Although he has been locked in solitary for four decades, Albert Woodfox's demands for freedom reached the front steps of the Louisiana Capitol building Monday, where Amnesty International delivered petitions demanding his immediate release.
The petitions, which were signed by 25,000 people across the world and were so numerous they had to be delivered in multiple boxes, called for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to use his powers to immediately free Woodfox. Woodfox, the last-remaining incarcerated member of the 'Angola 3,' has spent four decades in solitary confinement for what many is widely believed to be political targeting for his black freedom organizing.
Gathering at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge for a press conference, Woodfox's supporters included: Robert King—formerly incarcerated member of the 'Angola 3,' Michael Mable—Albert Woodfox’s brother, and a spectrum of politicians and organizations including National Religious Campaign Against Torture and the United Methodist Church.
Mable read a statement written by Woodfox describing his life in solitary confinement, the Advocate reports. “On good days, I am allowed at most, one hour of exercise in a cage outside. The pain and suffering this isolation causes goes beyond this mere description," Woodfox wrote. "To be honest I am not sure what damage has been done to me, but I do know that the feeling of pain allows me to know that I am alive."
“Holding a man with no human contact in a cell the size of a parking space for 38 years is simply depraved,” said Jasmine Heiss, Amnesty USA campaigner. “We are here today representing tens of thousands of people from around the world who are calling for Albert Woodfox’s release,” Heiss later added.
Governor Bobby Jindal's office did not immediately respond to a request for comments from Common Dreams.
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Woodfox and the late Herman Wallace were thrown into solitary confinement at the Louisiana maximum-security prison in 1972 after they were charged with killing a prison guard in what was later ruled an unfair trial. Both men and their global supporters long maintained their innocence, charging they were targeted for their political organizing, which included launching a Black Panthers chapter and protesting abusive conditions in the prison. Robert King soon joined them in solitary, accused of killing another prisoner.
“Albert maintains, as do all of the Angola 3, that he continues to be punished for organizing against injustice inside Angola as a member of the Black Panther Party," declared Heiss.
Despite long-term campaigns to free the three men, who became known as the 'Angola 3,' King spent 29 years locked in solitary confinement before his conviction was tossed out and he was released. After spending 41 years in solitary, Wallace had his conviction overturned on the grounds he had faced unconstitutionally-assembled jury that excluded women. He was released while in the late stages of fatal liver cancer then re-indicted on his death bed by a Louisiana grand jury following his release. He died just four days after he was freed.
Woodfox, who remains in isolation at David Wade Correctional Center, recently released a farewell statement to Wallace, his life-long friend and comrade, in which he declared, "I wanted so badly to witness his walk to freedom, but it was not to be."
His continuing isolation, despite Wallace's overturned conviction, has been condemned by supporters and public officials across the world, including UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez, who declared that this and other examples of long-term solitary confinement violate international human rights law.
“[O]ne of the bitterest pills we have swallowed was the death of Herman Wallace on Oct. 4- just three days after he was freed from prison after being held in solitary confinement for more than 41 years,” said Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins. “Herman Wallace died a free man but his freedom was short-lived and nothing could erase the abuse he suffered. That suffering must end now for Woodfox.”