iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for Forty Years In Solitary, Louisana Style

Play now 25 mins

Forty Years In Solitary, Louisana Style

Duration:
25 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 05 April 2012

Tim Franks looks at the case of two US inmates who have been held in solitary confinement in Louisiana for what will be 40 years this month.

It's believed to be the longest period of time in US penal history.

For most of their confinement Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace were held in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a prison often known as "Angola", after the origin of the people who worked there when it was a slave plantation.

The two were originally imprisoned for armed robbery.

The men who later became known as the Angola 2 were linked to the Black Panther party, and fought for better prison conditions for the black inmates, and an end to the widespread rape and harsh work conditions.

While in prison there, they were charged with the murder of a prison guard, and convicted on the evidence of a prison inmate who had been promised his freedom if he testified against them.

For most of the time since then they have been held in solitary confinement.

The official reason has remained the same for 40 years: fear that the men would re-start their Black Panther-type activism and organise younger inmates as militants.

The use of solitary confinement is on the increase in the US - we ask are there good reasons for its use, and whether it is compatible with US and international law.

  • Forty years in solitary confinement and counting

    Forty years in solitary confinement and counting

    "Almost all of the people are severely damaged. They're potted plants. Their will to live really doesn't exist any more. They become shells of their former selves"

    Read more on the BBC News website

Free downloads

  1. Image for Documentaries

    Documentaries

    An indepth look at stories and issues from around the world. This podcast offers you the chance to…

  2. Image for Documentaries 2007

    Documentaries 2007

    Throughout the week BBC World Service offers a wide range of documentaries and other factual…

  3. Image for Documentaries 2008

    Documentaries 2008

    Throughout the week BBC World Service offers a wide range of documentaries and other factual…

  4. Image for Documentaries 2009

    Documentaries 2009

    Throughout the week BBC World Service offers a wide range of documentaries and other factual…

  5. Image for Documentaries 2010

    Documentaries 2010

    Throughout the week BBC World Service offers a wide range of documentaries and other factual…

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.