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                TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Angola Today
II. Angola in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
    A. The Worst Prison in the United States, 1812-1844
    B. Convict Leasing, 1844 to Civil War
    C. Post-Civil War Reinstatement of Convict Leasing and
       1. Angola Plantation Prison, 1869
       2. Louisiana Takes Back Control of Angola, 1900
       3. Heel Slashings, 1951
    D. Angola in the 1960s: Bloodiest Prison in the South
    E. Angola in the 1970s: Medieval, Squalid and Horrifying
       1. Why Angola Prison Litigation Did Not Arise Until the 1970s
       2. Sinclair Litigation Opens the Federal Courthouse Doors
       3. Major Litigation Erupts in 1971 with Haynes Williams Case
    F. Angola in the 1980s and 1990s
III. Angola 2000 to Present


"I think that there has been more human suffering in this place than in any place in the world."

Burl Cain, Warden of Angola Penitentiary. (2)

Louisiana owns the shameful distinction of having its main prison named the worst in the United States in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; first by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831, and then again by Collier's magazine in 1952. (3) Called Angola for the cotton plantation it once was, Louisiana State Penitentiary is today the largest maximum-security penitentiary in the country. (4) In the wake of the Civil War, the prison quickly demonstrated its usefulness in maintaining control over former slaves by profitably leasing them out for backbreaking work until they died. (5) By 1868, the population of the state penitentiary, which was two-thirds white before the Civil War, was now more than two-thirds black. (6)

The cruelty continued into the next century; in the 1950s, dozens of men slashed their own heel tendons to protest the brutality of Angola. (7) Inmates knew the place as a sexual jungle where the weak were sold into slavery to the powerful and violent. (8) In the 1960s, it was called "the bloodiest prison in the South." (9) An inspection team from the American Bar Association described conditions in the 1970s as "medieval, squalid and horrifying." (10) Later that decade, a conservative federal judge declared the prison an extreme public emergency with conditions that "shock[ed] the conscience" and flagrantly violated basic constitutional requirements. (11) A 1991 report by the United States Department of Justice found its medical care "grossly inadequate." (12) Recent reports demonstrate that Angola Penitentiary continues to be operated as a racist plantation with abysmal medical conditions, officially sanctioned violence, and the solitary confinement of hundreds. (13)

All the while, Louisiana has persisted in its scheme to intentionally incarcerate more of its people than any state in the country. (14) For that reason, this article details the horrendous history and current operation of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and calls for its closure. Louisiana has proven again and again it lacks the ability and the will to run Angola in a manner consistent with constitutional and human rights. Angola's continued operation despite its history and pattern of illegality ultimately says more about the free citizens and elected officials of Louisiana than it does about those held within its walls.


Over six thousand prisoners live at Angola, which is officially known as the Louisiana State Penitentiary. (15) More than eighty-five percent of the men serving time in Angola will die there. (16) The average sentence for prisoners at Angola exceeds ninety years. (17) Spread out over eighteen thousand acres, or twenty-eight square miles, Angola is the largest maximum-security prison in both Louisiana and the United States. (18) It is the centerpiece of the incarceration system in Louisiana, which for many years has imprisoned more of its people than any other state in the nation. (19) The prison takes its name from the original eight thousand-acre plantation owned by Isaac Franklin that was dubbed Angola after the homeland of its first slaves. (20) After the Civil War, Angola Plantation was used to put prisoners to work planting and picking cotton for the profit of the man who leased the rights to their labor, a former Confederate major named Samuel James. (21)

Inside the prison are six main fenced areas called camps. (22) The main prison complex area houses about 2,500 prisoners, while five smaller camps hold another several thousand men. (23) Most prisoners at Angola live in large and open dormitory-style buildings. (24) Each dorm room has beds for eighty inmates. (25) There is, of course, no air conditioning. (26) Each of the six camps has its own wardens, security, and support staff. (27)

The present working conditions for the thousands of inmates at Angola are remarkably similar to the days of slavery. One reporter who recently visited Angola made this observation: "In the distance on this day, 100 black men toil, bent over in the field, while a single white officer on a horse sits above them, a shotgun on his lap." (28)

