Albert Woodfox has spent more than 42 years not just locked up in prison, but in isolation.
But thanks to a court ruling, America’s longest-standing solitary confinement prisoner’s conviction has been overturned.
The 37-page ruling from the US court of appeals for the fifth circuit gives Woodfox, 67, the only member of the “Angola Three” still imprisoned, his greatest hope yet of release. He has been held in a 6x8ft cell, enduring the psychological impact of isolation exacerbated by chronic claustrophobia, for all but three years since he was put in “closed cell restriction” in 1972.
Woodfox was convicted of the murder that year of a guard in Angola prison, inLouisiana, where he was serving time for armed robbery. He has always protested his innocence, insisting that he and his Angola Three fellows were victims of a political vendetta because of their then membership in the Black Panther party.
The fifth circuit judges upheld a lower court’s opinion that Woodfox’s conviction was racially motivated. In 1993 he was reindicted for the murder of prison guard Brent Miller, after an earlier ruling overturned the sentence.
Herman Wallace, another member of the Angola Three, was released in October 2013. He died two days later.
For nearly 43 years, Woodfox has spent just a three year period among the general prison population. The rest of the time he has spent 23 hours a day alone in his cell and one isolated hour in a concrete exercise yard.
Robert King, the third member of the Angola Three, was released in 2001 after serving 29 years in solitary. He told the Guardian “this is what we have been waiting for, for so long”, and added: “We’re now back at the point where it’s in the hands of the state.”
Good luck to Mr. Woodfox.
Sound off below!