Human rights group Amnesty International has urged the US state of Louisiana to remove two prisoners from solitary confinement, where they have been placed for 40 years.
In 1972, convicted of the murder of a prison guard, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace were placed in “Closed Cell Restriction (CCR)” in Louisiana State Penitentiary – known as Angola Prison. Apart from very brief periods, Woodfox, 64, and Wallace, 69, have been held in isolation ever since.
“The treatment to which Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace have been subjected for the past four decades is cruel and inhumane and a violation of the US’s obligations under international law,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Americas Deputy Director at AI.
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Both men were arrested for armed robbery and their solitary confinement has not undergone meaningful review in four decades.
The two men spend 23 hours a day each in a six-square-metre room. They are allowed to leave their cells for four hours per week, to take a shower or walk in the corridor. Depending on the weather, they may be permitted an hour of “solitary recreation in a small outdoor cage” three times per week, AI said.
“Their cases should be reviewed as a matter of urgency and while that takes place authorities must ensure that their treatment complies with international standards for the humane treatment of prisoners,” said Marengo.
Amnesty International has questioned the legal aspects of the case against the two men, emphasising that no physical evidence linking the men to the guard’s murder has ever been found and the convictions were based on questionable inmate testimony. There are documents that suggest that the main eyewitness was bribed by prison officials into giving statements against the men, AI said.
Woodfox and Wallace are suing the Louisiana authorities over their “cruel and unusual punishment” that they claim violates the US Constitution.
By Ali Sheikholeslami