Angola, like the rest of the Louisiana prison system, is big business. Every prisoner works eight hours a day, five days a week. (29) They work in the fields farming corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, tomatoes, cabbage, okra, onions, strawberries, beans, and peppers. (30) Others tend cattle or make products such as license plates and mattresses. (31) Fieldwork is done the old-fashioned way, by hand with tools, and what is harvested is sold by Prison Enterprises, the business arm of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. (32) According to the Times-Picayune, the Louisiana "prison system that leased its convicts as plantation labor in the 1800s has come full circle and is again a nexus for profit." (33)

Prisoners today are paid as little as two cents an hour and are eligible for annual raises of four cents an hour; some who worked in highly skilled jobs and have many years of experience can earn as much as one dollar an hour. (34) With that money, prisoners have to pay for their medical care (including six dollars per "sick call," a request for care), basic toiletries such as toothpaste and soap, clothes, shoes, phone calls, extra food, and legal copies. (35)

Angola employs over one thousand guards and hundreds of other individuals. (36) About two hundred of the guards and their families live on the grounds of the prison, (37) where--per Angola tradition--inmates cut their grass, wash their cars, and serve them in various capacities. (38) "All day long, men in white uniforms are cutting grass, painting houses, planting gardens, free of cost to the prison staff." (39)

For decades, Angola has functioned as a system that even the institution itself admitted has "bordered on legalized slavery." (40) Whippings, beatings, brutality, and rape were once widespread, according to the sworn testimony of a nurse who worked at the prison. (41) Recent articles about Angola emphasize its similarity today to its uses of old. (42) One described it as "a modern day slave plantation" that continues to reflect "a time when black men did not have rights. In a state with the motto 'Union, justice, and confidence,' there is certainly a lingering stink of a bygone, ugly era for which 'union and justice' is simply not a fitting description." (43)

Angola's brutal, violent, and racist legacy endures to this day. The persistent lack of meaningful reform demonstrates that Louisiana has neither the inclination nor the ability to run the Louisiana State Penitentiary in a way that respects the humans it cages. It should be closed.


A. The Worst Prison in the United States, 1812-1844

From the beginning of Louisiana's statehood in 1812, state prisoners were kept in sub-human conditions in the old Spanish colonial jail in New Orleans. (44) Alexis de Tocqueville visited the New Orleans prison in 1831 and was shocked by what he saw:
[W]e found men together with hogs, in the midst of all odours and
nuisances. In locking up the criminals, nobody thinks of rendering them
better, but only of taming their malice; they are put in chains like
ferocious beasts; and instead of being corrected, they are rendered
brutal.... The place for convicted criminals in New Orleans cannot be
called a prison: it is a horrid sink, in which they are thronged
together, and which is fit only for those dirty animals found here
together with the prisoners: it must be observed that those who are
detained here are not slaves: it is the prison for persons free in the
ordinary course of life. (45)

Louisiana spent more than $179,000 to house state convicts in these appalling conditions between 1819 and 1832. (46) In an effort to save money, as well as introduce some type of prisoner rehabilitation, the Louisiana legislature decided in 1832 to close the New Orleans jail and build a state penitentiary. (47)

Located in what is now downtown Baton Rouge, the first official Louisiana state penitentiary was constructed with the labor of at least one hundred prisoners. (48) The goal, according to the legislature, was "to turn out honest men." (49) More importantly, however, the new prison was expected to be financially self-supporting. (50) Upon completion of the penitentiary in Baton Rouge in 1835, the governor of Louisiana, in his message to the state legislature, "remarked that Louisiana was at last free from the reproach which had been attributed to her in a recent publication of having the worst prison in the United States." (51)

The completed penitentiary, originally designed to hold one hundred people, was immediately overcrowded with more than three hundred prisoners. (52) The inmates were quickly put to work manufacturing cotton, leather, and woolen products. (53) Two main criticisms of the new prison emerged. First, local merchants opposed the prison's sale of these products on the open market because the low prices from prison labor undercut their business. (54) Second, although the prison was supposed to be inexpensive to build and self-supporting, costs continued to grow as the original estimate of constructing the prison rose from $50,000 to nearly $500,000, and the annual cost of running the prison was considerably greater than anticipated. (55)

