The man who spent more years in solitary confinement than any prisoner in American history was set free on Friday.
Albert Woodfox was released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola after spending most of the last 43 years inside a 6-by-9 foot cell. He was the last member of the so-called "Angola 3" to be released from prison.
Woodfox and Herman Wallace were convicted in 1972 of the murder of an Angola prison guard, Brendan Miller. Both men maintained their innocence. They were placed in solitary confinement along with a fellow prisoner, Robert King, who was being confined for unrelated reasons. The three men, all of whom were Black Panthers, became internationally famous for their decades spent in solitary isolation. The UN and Amnesty International declared the situation to be inhumane.
Robert King was released in 2001 after 29 years in solitary. Herman Wallace was released in 2013 as he was dying of cancer; the judge ruled that his indictment for Miller's death had been unconstitutional. Wallace died just days after his released.
Woodfox was convicted twice of Miller's murder. Both times, the convictions were overturned. In 2015, a judge ordered his release. Louisiana successfully appealed the ruling. The state was preparing to try him a third time when he agreed to plea no contest in the killing. In a statement, he said that he did so as a way to get out of prison.
"Although I was looking forward to proving my innocence at a new trial, concerns about my health and my age have caused me to resolve this case now and obtain my release with this no contest plea to lesser charges," Woodfox explained.
Woodfox's lawyer, George Kendall, released this statement:
"Although we are overjoyed that Albert Woodfox is finally free, it is indefensible he was forced to endure decade after decade in harsh solitary confinement conditions, longer than any prisoner in the history of the United States. Albert survived the extreme and cruel punishment of 40 plus years in solitary confinement only because of his extraordinary strength and character. These inhumane practices must stop. We hope the Louisiana Department of Corrections will reform and greatly limit its use of solitary confinement as have an increasing number of jurisdictions around the country."
Speaking to reporters outside the prison, Woodfox said he was "resigned" to figuring out how to live as a free man.