Workers Vanguard No. 1071

10 July 2015


Albert Woodfox Must Be Freed!

On June 8, U.S. District Court judge James Brady ordered the immediate release of class-war prisoner Albert Woodfox, the longest-serving U.S. prisoner in solitary confinement—and barred the State of Louisiana from subjecting Woodfox to a retrial. But four days later, a federal appeals panel ruled that he be kept in jail pending a ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on whether Woodfox will face what would be his third trial for a crime he did not commit. Framed up for the 1972 fatal stabbing of a prison guard, Woodfox has been the victim of a racist vendetta based on his radical Black Panther Party activities within Louisiana’s infamous Angola prison. Woodfox’s conviction was overturned yet again in May 2012 and that ruling was upheld in November 2014, but he was indicted again in February at the urging of Louisiana attorney general James D. “Buddy” Caldwell. Woodfox’s continued incarceration is an outrage! Free Albert Woodfox now!

Albert Woodfox’s jailers have had it in for him since he started a Black Panther chapter in Angola prison shortly after his incarceration there in 1971. With fellow inmates Herman Wallace and Robert King, together later known as the Angola Three, Woodfox helped organize work stoppages and other protests against the horrific prison conditions. Woodfox and Wallace were falsely convicted of the 1972 killing of guard Brent Miller. Not a shred of physical evidence existed, and the key “eyewitness” was bribed for his trial testimony. King, who was framed for killing a fellow inmate in 1973, was released in 2001 and has been active in the fight to free Woodfox. Wallace was finally freed in October 2013 and died of liver cancer three days later. In truly vindictive fashion, Attorney General Caldwell had Wallace indicted again for Miller’s murder the day before his death!

The state is determined to see Woodfox die in prison, despite much public outrage and the fact that his convictions have been repeatedly overturned on the grounds of “unconstitutional” practices and racial bias. In a recent statement, the prison guard’s widow herself pleaded to set Woodfox free: “I wish the state of Louisiana would stop spending all this money paying lawyers to keep Albert in prison for even longer than the 43 years he has already been there.” She pointed to his innocence, noting that the bloody fingerprint at the scene of the murder did not belong to any of the Angola Three.

Woodfox has remained entombed in solitary confinement for all these years because of his prior political activities. Angola prison warden Burl Cain insisted in 2008 that even if Woodfox were not guilty, he would be kept in “closed-cell restriction” (the prison’s euphemism for solitary) because of his “Black Pantherism.” As for “Buddy” Caldwell, he called Woodfox—who is 68 years old and suffers from hepatitis C, diabetes and a weak heart—“the most dangerous person on the planet.” Indeed, Woodfox’s persecution highlights the decades-long war by the capitalist state against Black Panther Party militants. In the 1960s, the Panthers were targeted for elimination by the FBI’s COINTELPRO operation. Thirty-eight Panthers were killed and hundreds more railroaded into prison hellholes for decades, where many died. Among the former Black Panther supporters still incarcerated are Mumia Abu-Jamal, Ed Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, all of whom, like Woodfox, receive monthly stipends from the Partisan Defense Committee. The PDC is a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League.

The state’s treatment of Woodfox is intended to be a chilling example for all those who speak out against the horrible conditions in prison hellholes. He has spent more than half of his life in a closet-size, windowless cell for 23 hours a day. Despite being under constant surveillance, he was subjected to visual body cavity searches up to six times a day. Kept in total isolation, eating alone and unable to attend religious or educational activities, Woodfox described in 2012 the emotional effect of years in solitary: “I ask that for a moment you imagine yourself standing at the edge of nothingness, looking at emptiness.”

Woodfox continues to languish in isolation behind a steel door at the West Feliciana Parish Detention Center. On August 31, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on whether he will face a third trial. We demand that Albert Woodfox be freed immediately!