Angola 3

Case Type: Public Interest Litigation

Organization: Louisiana State Penitentiary

In June 2013, Sanford Heisler Sharp joined Squire Patton Boggs in representing Herman Wallace, Robert King Wilkerson, and Albert Woodfox in their civil suit against the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. Known as the “Angola 3,” the Plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of being held in solitary confinement for more than four decades (since 1972).

Before being placed in solitary confinement, the Angola 3 worked within the prison chapter of the Black Panther Party to desegregate the prison and advocate for better living conditions. In 1972, Plaintiffs Woodfox and Wallace were wrongfully convicted of the murder of a white prison guard. The authorities linked Plaintiff Wilkerson to the murder, but did not charge him. The three men were then removed from the general prison population and began their decades-long stays in solitary confinement.

In 2001, Plaintiff Wilkerson’s conviction was overturned and he was released from prison after having spent 29 years in solitary confinement. However, Plaintiffs Wallace and Woodfox remained in solitary confinement.

On October 1, 2013, Federal Judge Brian A. Jackson granted Plaintiff Wallace’s Second Writ of Habeas Corpus and ordered the State immediately release him from prison. However, Plaintiff Wallace’s freedom was short-lived. Plaintiff Wallace, who suffered from liver cancer, died just three days after his release from 42 years in solitary confinement.

Plaintiff Woodfox was also granted habeas corpus (meaning his conviction was found to be unconstitutional), but he remained in solitary lockdown with severe restrictions until February 2016. He was incarcerated in a 6- by 9-foot cell of approximately 55 square feet for 23 hours a day. He was allowed to exercise without companions for one hour a day during the weekday, weather permitting. He was limited in what materials he could read, in the number of books he could have at one time, and in the kinds of visits he was allowed.

On February 19, 2016, Albert Woodfox was released from prison after serving more time in solitary confinement than any prisoner in U.S. history.

The plight of the Angola 3 has been covered in national and international press and is the subject of an Amnesty International Report.

The case was slated for trial in June 2014.

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