This is really good news. I'm so glad Herman and Albert will get out of the hole at last. Of course, they really should be out of prison period.
Now, let's work on getting Hugo Pinell (Yogi Bear) out of solitary. He's been in total isolation in one lockup or another for over 38 years, the last 18 in a windowless cell in Pelican Bay's notorious SHU. He's enduring his 44th year in prison. (www.hugopinell.org)
Angola 3 pair move to dorm
Men in solitary since the 1970s
Two men held in solitary confinement in Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola since the 1970s were moved into a maximum-security dormitory with other inmates Monday, Assistant Warden Angie Norwood said.
Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, part of a group known as the Angola 3, have sued the state, claiming they are victims of cruel and unusual punishment for the years they spent in isolation. The two were convicted of killing a prison guard, though their attorneys argue they didn’t commit the crime.
Their move out of solitary confinement came as attorneys for the prisoners and the state are negotiating a settlement in the lawsuit, which is pending in federal court in Baton Rouge.
Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell and lawyers for the three men asked a federal judge Wednesday to delay a pretrial conference for two weeks to allow them to focus on negotiations.
“It appears at the moment that we may be able to come to an agreement, so we’re asking the court to let us continue that discussion,” said Nicholas Trenticosta, a New Orleans attorney representing the men.
Tammi Herring, a spokeswoman for Caldwell’s office, declined to comment because negotiations are ongoing.
The Angola 3 are Wallace, Woodfox and Robert King, who used to go by the last name Wilkerson.
King was placed in isolation for allegedly killing a fellow inmate, but that conviction was overturned in 2001 after he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. He spent 29 years in isolation before his release.
Wallace and Woodfox, who had formed a chapter of the Black Panther Party to fight problems inside the prison, were convicted of killing prison guard Brent Miller during a riot on April 17, 1972.
In isolation, an inmate spends 23 hours each day in a cell. The other hour is spent taking a shower and exercising alone.
Prison officials have maintained the men pose a security risk at the prison.
In addition to their claims of unjust treatment, attorneys with the national legal defense group Innocence Project have said evidence shows Wallace and Woodfox were not involved in Miller’s death. The Innocence Project recently stepped up efforts to raise public awareness of the Angola 3.
U.S. Rep. John Conyers, the chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, visited the prison last week and said evidence suggests the two men were wrongly convicted.
Norwood said the inmates were moved to the new dormitory as part of a larger transfer of inmates who have shown good behavior.
Angola is the first state prison to open a maximum-security dormitory, the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections announced in a news release last week.
“Good disciplinary records while in maximum custody will warrant the move to the dorm setting, while freeing up valuable cell space for younger, more violent offenders,” the news release says.
Asked about the specific rules and living arrangements for the dormitory, Norwood deferred to the department’s news release, which says only that the rules for the dormitory will be set by the warden of each facility.
Trenticosta said he doesn’t know exactly how much of an improvement the dormitories will be over solitary confinement, but added that he hopes to learn more about them through the talks with the state.
“There are plenty of regulations in the various settings at Angola, and it is unclear to us today what are those regulations that are being applied in this situation,” he said.
For the first time in almost 36
years, two state prisoners from New Orleans serving life for the 1972 murder of
a guard have been moved from solitary confinement into a special dormitory
created for maximum security inmates
Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were moved from solitary into a maximum security dormitory Monday, said Angie Norwood, assistant warden at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
Wallace and Woodfox had been in solitary since their convictions in the death of guard Brent Miller, who was stabbed to death at a time when the prison was segregated and a Black Panther Party chapter had been formed there.
Wallace and Woodfox, who with a third inmate were known to supporters as the "Angola Three," have said their 36 years of solitary confinement at the prison amount to cruel and unusual punishment. Both are appealing their convictions. Both were serving time for armed robberies when the prison blamed them for Miller's killing.
The men's lawyers, who have recently captured national attention with the Angola Three's story, said they were taken by surprise with the move.
"They just did it," attorney Nick Trenticosta said. "It has nothing to do with what we did in the lawsuit. We've been in negotiations to settle the lawsuit. We had no knowledge or forewarning that they would be moved to a dormitory. It is a dorm created just now."
Wallace and Woodfox have sued the state over their stay in solitary confinement at Angola, where they and others are kept in single cells for 23 hours a day and only released for showers and exercise.
"This is no longer a secret," said Trenticosta, who plans to visit his clients Friday at the prison located about 2 1/2 hours from New Orleans.
Robert King, the third member of the Angola Three, had his conviction for killing another inmate overturned. He was released in 2001 after 29 years in solitary confinement. King formerly used the surname Wilkerson.
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