Albert Woodfox, the last of the Angola 3 behind bars, has now been denied contact visits for almost two consecutive years. During the latter part of his nearly 40 years at Angola, and for the first few at David Wade Correctional Center in Northern Louisiana where he has been held since 2010, Albert was allowed contact visits on occasion with people on his approved visiting list, as well as less frequent ones with “special visitors” pre-approved in advance on an individual one time basis.
Only months after Albert’s conviction was overturned a third time, Wade officials cut off all contact visits without explanation. After pressure from Albert to reinstate the visits, the South Compound Supervisor Colonel Lonnie Nail, who oversees visiting at the prison, has agreed to allow the visits again, but only if Albert and others in CCR comply with the irregular and essentially impossible task of providing a list of who is coming for a contact visit on a particular day so that the Colonel can personally re-screen and re-approve the visitors, a process that is not only onerous but in violation of the Louisiana DOC’s own Visitation policy.
In the past, at times when contact visits were more generally allowed, Albert was allowed 2 full days per month for contact visits with anyone on his permanent visiting list (up to 5 at one time), without having to supply the exact date of future visits and certainly without additional screening of pre-approved visitors.
Visiting is not a right for prisoners, especially those in CCR. In Louisiana, some of the details of visiting are left to the discretion of each institution, but statewide there is a detailed visitation policy which among other rights, allows all inmates to put up to 10 people on a “permanent” visiting list. In order to receive a permanent slot, visitors must first pass extensive screening and background checks conducted by both the Louisiana Department of Corrections and the institution where the inmate is housed, as well as followup checks every two years.
As long as inmates have not had their privileges revoked for a specific institution-wide security concern, the pre-approved visitors on each inmate’s list can then arrive on any visiting day and have a contact visit with the prisoner.
Albert has repeatedly told Colonel Nail that it is impossible for him to know who is coming to visit him on any given visiting day given his lack of real time contact with the outside world, and he strongly believes that people on his permanent visiting list should not have to be re-subjected to an additional round of screening before each visit after already having been extensively vetted. The DOC’s own visitation policy backs him up.
Based upon his own experience of spending 29 years in solitary confinement, Robert explains that the significance for Albert and allprisoners of having access to contact visits cannot be overstated. “I know how important they were for me. I went for a while without contact visits, but as I began receiving letters from supporters and eventually began to have contact visits, it was really uplifting for me and it freed my humanity. Contact visits were therapeutic and helped to combat the overwhelming sense of isolation. It means so much when you can embrace someone you love and have been separated from.”
TAKE ACTION – Operation “Give Albert a Hug for the Holidays”
Please take a moment today to remind the State that they can’t just continue to torture Albert and violate their own policies on our watch. Print out this letter, sign and fax or mail to the Secretary of Corrections Jimmy LeBlanc and help us give Albert the gift of a hug from his loved ones this holiday season.
A sample letter is below: