice Project about the removal from solitary of Kenny 'Zulu' Whitmore, a member of the Angola chapter of the Black Panther Party. Cain told the young journalists that he would consider removing him. The Medill Justice Project reports:

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.

Read the full article here.

Zulu's case was also recently spotlighted alongside the Angola 3 by the UK Independent. Read more here.

7/26/2014

New Spotlight on Zulu E-Newsletter out now

We made a July 2014 issue of the Spotlight on Zulu, with news of the opening of the exhibition Disobedient Objects opens in the Victoria&Albert Museum in London on July 26th, and the interview with warden Cain about Zulu's 35 year solitary confinement.

You can read the E-newsletter here. You can subscribe to receive the Spotlight on Zulu in your emailbox too!

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

In the Land of the Free

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