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Angola 3 inmate: from solitary cell to centre of the community

© Annie Flanagan
© Annie Flanagan

(Financial Times) – At 1,440 square feet, Albert Woodfox’s new house is nearly 27 times the size of the place he called home for more than four decades. When he meets me at the door, one of America’s most famous prisoners is smiling brightly, and squinting into the Louisiana sun. He has reason to be happy. It has been a year and a half since he was released after serving nearly 44 years in solitary confinement in one of the country’s most notorious prisons.
“By any standards I am extraordinarily lucky . . . I lost family members but never the support of my family. The African-American community embraced me when I was released from prison and that took a lot of weight personally off,” he says, as we sit on the patio, where, to beat the swampy midsummer heat, he has dragged a large industrial fan of the sort that sat outside his cell (“there’s something about the familiarity of it”).

Still, since getting out in February 2016, on his 69th birthday, “pretty much everything I do now is a new experience . . . socialising and freedom of movement, getting accustomed to being in loud, large crowds, learning how to speak before people.”

He has spent much of the past year on the road, speaking on panels and delivering lectures around the world about the horrors of solitary confinement, prisoners’ rights and the institutional racism inherent in America’s carceral system. The modest settlement Woodfox reached with the state of Louisiana for his treatment allowed him to buy the house for $65,000 last August, and make investments for his old age.

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