US man freed after 43 years in solitary
A former Black Panther activist who spent a record 43 years in solitary confinement was freed from a US prison Friday after decades of legal battles to prove his innocence.
Albert Woodfox is the last of the "Angola Three" activists to taste freedom in a case which provoked outrage among rights groups.
A federal judge had ordered Woodfox's unconditional release in June in a strongly-worded ruling that barred any further trial on charges of murdering prison guard Brent Miller.
Woodfox twice managed to overturn his conviction for the crime, but Louisiana's attorney general had been determined to pursue a third trial and managed to bar Woodfox's release on appeal. He won his freedom Friday by pleading "no contest" to two lesser charges in a deal which allowed him to be released on his 69th birthday.
The case of the Angola Three has brought attention to the psychological toll of solitary confinement, which typically means being locked in a tiny cell for 23 hours a day. Researchers have found that depriving someone of visual stimulation, human interaction, sunlight or physical activity can change their brain structure in a matter of days. Yet many of the 80,000 people estimated to be in solitary confinement in US prisons have been there for years on end.