USA must release terminally ill man held in isolation for 40 years

An elderly man who has been held in solitary confinement in a prison in Louisiana for over 40 years and has now been diagnosed with terminal cancer should be immediately released on humanitarian grounds, Amnesty International said.

“He has already spent decades in cruel conditions” said Tessa Murphy, USA campaigner at Amnesty International.

“He was found guilty on dubious evidence in the first place and he should now be allowed to live out his last days with dignity in the care of his family.”

Herman Wallace, aged 71, was originally jailed for armed robbery. However, in 1973 he was convicted of the murder of a prison guard along with Albert Woodfox ; both have been held in isolation ever since.

No physical evidence linked the men to the crime; DNA evidence that could have cleared them has been lost over the years, and the testimony of the main eyewitness has subsequently been discredited.

Last month Wallace was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and the prognosis is that he only has months to live.

Wallace and Woodfox are believed to be the longest serving solitary confinement prisoners in the US. Although Wallace is now in the prison hospital, prior to his illness, he like Woodfox was confined to a small cells for 23 hours a day with ourdoor exercise permitted for only  three hours a week. Temperatures in the prison cells are reportedly extremely high, regularly reaching up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

“it is clear from the evidence that these conditions have already taken a severe toll on his health. ”  said Tessa Murphy.. “It is time for the authorities to show some humanity, already long overdue.”