Penitentiaries in the antebellum South held mostly white inmates; (56) this was at least in part the result of the practice of sentencing slaves who committed crimes to be punished by their owner on the owner's plantation. (57) This was true of the Louisiana State Penitentiary; prior to the Civil War, two-thirds of the state's prisoners were white and the remaining one-third consisted of recent immigrants, free men of color, and slaves. (58) In status, prisoners "were considered lower than slaves, because they were expendable and replaceable at no cost to the state." (59)

The primary way for whites to control black people before the abolition of slavery was not incarceration in the penitentiary, but the enforcement of a comprehensive set of laws, including the Black Code, which kept tens of thousands of black people enslaved, powerless, and as much pieces of property as any animals. (60) These anti-black laws were critical because "[f]rom the time that Louisiana became a state until the Civil War, the number of people in slavery grew nearly tenfold." (61) "While slaves were first brought into Louisiana in the early 1700s, in 1810 the number of enslaved people in Louisiana was 34,600 and grew to 69,064 by 1820." (62) By 1850, there were nearly as many slaves in Louisiana as there were white people. (63) The slave population continued to climb, and "[i]n 1860, there were over 330,000 people in slavery in Louisiana." (64) Likewise, free black individuals were kept out when possible, expelled when caught, and those who remained were assigned a much lower class of citizenship. (65)

Women, the majority of them enslaved, were also incarcerated in the Louisiana State Penitentiary during this time. (66) Between 1835 and 1862, sixty-one women were imprisoned in the penitentiary in Baton Rouge, sometimes with their children. (67) Sixty percent of these women were black and most had been convicted of murder or violations of the Code Noir. (68) Records show the youngest was a twelve-year-old girl from Plaquemines Parish, while the oldest was a one hundred-year-old woman from St. Landry Parish "sentenced to life for striking a white woman." (69) Female inmates and their children were housed in two large rooms, where they slept on mattresses on the damp, dirty floors. (70)

Children were also born in the prison. At least half a dozen babies were born in the Louisiana State Penitentiary before the Civil War. (71) In accordance with Louisiana law, children born to enslaved inmates serving life sentences became property of the state. (72) Such children were sold at auction once they turned ten years old, with the proceeds of the sales dedicated to funding free white schools. (73) This law, passed by the Louisiana legislature in 1848, was titled "Providing for the disposal of such slaves as are or may be born in the Penitentiary, the issue of convicts." (74) It stated: "Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Louisiana, in General Assembly convened, That the issue of any slave confined in the Penitentiary for life, born during said confinement, shall enure to the said State, and become the property thereof." (75) The law charged the clerk of the State Penitentiary with the duty to maintain a registry of births within the prison and, when a child born to an enslaved woman reached ten years of age, to notify the sheriff of Baton Rouge, who would then "sell said slave child for cash, and pay the proceeds of the said slave to the State Treasurer, to become a part of the free school fund of said State." (76)

B. Convict Leasing, 1844 to Civil War

In 1844, after only nine years of operating its new penitentiary, Louisiana decided the facility was "an expensive luxury" and leased the prison and its inmates out to a private firm for five years. (77) Similar lease agreements followed and the practice continued for more than five decades, keeping the state's largest prison under private authority until 1901. (78) Louisiana was following in the footsteps of Kentucky, which had leased out its prisoners decades before and reportedly saved significant amounts of money in the process. (79)

The 1844 session of the Louisiana legislature authorized the Governor to lease the penitentiary "for a term not to exceed five years." (80) The lessee was to provide the prisoners with the same rations, clothing, and rest and to change nothing about their treatment. (81) Inmates were to be put to work manufacturing coarse cotton cloths, rope, and bagging, as well as "negro shoes." (82) Reflecting the earlier concerns of local business owners, the law provided that inmates could work in the foundry and other businesses, as long as those businesses did not seek a profit nor come into competition with work performed by businesses in Baton Rouge. (83) To avoid such competition with local businesses, the private managers of the penitentiary had to find new kinds of profitable work for the prisoners. One solution was to use the prisoners for levee construction. (84) Levee building was so hard and dangerous that many plantation owners would not allow their slaves to do it for fear of losing them to death from overwork and exposure. (85)

