14,600 Days in Solitary Confinement

Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace

Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace

No human being deserves this.

23 hours a day isolated in a small cell, four steps long, three steps across. Three times a week for exercise in an outdoor cage, weather permitting. A few hours every week to shower or simply walk. Rare, fleeting human contact with prison guards, let alone with family.

This describes four decades of existence for Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace in Louisiana, two members of the so-called “Angola 3” who pass their remaining hours “in the hole” to this day.

April 17th will mark 40 years — 14,600 days — of their nightmare. The conditions in which these two men are held, as well as the tragically absurd duration of this punishment, violate a host of human rights treaties to which the US is a party, including those covering basic standards for treatment of prisoners. Prisons simply shouldn’t operate this way in the US.

Woodfox and Wallace may be in isolation, but they are not forgotten. Our calls for justice will ring loud — on April 17 we’ll make sure Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal hears us when we arrive at his Baton Rouge doorstep with tens of thousands of petition signatures from people in 125 countries in hand.

Campaigning for justice for the Angola 3, Baton Rouge, 1972

We can’t let more days pass without justice. Herman Wallace is now 70 years old, Albert Woodfox is in his mid-60s, and both men are suffering from serious health problems — made worse by the appalling deprivation in which they live.

Ill, advancing in age, with clean disciplinary records for the last 20 years — what is so dangerous about these men that could possibly warrant this inhumane treatment, for so long?

Because the prison authorities see them as a threat. The “Angola 3” organized their fellow prisoners against inhumane treatment and racial segregation in the early 1970s. Angola Prison’s warden, Burl Cain, has suggested that Woodfox and Wallace’s continued isolation is based on their political activism — particularly their association with the Black Panthers.

The “Angola 3” case highlights the failings of a Louisiana justice system that is undermined by discrimination. No physical evidence links Woodfox and Wallace to the 1972 murder of a prison guard. Inmate testimony is questionable. And judges who twice overturned Woodfox’s conviction for the murder cited racial discrimination, prosecutorial misconduct, and more.

14,600 days in solitary is far too many. But today, we can do something about it — demand justice for the remaining “Angola 3”.

And on April 17, we won’t take no for an answer in Baton Rouge!

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4 thoughts on “14,600 Days in Solitary Confinement

  1. One thing I would like all humans rights organizations to do is to change their language about these things. These types of articles often mention how the people suffering this mistreatment are most likely innocent of the crimes for which they've been convicted; the clear implication is that it would be ok to treat guilty people this way. I'm confident this is not the intention of this writer or of groups like AI – but I would like to see the language altered so that these human rights abuses are addressed independently of guilt or innocence. NO ONE deserves this treatment – it helps no one. Solitary confinement should only be used for brief periods (one week, tops; maximum of 6 weeks in a year) and ONLY for those who are in immediate danger of hurting others.

  2. The USA has a long way to go regarding a fair justice system, still with the death penelty in many states and in human treatment as in thisw case. Why so many people wish to live in the States is beyond me!

  3. Sad that these men have suffered for so long. We need to free them today.