Fresh call for Louisiana to end 'Angola 3' isolation after 40 years

‘The 40-year isolated incarceration of these two men is scandalous’ - Everette Harvey Thompson

In the lead-up to the 40th “anniversary” of the solitary confinement of the “Angola 3” prisoners in the US state of Louisiana, Amnesty International is calling on the state authorities to immediately remove the two remaining inmates from isolation.

On 17 April it will be exactly 40 years since Albert Woodfox (65) and Herman Wallace (70) - and a third man, Robert King (the three known collectively as the “Angola 3”) - were placed in an isolation unit in Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola Prison.

Woodfox and Wallace were convicted of the 1972 murder of a prison guard, Brent Miller, something they have consistently denied. Apart from very brief periods, they have been held in isolation ever since. After 29 years in solitary confinement at Angola, King was eventually released after his original conviction was overturned and he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

Amnesty has raised questions about the case against the men. No physical evidence linking the men to the guard’s murder has ever been found, the convictions were based on questionable inmate testimony, and potentially exculpatory DNA evidence has been lost. Documents have since emerged suggesting that the main eyewitness was bribed by prison officials into giving statements against the men and that the state withheld evidence about the perjured testimony of another inmate witness. A further witness later retracted his testimony.

The men’s lawyers have told Amnesty that both are suffering from serious health problems caused or exacerbated by their years of solitary confinement. On 17 April Amnesty will present a petition with over 65,000 signatures to Louisiana’s Governor Bobby Jindal demanding that Woodfox and Wallace are removed from isolation.

Amnesty International USA Southern Regional Office Director Everette Harvey Thompson said:

“The 40-year isolated incarceration of these two men is scandalous.

“It pushes the boundaries of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and flies in the face of international standards to which the US is a party.

“What evidence is there that these men are so dangerous that they must be subjected to these conditions? They have clean disciplinary histories, they are old men and four decades of solitary confinement has left them physically and mentally frail.

“There is no legitimate penal purpose for keeping these men in solitary. The Louisiana authorities must end this inhumanity.” 

Woodfox and Wallace are confined to their two-metre by three-metre cells for 23 hours a day and allowed out only to exercise alone in a small outdoor cage, or to shower or walk along the cell unit corridor. They have limited access to books, newspapers and television. For the past four decades they have been prevented from working or having access to education. Social interaction has been restricted to occasional visits from friends and family and limited telephone calls. They have also been denied any meaningful review of the reasons for their isolation.

  • Report USA - 100 years in solitary: ‘The Angola 3’ and their fight for justice
  • Video Watch a short video on the story of The Angola 3 - including an interview with Robert King
  • Podcast Download BBC Radio 4 programme on the case /li>

Note to editors

On 17 April, after handing in its petition, Amnesty International USA will hold a press conference on the steps of Louisiana’s state capitol building in Baton Rouge at 2-3 pm local time. This will include contributions from: Everette Harvey Thompson, Director of Amnesty International USA’s Southern Regional Office; Robert King; Alfreda Tillman Bester, General Counsel to the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP; and Angola 3 family and friends

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