With this shift to private leasing, Louisiana essentially "abandoned the idea of reformation." (86) The perverse incentives in leasing out public prisons and prisoners to private companies were described aptly by the primary academic historian of Angola, Louisiana State University Professor Mark T. Carleton:
[T]he lessees were not at all committed to rehabilitation. Profit was
their sole objective. And if the lessees were to prosper, little time
could be devoted to reforming or rehabilitating the convicts, for such
distractions would cut deeply into working hours and thus decrease
profits. Nor could large numbers of doctors, nurses, clergymen, or
other professional people be employed to attend the prisoners; large
payrolls also gnawed into profits and were to be avoided. Finally, the
convicts themselves would have to be dealt with in a more businesslike
manner: leisure time must be minimized, food and clothing cut down to a
subsistence level, and discipline administered more thoroughly in order
to maintain a profitable level of operation. (87)

When the initial contract for convict leasing expired in 1849, the state saw that the private company had been making significant money--indeed, one legislator noted that the lessees had profited an estimated fifteen thousand dollars per year. (88) The 1852 legislature re-authorized the lease at four thousand dollars per year. (89) The legislative authorization of the lease in 1857, which lasted until the Civil War, shared the profits of the labor equally: half to the private managers and half to the state. (90)

C. Post-Civil War Reinstatement of Convict Leasing and Re-enslavement

By the end of the Civil War, Louisiana's penitentiary was physically in ruins. (91) But the physical condition of the prison was not the biggest issue; it was the end of slavery and what the presence of hundreds of thousands of formerly enslaved individuals meant. (92) Recall that in 1860, nearly half of Louisiana's population of 708,000 was made up of slaves: 331,000 people. (93) The transformation of the penitentiary from majority white to majority black was swift. (94) In 1860, the penitentiary held 268 white prisoners and 122 black prisoners. (95) By 1868, the reverse was true: black inmates constituted more than two-thirds of the prison population, and the majority of them were young men. (96)

After emancipation doubled the number of free people in Louisiana who were subject to criminal laws, the laws became clearly focused on subjugating and disproportionately punishing African-American males. (97) As early as 1862, freed slaves were subjected to government-sanctioned systems of forced labor. Under threat of vagrancy arrest, Union officials in New Orleans forced black laborers back to work at plantations under mandated fixed wages, hours, and working conditions. (98) By 1865, the mandatory wage and hour regulations for compensating workers were relaxed, but City officials in New Orleans were arresting as vagrants nearly any freedman walking the streets. (99)

As W.E.B. Dubois wrote, after the Civil War, the courts and the criminal legal system were used "as a means of re-enslaving the blacks." (100) These new Black Codes were enacted in Louisiana and other southern states to use the legal system, particularly criminal laws, to regulate, intimidate, and ultimately incarcerate now freed former slaves. (101)

In 1865, Louisiana passed a series of laws, the new Black Code of Louisiana, which, like the other Black Codes of the South, were "designed to drive ex-slaves back to their home plantations." (102) These laws criminalized free black men who could not provide written proof of employment, classifying them as vagrants who were jailed and hired out to anyone, often their former owner, who would pay off their fines. (103)

The legislature met in extra session at the end of 1865 and passed several laws to control freed slaves. (104) Early in the session a joint House and Senate Committee was directed to come up with legislation for freedmen "to make their labor available to the agricultural interests of the State, and to protect the State from the support of minors, vagrants and paupers." (105) The keystone was the amendment that strengthened the 1855 law of vagrancy, which punished people who were unemployed or without visible means to maintain themselves. (106) Act 12 of 1865 doubled the punishment for vagrancy to one year and made it clear that local authorities could "hire out" the person to an employer for the year, with specific legal preference in the statute to hire the vagrant out to the last person for whom he worked. (107) Trespass onto a plantation without permission was made a crime punishable by a one hundred dollar fine or one month in jail. (108) Children of poor families unwilling to work were subject to compulsory apprenticeship. (109)

Local laws were even more punitive in certain places, such as the city of Franklin's requirement that freedmen obtain passes from the government to enter the town. (110) Opelousas, Louisiana prohibited all freedmen or Negroes from entering into the city, renting property, or carrying a weapon, without written pass or special permission from his employer specifying the object of his visit and the amount of time necessary to accomplish that task, on pain of imprisonment of forced work for the city for five days or a five dollar fine. (111) Similar laws were put in place in Bossier and Saint Landry parishes. (112)

