“I thought that my cause, then and now, was noble. They might bend me a little bit, they may cause me a lot of pain, they may even take my life, but they will never be able to break me.” — Albert Woodfox (angola3.org/the case)
More than four decades ago, three young Black men — Robert King, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox — joined the Black Panther Party while confined at the infamous Angola prison. The largest prison in the U.S., it is an 18,000-acre former slave plantation in rural Louisiana. They led and participated in nonviolent hunger and work strikes to expose the segregation, corruption and horrific abuse at the prison, which was considered the bloodiest prison in the South.
Some reforms were won. But for their efforts these three men were framed for the murder of a guard. There was no physical evidence tying them to the death. The main witness against them was rewarded with cigarettes, a television, birthday cakes and a pardon. They were thrown into 6-by-9-foot solitary cells with no books, no papers and no human contact for 23 hours a day. Whenever they were let out of their cells, their ankles, wrists and waists were shackled.
The conviction of Albert Woodfox has been overturned three times. Yet the state of Louisiana has appealed and kept Woodfox in his tiny cell all this time.
Robert King was released in 2001, after the case against him was overturned. When Herman Wallace was diagnosed with cancer, he was released just three short days before his death in October 2013.
King has fought to free the other two members of the Angola 3. He submitted a statement to a Feb. 25 U.S. Senate hearing on solitary confinement, co-authored by still-imprisoned Albert Woodfox. King wrote:
“Solitary confinement is terrifying, especially if you are innocent of the charges that put you there. It evokes a lot of emotion. It was a nightmare. My soul still cries from all I witnessed and endured. It mourns continuously. Through the course of my confinement I saw men so desperate that they ripped prison doors apart and both starved and mutilated themselves.” (campaign.r20.constantcontact.com)
King went on to relay the many protests by national and international organizations against the U.S. use of long-term solitary confinement.
King quoted the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, who stated that “keeping Albert Woodfox in solitary confinement for more than four decades clearly amounts to torture and it should be lifted immediately.” He also quoted Amnesty International, which points out that solitary confinement “contravenes the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners,” along with many other international standards. (campaign.r20.constantcontact.com)
King cited a July 2013 statement by members of the U.S. Congress calling on the Justice Department to investigate “the egregious and extensive use of solitary confinement and other troubling detention practices in various Louisiana prison facilities.”
The Louisiana Department of Corrections “has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the U.S. Constitution and federal law in its use of such confinement and detention practices,” the congressional group’s statement reads.
More than 10 years ago the Angola 3 filed a lawsuit against the state of Louisiana for its solitary confinement practices. That suit is slated to go to trial this June.
The website www.angola3.org describes ways to help the campaign to force the release of Albert Woodfox and end long-term solitary confinement across the U.S. Free Albert Woodfox now!