Freedom After 40 Years in Solitary?

Supporters of one of the Angola 3 tell The Root why he might be released this time.

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The office of Louisiana Attorney General James D. "Buddy" Caldwell would not comment for this article.

The Cruelty of Solitary Confinement

As much as the Angola 3's case spotlights such concerns as racial bias in jury selection, it brings to the fore the broad subject of solitary confinement in a nation that, according to 2005 U.S. Department of Justice data -- the latest federal tally available -- holds 80,000 prisoners under such terms on any given day.

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"We're asking the federal court to consider what's taken place in the state, to consider that what happened with the jury is a constitutional violation and to set Woodfox free," said Allen-Bell, author of the article "Perception Profiling & Prolonged Solitary Confinement Viewed Through the Lens of the Angola 3 Case." "We're also pushing to change the status quo."

Published in the summer 2012 edition of the University of California's Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, that research takes aim at what Allen-Bell and others contend is the arbitrary choosing of whom to remand to solitary confinement in prisons across the United States, a process that lacks streamlined criteria for such decisions and places no limits on the duration of confinement.

That, said Amnesty International spokeswoman Suzanne Trimel, is blatant hypocrisy: "The 40-year isolated incarceration of [Woodfox and Wallace] ... is a scandal that pushes the boundaries of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and flies in the face of international standards to which the United States is a party."

Being constrained in a 6-by-9-by-12-foot, windowless cell was inexpressibly difficult, Angola 3's King, who spent 29 years in solitary confinement, told The Root. "You've got an iron bunk, suspended on the wall, and an iron bench, a small table, a commode and a sink," said King, whose jailhouse lawyering, alongside that of Woodfox and Wallace, did eventually result in Louisiana's solitarily confined inmates being allowed one hour, thrice weekly, in the prison yard.

Staying Strong in Isolation

Assuming that Woodfox is released, that leaves behind bars, at least for now, Wallace. His attorneys are also preparing to request his release.