In the penitentiary, it was time to bring back convict leasing. By 1868, Louisiana had officially reinstated the convict lease system, and the company leasing the prison and its inmates was obligated to pay the state an annual rent of half of its profits. (113) The lease was ratified by the Louisiana legislature in 1869. (114) "Across the South, the introduction of convict leasing corresponded with the enactment of substantive criminal laws that clearly appear to have been tailored to increase dramatically the number of young, able-bodied black men available for lease." (115) Louisiana used these discriminatory laws and a system of convict leasing to reinstitute involuntary servitude. (116) The "crime problem" became "the Negro problem" after the Civil War, "as black convicts began greatly to outnumber white convicts in all penitentiaries." (117) Tragically, this equation of criminals and black men survives until this day.

1. Angola Plantation Prison, 1869

Shortly after the end of the Civil War, the Angola plantation, the site of the current Louisiana penitentiary, made its first appearance. The company holding the lease on inmate labor at the Louisiana State Penitentiary sold the lease to Confederate Major Samuel James and partners for more than $100,000 in 1869. (118) James immediately put prisoners to work constructing levees and railroads and farming various cotton and sugar plantations, making his company profits in excess of $100,000 in just the first year of the lease. (119) Because he was doing so well, Major James soon decided to lease the 8,500-acre Angola cotton plantation from a widow of a southern slave trader and planter named Isaac Franklin. (120) The Angola plantation was a former slave plantation named after the African homeland of the plantation's former slaves. (121) Later, three additional plantations (Hope, Monticello, and Oakley) were added to the original Angola plantation to form what is now the current prison property. (122)

Major James easily turned the former Angola slave plantation into the new Angola prison plantation. (123) He accomplished this by "latch[ing] onto a simple idea: he would take the recently freed slaves, who were coming into the prison system after the Civil War in increasing numbers, and put them back to doing the same kind of labor they had been doing before the war." (124) As Reconstruction ended, Louisiana reasserted the pre-Civil War social and economic practices and institutions, and "the legal system fed Major James a seemingly inexhaustible supply of fresh labor." (125)

Black men were the fuel needed to power this for-profit prison labor system. The formerly majority white prison population was now overwhelmingly black; from 1870 to 1901, the inmate population in Louisiana grew to over eighty percent black. (126) One scholar noted "the terms 'convict,' 'slave,' 'Negro,' and 'farm work' have remained unconsciously interchangeable in the mind of institutional Louisiana." (127) In this sense, Major James, ironically with significant support from black legislators, became "the largest slaveholder in post-bellum Louisiana." (128)

Soon boatloads of convicts were sent up the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to live and work on the new Angola plantation prison farm. (129) The Baton Rouge penitentiary was all but abandoned. (130) An official report on that prison found "[a]lmost all the convicts are now constantly farmed out--sent promiscuously, it seems, to different portions of the State to work in competition with free labor--so that there would seem scarcely any use any more for any Penitentiary building at all...." (131) Not only did James force the inmates to work his Angola plantation, he also leased them out to other plantations. Prisoners labored in a variety of capacities: planting and picking cotton, planting and cutting sugar cane, cutting timber; and even working on steamboats and as household servants. (132) Under the leasing system, prisoners were leased out to build railroads, (133) to toil on private farms and plantations, (134) and to work on public projects, such as levees. (135)

Leasing black people was an improvement for the people who put them to work. As one noted: "Before the war, we owned the negroes. If a man had a good negro, he could afford to keep him.... But these convicts, we don't own 'em. One dies, get another." (136) As a result of this, death was common at Angola. "Between 1870 and 1901, three thousand convicts, most of them blacks, may well have died" under the Louisiana convict leasing program, far more than any slave plantation would have allowed. (137) George Washington Cable wrote, after noting that fourteen percent of Louisiana's prisoners died in 1881, that "the year's death-rate of the convict camps in Louisiana must exceed that of any pestilence that ever fell upon Europe in the Middle Ages." (138)

Major James purchased the Angola plantation in 1880 and owned it until his death in 1894. (139) His heirs operated it under contract with Louisiana until 1901, when the lease of the prisoners expired and the state of Louisiana purchased the property. (140)

