36 years in solitary. Where’s your head at?
Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, two-thirds of the “Angola Three,” prisoners of the notorious Angola State Prison in Louisiana, have suddenly been moved into a maximum security dorm after 36 years of solitary confinement.
Wallace and Woodfox were Black Panthers in New Orleans who were sent to Angola after being convicted on robbery charges. In prison, they were a part of the nationwide Prison Movement of the early 70s. Angola was, according to The Times-Picayune, “at the time known as one of the most bloody and brutal state prison in the United States.”
In 1972, they and a third man, Robert King Wilkerson (now known as simply Robert King), were convicted of killing a white guard. I, and many others, believe they were framed for their political activism. The man who committed the murder confessed 2 years later. Inmates who testified against the men later admitted they were coerced by guards, and recanted their testimony. King was not even at the prison at the time of the attack on the guard.
The men were placed in solitary confinement, where Wallace and Woodfox remained until yesterday. King was released in 2001.
Many believe that the cruelty of this punishment — more than three decades spent alone in a 6-by-9-foot cell, save for 1 hour a day to shower, and 1 hour every 3 days for exercise — was a political act designed to limit their ability to organize for prisoners’ rights. For more than three decades, each successive prison warden had to sign the papers ordering them to remain in solitary confinement every 90 days.
The prison’s reasons for finally releasing them from solitary? Dorms are cheaper. And it makes room for more poor fucks to lose their minds, alone. (I have no idea what mental state the men are in — no one does, I would imagine.)
PS: I read a great, very small-run book on the Black Panthers of NOLA, and can’t remember the name and can’t find on Internet. It was printed very cheaply, like a glorified pamphlet, but it was lucid and well-researched. If this rings a bell, let me know.
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