IN THE PLACE OF JUSTICE, a Story of Punishment and Deliverance

IN THE PLACE OF JUSTICE, a Story of Punishment and Deliverance

IN THE PLACE OF JUSTICE, a Story of Punishment and Deliverance

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This book is unique in that it is written in first person by a man who was incarcerated in one of Louisiana’s most notorious prisons for more than 40 years. Wilbert Rideau chronicles his early life, the capital crime for which he was convicted and imprisoned, his experiences with the Jim Crow judicial system, his life in prison, and his eventual release.
The author had a troubled childhood, had a juvenile record for petty crimes, and during a botched robbery, killed a white woman. He was condemned to death row, where he spent years before his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. His descriptions of life in the various prisons are unsettling, but he never focuses on gruesome details. I was impressed by the lack of rancor in his tone, despite having been mistreated over and over by the “justice” system.
While in prison he self-educated, and became the first black editor of the prison magazine “The Angolite” which won numerous national awards. He was a correspondent for NPR’s Fresh Air and All Things Considered.
His descriptions of the organization of prison life were very enlightening to someone like me who has very little concept of what goes on in the lives of incarcerated people. The very fact that prisoners had the freedom to publish a magazine which was available on the outside was mind-boggling.
I felt that the book dragged a bit, but perhaps that was an intentional mechanism to reflect how life must drag for those on death row, or with life sentences.
It is definitely a worthwhile read. While other books may give a larger over-view of problems and inequities in the justice system, this one gives insight in to one man’s amazing ability to not only endure the demeaning aspects of prison life, but in the end to emerge as a respected spokesman for prison and sentencing reform.

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