Former Long-Term Inmate to Speak on Solitary Confinement

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Robert King, one of Louisiana’s “Angola Three” inmates, speaks here Saturday about his 29 years in solitary confinement and his efforts to help others still trapped there.

The talk, titled “Solitary Confinement: Torture in Our Prisons,” is part of a program running 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and other groups.

Forty years ago, King, then an inmate at Louisiana State Penitentiary (known as “Angola”), was convicted of murdering another inmate. His conviction followed by a year the convictions of inmates Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, for the killing of a prison guard.

Robert King
  • Photo courtesy of PM Press
  • Robert King

All three men maintained their innocence, and held that they were targeted for their political activism and membership in the prison’s chapter of the Black Panther Party. All three were sent to solitary confinement. King challenged his conviction and was finally freed in 2001. Woodfox and Wallace maintain their innocence but remain in solitary.

King, now in his 70s, will discuss his continuing efforts to highlight the injustices of the U.S. penal system against African Americans and poor people.

Saturday’s program will also include family members of prisoners now living in solitary confinement — imprisonment of 23 or 24 hours a day in cells as small as 6 feet by 9 feet, often with other restrictions associated with high rates of mental illness and suicide.

As documented in a new report by the federal General Accounting Office, http://solitarywatch.com/2013/06/01/gao-report-questions-widespread-use-of-solitary-confinement-in-federal-prisons/ solitary confinement has been rising in the U.S. for decades https://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/05-7, and lately has come under increasing criticism http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/new-report-confirms-solitary-confinement-federal-prisons-largely-unchecked.

Saturday’s program — whose other sponsors include the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the PA Council of Churches and Amnesty International Group 39 — includes a light lunch and an author signing of King’s 2008 autobiography, From the Bottom of the Heap.

A free-will donation is requested. Registration is preferred; contact 412-315-7423 or swahrhaftig@afsc.org.

East Liberty Presbyterian Church is located at 116 S. Highland Ave., in East Liberty.

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