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Settlement Reached in Favor of Prisoner Punished for Speaking to the Press

William Kissinger was sent to solitary for discussing prison conditions

NEW ORLEANS – A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of William Kissinger, a prisoner at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola who was severely punished by correctional officials after speaking with a reporter.

The lawsuit, filed on January 9, 2017, by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center of New Orleans, argued that prison officials at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola retaliated against Mr. Kissinger for speaking with a journalist who was investigating the notorious prison. Mr. Kissinger was transferred from Angola to the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center where he was first kept in extreme isolation for 18 days before being sent to the maximum security section and held with restrictions on movement and contact without the outside world.

“Mr. Kissinger was subjected to the most severe conditions imposed by the Department of Corrections, for the crime of writing to the media” said Katie Schwartzmann, co-director of the MacArthur Justice Center of New Orleans. “Those extreme conditions are usually reserved for the most dangerous prisoners or those that commit rule violations that threaten security. Solitary confinement cannot be imposed for exercising freedom of speech.”

The settlement orders Mr. Kissinger to be transferred back to Angola, and restored of all his previously held rights and privileges. His disciplinary record will be swept of the false violations and he will not face any further retaliation as a result of this litigation or any future lawful exercise of his First Amendment rights, including speaking with press.

“Mr. Kissinger has a clear right to speak to a reporter about the prison, just as the press, and the public, have a right to know what happens in Louisiana’s correctional facilities,” said Schwartzmann said. “We spend millions of dollars locking up thousands of people in Louisiana. It’s important to government accountability that the press be able to report what happens behind those concrete walls and barbed wire.”

The lawsuit named Secretary James LeBlanc as well as the current and former Wardens at Angola and Elayn Hunt as Defendants.

A copy of the settlement agreement is available here: 

Kissinger Settlement Agreement

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