‘Angola 3’ prisoner who spent four decades in solitary discusses memoir at UIC

Albert Woodfox
Albert Woodfox. Photo: Peter Puna

As one of the “Angola Three,” political prisoner Albert Woodfox spent 44 years in solitary confinement, the longest time served by any prisoner in the history of the United States. Woodfox, who was released from prison in 2016, has written a memoir, “Solitary,” which he will discuss at “An Evening with Albert Woodfox,” presented by University of Illinois at Chicago’s Social Justice Initiative.

WHEN:

Sept. 24
6-8 p.m.

WHERE:

Student Center East
750 South Halsted St. Room 302

DETAILS:

Arrested and convicted at a young age for an armed robbery, Woodfox initially was sentenced to 50 years in prison in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola before being given a life sentence in solitary for the murder of a prison guard on trumped-up charges and false witness testimony.

But for Woodfox and the other men — Robert King and Herman Wallace, alongside whom he served decades in solitary — their real crimes were being members of the Black Panther Party and working as human rights advocates behind bars.

Considered by many as political prisoners, Woodfox and the others served as mentors to fellow inmates, teaching many to read and prepare themselves for life outside prison. Woodfox and the others served as elders who were involved in campaigns to stop prison sexual assaults, stop constant strip searches by guards, and fought to restore the dignity that the penal system and racist views by guards and the warden tried to strip away from the men in detention.

In his memoir, Woodfox writes: “My wrists were handcuffed to my waist by a leather strap. These restraints would become standard for me for decades to come. . . Inside was a cellblock called closed cell restricted, or CCR: another name for solitary confinement. In the stairwell they beat me viciously. . . My body was badly bruised from being beaten but I was still able to move around the cell on my own. I walked to shake off the pain. The cell was 9 feet long and 6 feet wide. . . We were locked down 23 hours a day. . . Our meals were put on the floor outside our cell doors.”

The Social Justice Initiative at UIC, or SJI, is sponsoring the event. SJI is a campus program that aims to build on socially conscious research and interests across different disciplines, improve connections with community partners and serve students interested in social justice work.

Woodfox’s discussion kicks off SJI’s theme, “Home,” for the 2019-2020 school year. The group will tackle topics such as, “What does it mean when a prison cell is supposed to substitute for a home?” This topic is especially important as 2 million people in the United States, including migrant families, are currently in detention.

The event is free but registration is required here.

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