Albert Woodfox, a member of the Angola 3, was finally released from prison after 43 years in solitary confinement.
Solitary confinement has been a widely debated subject in corrections. For decades, people have argued over whether the practice is necessary or inhumane. Numerous papers and studies have been published on the way solitary confinement affects a prisoner’s mental health after only a few months of time.
Albert Woodfox was not in solitary confinement for a few months. Albert Woodfox was in solitary confinement for 43 years.
According to Woodfox’s lawyer, for over four decades the man was kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. He was allowed out for one hour every day, where he remained chained and alone in a segregated outdoor area.
Albert Woodfox was the last remaining member of the Angola 3 incarcerated in Louisiana. Robert King was released in 2001 and Herman Wallace was released in 2013. They were convicted in 1972 for killing a corrections officer in Angola Prison.
For Woodfox, his conviction had been overturned by the courts twice, but he remained imprisoned throughout the appeals process.
According to the district attorney for Louisiana’s West Feliciana Parish, Samuel D’Aquilla, the state was in the process of getting ready to try Albert Woodfox for the third time. However, there were some significant issues the state was facing.
“A lot of the witnesses (from Woodfox’s 1973 murder trial) are now dead,” D’Aquilla told CNN. “I’d like to say for the record, [Albert Woodfox] is a murderer. He was convicted twice by juries and those convictions were overturned both times on technicalities.”
It was because of those difficulties that Albert Woodfox was given the option to plea down to a lesser charge. He did so only after it was stressed that he would be given his freedom.
“Although I was looking forward to proving my innocence at a new trial, concerns about my health and my age have caused me to resolve this case now and obtain my release with this no contest plea to lesser charges,” Albert Woodfox said in a statement after his release on Friday, according to BBC.
Woodfox has always maintained he was innocent in the murder of corrections officer Brent Miller. Even after accepting the manslaughter plea, Albert insists that he and the other members of the Angola 3 were convicted based on evidence that other inmates framed them with. He believes his Black Panther alliances made him supremely unpopular in the prison back in the ’70s and that’s what caused the racially motivated issue.
“I am innocent. The fact that I was convicted the first and second times had more to do with racism in the American judicial system than with innocence or guilt,” he told the Guardian.
Although proof of the claims made by Albert Woodfox would be almost impossible to come by, the wife of the correctional officer has made statements indicating that she believes the Angola 3 were innocent of the murder, according to CNN.
Albert Woodfox told the Guardian that he has no desire to stop fighting for social justice, especially now that he’s out of solitary confinement. He explained that he wanted to be a “voice for those who have no voice, be a shield for those who can’t protect themselves.”
Woodfox intends to fight hardest against solitary confinement.
“It’s an evil. Solitary confinement is the most torturous experience a human being can be put through in prison. It’s punishment without ending,” Albert Woodfox explained. “We have got to stop this, and having been a victim of it for so long myself, that’s what I’m going to do.”
[Photo by Max Becherer/AP Images]