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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Roughly a year ago, Woodfox and Wallace were transferred to separate Louisiana prisons, where they remain in solitary confinement and under conditions, King says, that are harsher than those at Angola. April 2013 will mark Woodfox and Wallace's 41st year in solitary confinement.

"There were some things in Angola that they don't practice at Wade Correctional Facility, where [Woodfox] is now," said King, now an Austin, Texas-based, world-traveling prison reformer and author of From the Bottom of the Heap, a 2008 memoir that has been revised and expanded. "He says the food at Angola was better -- though food is generally bad in any prison -- and the condition of the yard at Angola was better.

"He is separated from people with whom he was familiar," King continued. "And he is 70 miles farther away from his brother, who he can see now only while shackled and handcuffed. There are no contact visits like what he had in Angola. So of course, Albert feels these are added punishments."

Until the mid-1990s -- when the Angola 3 drew moral and financial support from a wide swath of people, including global activist Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop -- the men represented themselves in court matters involving conditions at Angola and other concerns.

"We were motivated by what had us in confinement," King said, "and under those conditions, we had become politically aware and politically conscious of what was going on. We operated out of a sense of consciousness and the reality that there are flaws in this system that need to be fixed."

Their activism, he added, helped them maintain their sanity and focus.

"After being in there for so long, you're not desensitized to the situation, but you build up a resistance, so to speak, against the wear and tear. You're in there ... so you have to become inured to being in there," said King, who, postprison, has lectured and lobbied globally against solitary confinement, conferring with former South African President Nelson Mandela and actor-activist Harry Belafonte, among others.

According to King, who recently spoke by telephone with Woodfox, his friend's optimism regarding his pending court case is clear. "His spirits -- notwithstanding the pressures of all this -- seem pretty uplifted," said King. "He read the argument. He read the brief, both sides. He imagines that the lawyers did a good job. His expectation is high. Ask him if he'll be coming home and he tells you, straight up, 'Yes.' "

Even amid that hopefulness, there's reason for caution.

Californian Marina Drummer -- a Bay Area nonprofit executive, coordinator of the Free Angola 3 campaign and co-founder of Solitary Watch -- said: "I can't say I'm [unequivocally] optimistic. We're dealing with the state of Louisiana ... It seems as if they'll do anything to cover their tracks. If we were going on the issue of justice, they'd all be out by now."