Liverpool John Moores University welcomed two of the Angola 3, Robert King and Albert Woodfox, on Thursday 3 November as part of their European Freedom Tour. In a moving and inspiring event, which included footage from the new documentary 'Cruel and Unusual' about their case, Robert and Albert shared their experiences of being activists for reform against brutal prison conditions.
Albert Woodfox was finally released from a Louisiana prison in February 2016 after being wrongfully imprisoned and spending 43 years in solitary confinement. Robert King, a fellow member of the Angola 3 who was held in solitary for 29 years before his release in 2001, campaigned for Albert’s release. Herman Wallace was released in 2013 and died three days later.
The Freedom Tour included Liverpool as it was always an important part of Robert's journey in the UK and a key place of support for the campaign from the active and progressive student and academic community at Liverpool John Moores University. Organised by the Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation and Social Exclusion, Critical Research Seminars like this attract a national audience of academics, activists, students, practitioners, policy makers.
In conversation with Professor Joe Sim, Albert and Robert discussed how their political conviction as members of the Black Panther Party enabled them to survive and about their life-long campaigns to free fellow political prisoners and against the use of solitary confinement in the USA.
Speaking to BBC Radio Merseyside before the talk, Albert commented that, 'If we as species don't change then we are destined to destroy ourselves', emphasising the point that their campaign for justice and reform continues. Their work has already led to a spotlight on and change to the overuse of solitary confinement and has given a voice to individuals in the system.
Dr Helen Monk and Professor Joe Sim, Co-Directors of the Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation and Social Exclusion made the following statement:
“We were honoured to welcome Robert King and Albert Woodfox from the Angola 3 to the University. One of LJMU’s central goals as a civic university is to intervene in order to try and make a difference around key areas of public policy and concerns. The Angola 3’s struggle for a radical transformation in the criminal justice system and their political activism around state violence and racism, the treatment of political prisoners and the use of solitary confinement in the USA is both inspirational and important. Their case also provides lessons for educating future generations in these areas and for thinking about social justice and democratic accountability, universal themes that the LJMU Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation and Social Exclusion is focussed on.”