After three decades, inmates out of solitary

Published 12:01 am Thursday, March 27, 2008

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Two former Black Panthers held in solitary confinement in a Louisiana prison since the 1970s have been transferred into quarters with other inmates, state corrections officials said Wednesday.

Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were moved from solitary into a ‘‘maximum security dormitory’’ on Monday, said Angie Norwood, assistant warden at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Wallace and Woodfox had been in solitary since 1972, after their convictions in the death of a guard.

The men, known to supporters as the ‘‘Angola Three,’’ have said their 36 years of solitary confinement at the prison amount to cruel and unusual punishment. Both are appealing their convictions.

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Wallace and Woodfox were in the news last week because U.S. Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, visited them and the Michigan Democrat announced he’s learned of evidence proving they were wrongly convicted.

Louisiana prison officials said the men’s transfers were unrelated to Conyers’ visit and statements — even though they had said for years that Wallace and Woodfox were in solitary for their own protection.

The two inmates were among 19 prisoners moved under a new policy aimed at freeing up solitary space by transferring solitary prisoners with records of good behavior into the high-security dorms, corrections officials said.

‘‘Inmates were being evaluated who might qualify for the maximum custody dormitories, inmates with good records who might warrant a move, and (Wallace and Woodfox) were part of that group,’’ Norwood said.

Nick Trenticosta, Wallace’s lawyer, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Robert King, the other of the Angola Three group, had his conviction for killing another inmate overturned. He was released in 2001 after 29 years in solitary confinement. King formerly used the surname Wilkerson.