What Is It Like Spending 40 Years In Solitary Confinement?


Photo: Elians (CC)

Imagine having to go through this. Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox have lived 40 straight years in windowless boxes in Louisiana’s worst jail, as political prisoners. Via the Guardian:

They’ve spent 23 hours of each day in the last 40 years in a 9ft-by-6ft cell. Now, human rights groups intensify calls for their release.

First imprisoned [for robbery] in 1967, Herman Wallace came together with Albert Woodfox and a third man, Robert King, to form a Black Panther chapter inside the prison, hoping to organize African American inmates against the brutal treatment they endured. Angola was reputed to be the worst jail in America, whose 5,000 inmates were still racially segregated and where violence and sexual slavery were rampant.

Then on April 17, 1972, a prison guard was murdered during in one of the wings. The Angola 3 were immediately accused of the murder, and placed that same day in solitary. They have insisted ever since on their innocence, pointing to the lack of any physical evidence and suggestions that the main eyewitness against them was bribed by prison officials. They say that the murder charge was trumped up to punish them for their political activities.

“This is a case of innocence and the abuse of human rights,” Robert King said on the eve of the anniversary. King’s conviction was overturned and he was released in 2001, and he said he fears for his former fellow inmates now bearing in mind that they have spent more than a decade longer in solitary than he did. “I was in a six-by-nine cell for 29 years and I know what it did to me – it shunk the brain, it shrunk the individual. You become acclimatised to small distances.”

Each windowless cell, Amnesty International records, has a toilet, a mattress, sheets, a blanket, pillow and a small bench attached to the wall. Wallace gives more detail about his cell: “Every time I stand up from the bed I could hit my hips on the table, it’s that close. As far as moving about – there is no movement.”

Wallace gives a glimpse into his mental state after so long alone. He says his memory is deteriorating. “A lot of times I lose it. I have trouble coming up with the simplest of things, the A,B,C…”

Read the rest at the Guardian

4 Comments on "What Is It Like Spending 40 Years In Solitary Confinement?"

  1. If they’d put criminals in conditions such as this like other countries do, we’d have a lot less problems here, eh?

  2. It makes you imagine how many prisoners are in the same conditions in US.

  3. DeepCough | May 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm |

    Take this as an indicator of just how very dedicated the penal system is at depriving you of your rights
    for the rest of your life.

  4. This is unconscionable.

    So many people fail to realize that this week it’s poor black men, but once the precedent is set, next week it could very well be you.

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