Pras Gustanto, Staff Writer

Picture a typical George Mason University dorm room. Now split the room in half and imagine how uncomfortable and agonizing it would be to live in that space for 30 years.

As incredible as it sounds, solitary confinement has been the reality for Robert Hillary King, who spent three decades of his life locked in a small, six-by-nine prison cell.

King visited Mason last Thursday to discuss his experiences in prison. King is part of the Angola Three, the name given to three men who had been incarcerated in Angola Prison, La., for starting a movement against the prison administration’s unethical practices.

At the time, the prison was known for being the most brutal and discriminatory prison in the U.S. According to King, violence was a routine occurrence. Inmates were often forced into homosexuality and forms of prisoner prostitution.

His experience is common. According to the documentary The Farm, 85 percent of the inmates who are sent to Angola will die there.

For the past three decades King, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were placed in solitary confinement for their actions. King was released in 2001, but Wallace and Woodfox remain sentenced. According to King, the two remain there as a “symbol of what happens when you try to mess with the system.”

King’s Angola story began in 1970 when he was accused of armed robbery. According to King, authorities arrested him, claiming he resembled the actual perpetrator.

King says the reason he was suspected of having committed the crime was because he already had a record for rebellious juvenile delinquency.

Due to his repeated escape attempts in other jails, King was transferred to Angola. According to King, prison authorities took advantage of King and charged him with a murder he didn’t commit.

King was then placed in a six-by-nine cell for solitary confinement until he was released in 2001.
Since his release, King has been fighting for the freedom of his former fellow Angola inmates.

King has traveled to over 20 countries in hopes of raising international awareness for the unjust practices of not only the Angola prison, but also of the entire prison system in the United States.

His recent Mason visit was another attempt to take down what he believes is a form of slavery in the guise of Angola prison’s legal disciplinary punishment.

In his mind, there isn’t much hope for the American legal system. King believes the American system is a form of “de-facto slavery.”

He accepts that while prisons are indeed necessary, many countries such as Brazil, Portugal and England have shown more ethical and humane forms of corrective punishment.

According to King, the U.S. “doesn’t so much take advice from other countries, but rather, has an agenda to push its disciplinary views on other countries.”

Despite the bleak outlook for his fellow Angola inmates, King believes that his release and eventual worldwide recognition at least serve as a reminder to Angola prison of the horrors that it continues to perpetrate.

His cause has already gotten international attention and support. And as King puts it, “even though I was free of Angola, Angola will never be free of me.”