What was it like at Angola as operated by Major James? An 1882 report from the clerk of the State Penitentiary submitted to the governor noted that there were 657 prisoners: 625 males, 101 white males, 31 black females, and just 1 white female. (141) The clerk further reported that 149 prisoners had died from November 1879 to January 1882, and 78 had escaped between November 1878 and January 1882. (142) This report caused the Times-Picayune to observe that the items in the report "certainly disclose an unfortunate state of affairs at our chief convict prison." (143) The Times-Picayune further stated:
It is doubtful if such an unfavorable showing be produced from the
records of any other prison in the world. How the prison could have put
149 convicts under the sod in fourteen months [sic]... is a question
that ought to be asked by a legislative committee.... [W]e here in
Louisiana have not a prison suitable for the safe custody of convicts,
and the prisoners are farmed out on a basis that leaves open the door
to the most flagrant abuses. (144)

Death at Angola was so commonplace that in 1886 it was estimated that a sentence of seven years at the penitentiary was the equivalent of capital punishment. (145)

Women were imprisoned at Angola as well; nearly all of them were African American. (146) Black women worked in the laundry and fields, and it was not until 1871 that white women joined them. (147) By 1890, ninety-five percent of all the female prisoners were black. (148)

Major James presided over, as Professor Carleton called it, twenty-five years of "the most cynical, profit-oriented and brutal prison regime in Louisiana history." (149) Indeed, the origins of modern corrections in Louisiana can be found in Major James' administration of Angola. (150) "His guiding principles included the isolation of inmates from public and political view, the emphasis on economy and cheapness in prison operations, agricultural labor, the perpetuation of the pre-Civil War racist mentality," which led to systemic racial discrimination among inmates, affording white inmates superior treatment and work opportunities, and "the virtually complete neglect of rehabilitation." (151)

Louisiana finally stopped leasing prisoners out to private companies in March of 1901 because of "continued criticism regarding cruel treatment, the high mortality rate among the prisoners, and difficulties with the lessees over the state's contract." (152) Louisiana found a better overseer of the plantation: itself.

2. Louisiana Takes Back Control of Angola, 1900

Angola was brought back under state control in 1900. (153) A 1900 law created a state board to oversee the penitentiary, authorized convicts to be made to work on roads, levees and other public works, and authorized a reformatory for convicts between the ages of seven and seventeen. (154) Louisiana purchased the Angola plantation for $200,000, as well as the nearby Hope plantation for another $78,000. (155) The state later purchased additional plantations, including Oakley and Monticello, a total of thirty-four hundred acres for $131,000. (156) These purchases of surrounding plantations in the early 1900s brought the penitentiary it to its current size of eighteen thousand acres under the direction of Henry L. Fuqua, the general manager of the plantation. (157)

Then as now, black prisoners made up the clear majority. In 1900, the Louisiana Governor reported "[t]here are now in the penitentiary held 989 convicts, 149 white and 840 colored." (158) Black prisoners continued to do the hardest work on the levees, moving huge quantities of soil and sand with shovels and plows, by wheelbarrow and mules and men. (159) Black male prisoners were also sent out, many to work for private companies: the healthiest went to levee camps, the less healthy were sent to sugar plantations, and the least healthy to cotton plantations. (160) In 1908, the ratio of black males to whites in the levee camps was 99 to 1; on the sugar plantation, 55 to 1; and at the Angola plantation, 1.4 to 1. (161) In 1912, 625 of the nearly two thousand prisoners in Angola worked on levees, and of those 625 prisoners, all but nine were black. (162)

For the first half of the twentieth century, women were imprisoned at Angola. (163) In 1909, seventy-six women were imprisoned at Angola. (164) Like the men, they were overwhelmingly black. (165) Like the men, they were jammed into old plantation buildings--sixty women in one building with no sanitary facilities--and subject to floggings with whips and bats. (166) Female inmates at Angola were also expected to work: women acted as caretakers for the families of Angola employees, farmed in the sugarcane and tobacco fields, washed laundry, and much more. (167) "[C]onvict women were just as much a part of the abuse and beatings that made Angola one of the most brutal prisons in the first half of the 20th century." (168) Up to one hundred or so women prisoners continued to be housed in dilapidated buildings at Angola until a women's prison was built at St. Gabriel in 1961. (169) Until then, women continued to work in the fields, in the laundry, as housekeepers, as seamstresses and, in the 1950s, as administrative staff. (170)

