The man who is believed to have been held in solitary confinement longer than any other inmate in the U.S. will walk free Friday afternoon.
Albert Woodfox, the only member of the Angola 3 still in prison, was locked alone in a tiny cell for close to 44 years. He was allowed only one hour each day outside that cell, shackled in a concrete “exercise yard,” still alone. He is now 69 years old and has spent nearly two-thirds of his life in solitary.
Woodfox’s conviction for the 1972 murder of a prison guard, Brent Miller, has been overturned several times, yet he has remained in prison. The state had planned to mount a third trial against him, even though all of the witnesses to the murder have since died. Wallace will now go free Friday because of a plea deal with the state.
The other two former inmates who make up the Angola 3 were freed years ago. Robert King had his conviction overturned in 2001 and says the 29 years he was kept in solitary confinement have permanently damaged his eyesight and physical orientation. Herman Wallace, who died of liver cancer after 42 years in solitary, was released after a federal judge overturned his conviction. He survived two days out of prison.
Woodfox was a Black Panther who organized inmates against segregation and inhumane conditions inside Louisiana’s Angola prison, which was formerly a slave plantation. He has always maintained his innocence and many believe he was framed for the murder of the guard. Court after court has determined that case against Woodfox, Wallace and King was built on an amalgam of racism, prosecutorial misconduct, and incompetence. No physical evidence linked them to the murder, while exonerating evidence was buried.
There are 80,000 to 100,000 people believed to be in solitary confinement on any given day in the U.S.