His ‘release is long overdue and undeniably just’
By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-19-2016
Albert Woodfox, the last of the men known as the Angola 3, was released from a Louisiana prison on Friday.
He had spent over four decades in solitary confinement at the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary known as “Angola.”
WBRZ Reporter Michael Vinsanau tweeted this photo of Woodfox as he walked out of prison:
His release, on his 69th birthday, comes after he pleaded no contest to charges of manslaughter and aggravated burglary in the 1972 death of a prison guard. Though his previous convictions of murder for the death were previously thrown out, the state had blocked his release. He had always maintained his innocence.
As Amy Goodman previously wrote, Woodfox and the other members of the Angola 3, Robert King Wilkerson and Herman Wallace, believe the decades they spent locked in solitary were “retaliation for forming the first prison chapter of the Black Panthers in 1971. They were targeted for organizing against segregation, inhumane working conditions and the systemic rape and sexual slavery inflicted on many imprisoned at Angola.”
Ahead of his release, Woodfox issued this statement to supporters: “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. I hope the events of today will bring closure to many.”
His “release is long overdue and undeniably just,” stated Jasmine Heiss, Senior Campaigner at Amnesty International USA’s Individuals and Risk Campaign.
“Nothing will truly repair the cruel, inhuman and degrading solitary confinement that the state of Louisiana inflicted upon him. But this belated measure of justice, on Woodfox’s 69th birthday, is something he has been seeking for more than half his life,” she stated. “His release should also be put in the wider context of the continued practice of solitary confinement,” Heiss added.
“Today should also mark a pivotal new chapter in reforming the use of prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails. Moving forward, Woodfox’s case must serve as a tragic reminder of the cruelty inflicted by the prison system at its most extreme. Louisiana must commit to making urgent reforms to solitary confinement, and chart a course toward doing its part in ending the overall crisis of mass incarceration.”
The International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 said that his release “should motivate us to stand up and demand even more fervently that long-term solitary confinement be abolished, and all the innocent and wrongfully incarcerated be freed.”
A United Nations expert has said that solitary confinement, such as when it is used “indefinitely or for a prolonged period,” can amount to torture.
Editor’s note: We also recommend reading Democracy Now!’s piece on Alfred’s release.