Wallace and Woodfox were first thrown into the hole on April 17, 1972, following the killing of Brent Miller, a young prison guard. The men contend that they were targeted by prison authorities and convicted of murder not based on the actual evidence—which was dubious at best—but because they were members of the Black Panther Party’s prison chapter, which was organizing against horrendous conditions at Angola. This political affiliation, they say, also accounted for their seemingly permanent stay in solitary.
For four decades, the men have spent at least 23 hours a day in cells measuring 6 feet by 9 feet. These days, they are allowed out one hour a day to take a shower or a stroll along the cellblock. Three days a week, they may use that hour to exercise alone in a fenced yard. Wallace is now 70; Woodfox is 65. Their lawyers argue that both have endured physical injury and “severe mental anguish and other psychological damage” from living most of their adult lives in lockdown. According to medical reports submitted to the court, the men suffer from arthritis, hypertension, and kidney failure, as well as memory impairment, insomnia, claustrophobia, anxiety, and depression.