He was jailed for more than four decades, for a crime that he has not committed. Albert Woodfox, the longest-standing solitary confinement prisoner in the US, held in isolation in a six-by-nine-foot cell almost continuously for 43 years, has been released from a Louisiana jail.
Woodfox, who was kept in solitary following the 1972 murder of a prison guard for which he has always professed his innocence, marked his 69th birthday on Friday by being released from West Feliciana parish detention centre, the Guardian reported.
The prisoner’s release came after the state of Louisiana agreed to drop its threat to subject him to a third trial for the 1972 killing
Woodfox was held in the cell for 23 hours a day. In the single remaining hour, he was allowed out of the cell to go to the “exercise yard” – a small area of fenced concrete – but was shackled and kept alone there as well, the report of Guardian said.
James Dennis, the judge lamented that ‘for the vast majority of his life, Woodfox has spent nearly every waking hour in a cramped cell in crushing solitude without a valid conviction’.
In a statement released by his lawyers, Woodfox said that he would use his newfound liberty to campaign against the scourge of solitary confinement. Woodfox in turn pleaded no contest to lesser charges of manslaughter and aggravated burglary.
Last month President Barack Obama used his executive powers to ban solitary confinement for juveniles in all federal prisons. He has also commissioned a review into the use of solitary in the US.