Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace (right) have spent 41 years in solitary confinement.
After 41 years in solitary confinement, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace of the Angola 3 have lived through a nightmare that no human being should have to endure. We work on their case with the hope that, one day, we can share the news that these men have been released from solitary and have seen justice.
But today is not that day. Today I am deeply saddened to tell you that 71-year-old Herman Wallace has been diagnosed with liver cancer, after spending the majority of his life isolated in a small cell, four steps long, by three steps across for 23 hours a day. I’ve often described the Angola 3 case as “injustice compounded” – that description has never rung more true than today.
Albert and Herman were convicted of murdering a prison guard at Louisiana’s Angola prison more than four decades ago. The two men were placed in solitary confinement and kept there, even as significant flaws in their trial rose to the surface from the dark, racially charged underbelly of the US prison system: potentially exculpatory evidence mysteriously “missing,” the retraction of eyewitness testimony and even compelling proof that the state bribed a key eyewitness.
More than four decades ago, two young black men were convicted of the murder of a prison guard at Louisiana’s infamous Angola prison. The life sentence handed down to Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace would not only put the men behind bars – it would plunge them into a nightmare of cruel inhuman and degrading treatment for the next 41 years of their lives.
Despite the fact that no evidence tied Woodfox or Wallace to the crime, the two men were placed in solitary confinement after their 1972 conviction; 23 hours a day isolated in a small cell, four steps long, three steps across. Robert King, who was investigated for the crime, but charged and convicted instead of the murder of a prison inmate, was “lucky” to be released after 29 years of this dehumanizing treatment. The other two members of the so-called “Angola 3″ have remained there, waiting for the arc of the universe to bend slowly toward justice.
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.