Albert Woodfox, ‘Angola Three′ inmate who spent 44 years in solitary, dead at 75

NEW ORLEANS — Albert Woodfox, a member of the “Angola Three” who spent nearly 44 years in solitary confinement in a Louisiana prison, died Thursday, his family said. He was 75.

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Woodfox, who was released from prison in 2016 after a federal court vacated his conviction for armed robbery, died in a New Orleans hospital from complications caused by COVID-19, his family said in a statement. He became an activist for prison reform after his release.

“With heavy hearts, we write to share that our partner, brother, father, grandfather, comrade and friend, Albert Woodfox, passed away this morning,” the family said. “Whether you know him as Fox, Shaka, Cinque, or Albert -- he knew you as family. Please know that your care, compassion, friendship, love, and support have sustained Albert, and comforted him.”

Woodfox was sentenced in 1971 to 50 years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for armed robbery, reported. He and two other men became known as the “Angola Three” because of their long stays in solitary at the penitentiary and at other prisons, according to The Associated Press.

Woodfox, Robert King and Herman Wallace comprised the Angola Three. They were accused of killing prison guard Brent Miller at the penitentiary in 1972, reported.

The three men were placed in solitary confinement, and Woodfox served the longest time alone in his cell -- 43 years, 10 months, according to the news outlet. Officials said the men were kept in solitary because their Black Panther Party activism would otherwise rile up inmates at the maximum-security prison farm, CBS News reported.

Woodfox spent 23 hours a day in a 6-by-9 foot concrete cell, reported.

Woodfox and Wallace were former Black Panthers who helped establish a prison chapter of the organization at Angola in 1971. The pair set up demonstrations and organized strikes for better conditions, according to the AP.

“I do not have the words to convey the years of mental, emotional, and physical torture I have endured,” Woodfox wrote in a 2013 statement. “I ask that for a moment you imagine yourself standing at the edge of nothingness, looking at emptiness. The pain and suffering this isolation causes go beyond mere description.”

In 2016, Woodfox pleaded no contest to manslaughter in the guard’s death, the AP reported. He was released from prison on Feb. 19, 2016, his 69th birthday, reported. He has always maintained his innocence.

Wallace died in 2014, days after a judge freed him and granted him a new trial, according to the AP. King was released in 2001 after his conviction in the death of a fellow inmate in 1973 was reversed, according to the news organization.

“He grew up in a lot (of) different circumstances and had a tough time,” former Louisiana congressman Bob Livingston, who played a role in Woodfox’s release, told “He was a good person who suffered greatly under conditions such as they were when he was a kid.”

After his release, Woodfox moved to New Orleans and spoke about prisoners’ rights during nationwide speaking events, the news outlet reported. He wrote a book about his years in confinement, “Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement -- My Story of Transformation and Hope,”