Because of the peculiarities of my personality, I spend the majority of my hours each day away from other human beings. On the days when my wife is off at work, I end up this way by default. She has our one vehicle and the bus stop is too far away for me to walk it. So, I putter around the house.
Even on the days my wife IS off work, I still stick to my general routine. If I were to guess, I probably spend no more than an average of 1 - 2 hours per day in the company of other humans. But I am not alone either. A good deal of this time is spent in the company of my three dogs and 1 cat plus there are two neighborhood dogs I visit with frequently.
I bring up my situation as a reference point to a news story I will share simply because my isolation is by choice. Despite the fact I am all by my lonesome most of the time, I still interact with other humans daily. I spend quality time with my loving wife. I go to the grocery store, post office, library and/or my friend Paul's mini mart almost every single day. I visit and laugh with people. I catch up on town gossip.
Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox do not enjoy the same luxury of human interaction that I do. They are isolated from others by the choice of the State of Louisiana, not of their own volition.
"I can make about four steps forward before I touch the door," Herman Wallace says as he describes the cell in which he has lived for the past 40 years. "If I turn an about-face, I'm going to bump into something. I'm used to it, and that's one of the bad things about it."I don't care what a person has been alleged or convicted of having done. If our constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment MEANS ANYTHING, these two fellows need to be released from the hole. In fact, it is downright immoral than they have been forced to languish away in solitary for this long to begin with!
On Tuesday, Wallace and his friend Albert Woodfox will mark one of the more unusual, and shameful, anniversaries in American penal history. Forty years ago to the day, they were put into solitary confinement in Louisiana's notorious Angola jail. They have been there ever since.
They have spent 23 hours of every one of the past 14,610 days locked in their single-occupancy 9ft-by-6ft cells. Each cell, Amnesty International records, has a toilet, a mattress, sheets, a blanket, pillow and a small bench attached to the wall. Their contact with the world outside the windowless room is limited to the occasional visit and telephone call, "exercise" three times a week in a caged concrete yard, and letters that are opened and read by prison guards.
A new documentary film takes us into that cell, providing rare insight into the personal psychological impact of such prolonged isolation. Herman's House tracks the experiences and thoughts of Wallace as he reflects on four decades banged away in a box.
What kind of civil society would condone such callous treatment of fellow human beings?