[Ppnews] Angola 3 - Camp J, Red Hats, and the Hole

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Mar 6 10:25:29 EST 2009

Mother Jones


J, Red Hats, and the Hole

Shelby Biggs | Thu March 5, 2009 11:44 AM PST

There are three levels of 
confinement at Angola Louisiana State 
Penitentiary: "Closed Cell Restricted," "Camp J," 
and "the hole." Herman Wallace, 
Woodfox, and 
King Wilkerson have experienced them all.

CCR: "Closed Cell Restricted" is known as 
"extended lockdown" in official Angola parlance. 
Angola CCR cells contain a bed platform against 
one wall, a steel combination-sink-and-toilet 
unit against another, and only a few feet in 
between. Penal historian 
<http://www.burkfoster.com/>Burk Foster notes 
that until recently the condemned had more 
privileges­including access to television­than 
inmates relegated to CCR. By many accounts, death 
row is a more comfortable place to be locked up. 
CCR is where Wallace has spent his days for most 
of the last 36 years. Placement in CCR was 
originally used as a temporary punishment, but 
Wallace, Woodfox, and Wilkerson's experience with 
CCR has been 
but temporary.

CAMP J: In 1998, 
<http://www.harryconnickjr.com/>Harry Connick 
Jr., (whose father, Harry Connick Sr., was the 
Orleans Parish district attorney for 30 years) 
was escorted into Camp J in leg irons and 
handcuffs. He had asked to spend three days in 
solitary as research for a role in a film, but 
lasted just the first night in Camp J before he 
asked the warden to let him out.

Camp J is a "punishment camp," and the second 
level of solitary at Angola. Here, inmates are 
not permitted to have personal belongings, apart 
from law and religious books and basic 
toiletries. The food is notoriously 
inedible­usually made up of leftovers from the 
main prison cafeteria mixed together and baked 
into an amorphous "loaf." Inmates frequently 
strip naked and lie on the cement floors to keep 
cool during the long, humid summer days; in the 
winter, the cells can be frigid. Suicides are an 
ongoing problem. In the book 
of the Rodeo, Daniel Bergner described how 
inmates cobbled together crude cannons to rifle 
streams of diluted feces at one another from 
their toilets. In 2000, death row inmate Abdullah 
Hakim El-Mumit sued the prison to be returned 
from Camp J to death row, saying conditions in 
the punishment camp were worse than in the death 
house and thereby unconstitutional.

Wallace has been sent to Camp J for a number of 
infractions. Once, he says, a guard mistook the 
metal pocket clip from his ballpoint for a 
"shim," or handmade handcuff key. Later he was 
sent to Camp J for destruction of public 
property, allegedly because a guard found a 
scratch on his light fixture. There are three 
levels of Camp J; inmates generally start at 
Level Two and work their way up to Level 
Three­with good behavior­and can be out in six 
months. Getting busted down to Level One means 
months more effort to earn your way out. Between 
2001 and 2003, Wallace was busted down to Level 
One repeatedly, although his record shows no serious behavioral infractions.

Camp J's predecessor­the Red Hats­derives its 
name from the straw hats dipped in red paint that 
identified inhabitants of the cell block when 
they were working in the fields. Men who survived 
Red Hats told of a dungeon crawling with rats, 
where dinner was served in stinking buckets 
splashed onto the floors. Reforms in Louisiana 
led to the Red Hats cell block being condemned 
and closed in 1972. Camp J took its place in 1977 
as the worst spot on the 18,000-acre prison grounds in which to find yourself.

THE HOLE: The worst solitary at Angola is called 
the "dungeon" or "hole" by inmates and 
"administrative segregation" by officials. Here, 
inmates are held to await disciplinary hearings. 
A recent offense that landed Wallace a 
blanketless overnight stay in the hole: gifting a 
pair of earrings and a poem about solitary 
confinement (unflattering to the prison) to his 
lawyers during a legal visit. He was cited for 
possessing contraband. Later, the charges were dropped, and he returned to CCR.

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