Juveniles were kept at the prison farms as well: the 1917 count was one white and thirty-one blacks between the ages of twelve and sixteen, plus two black children under twelve years of age. (171) Even some girl inmates were occasionally kept at Angola prior to 1926, when the state created a separate institution for delinquent white girl inmates between twelve and nineteen years of age. (172)

Free guards and other non-prisoner employees at Angola lived on the plantation grounds where they were provided with housing and supplies, as well as black prisoners to cook and clean for them. (173)

The authorities specifically rejected rehabilitation as a goal in 1914 because the prison was overwhelmingly black, and leadership thought it would be foolish to apply "what are called the advanced systems of treatment in use in some of the other wealthier states, where only white men are dealt with." (174) These racial considerations and ongoing efforts to save money continued to slow and frustrate any real progress. (175)

In addition to the forced work and lack of rehabilitative opportunities, a 1916 report indicated that prisoners in Louisiana were subjected to "illegal and barbarous" corporal punishments. (176) Brutality flourished in Louisiana prisons in part because prisoners policed prisoners. One of the ways the state saved money was to use the prisoners to do all the work of the prison, including guarding other prisoners. At one point, there were only nineteen non-inmate guards for more than two thousand prisoners. (177) Six hundred convicts assisted these nineteen non-inmate guards, many armed with shotguns and rifles. (178)

While legal authority for corporal punishment in prisons was abandoned by most states outside the South by 1900, flogging continued to be one of the preferred methods of discipline in Louisiana. (179) Prison officials reported at least ten thousand floggings of prisoners, some of which consisted of fifty lashes each, between 1928 and 1940. (180) In 1933 alone, there were 1,547 floggings reported in the files, which included "23,889 recorded blows of the double lash." (181) Women prisoners were not immune to this brutality. (182)

From 1935 to 1973, one of the worst places to be in Angola was the Red Hat Cellblock, "Angola's supermax long before supermaxes became fashionable." (183) Authorities built the Red Hat Cellblock in 1935 in response to a series of escapes in the early 1930s, including one big prison break in 1933 during which two guards were killed. (184) As a result, the Red Hat Cellblock was built in 1935; it was a building of forty tiny cells built of concrete set aside for the prisoners deemed incorrigible. (185) The prisoners lived in cells six feet long and three feet wide, sometimes several to a cell, and were required to wear felt hats dipped in red enamel when they left their cells. (186) "It housed agitators, escape risks, and those prisoners considered most dangerous. It was also all-white because integration did not come to Angola until 1973. Troublesome or high security risk black inmates were sent to Camp A, then used only for blacks." (187)

By the late 1940s, the systemic issues of brutality and abysmal conditions at Angola were widely known to government and the public due to a series of reports about the prison. (188) There were official reviews of the prison in 1943, 1944 and 1946. (189) These reports documented and criticized the widespread use of armed prisoners as guards, unsanitary conditions, and "flogging on a scale just short of rank torture." (190) The reports also noted the absence of education or rehabilitation, the lack of any sort of classification of prisoners, and identified gambling as the sole "organized" activity. (191)

Despite the multiple reports on the dire conditions at Angola, the abuses there remained largely ignored. (192) A prison hospital and a separate camp for women prisoners had been constructed, but otherwise few reforms had occurred. (193) As the 1950s dawned, Louisiana continued to pursue its goal of working prisoners as hard as possible while spending as little money as possible to accomplish this goal. (194)

3. The Heel Slashings, 1951

On February 26, 1951, the front page of the New Orleans Times-Picayune carried the headline "Angola Officials Deny Brutalities." (195) A released prisoner passed on the "word that several prisoners had slashed the tendons of their heels in order to avoid hard work in the fields and further punishment." (196) The article reported eighteen prisoners were hospitalized for slashing their tendons with razor blades to avoid beatings and brutal work conditions. (197) Reports a day later put the number at thirty-one prisoners who slashed their tendons, at which point the paper called for an independent investigation. (198) Most of the prisoners had served weeks or months in the Red Hat solitary confinement cells. (199) Within days, another six slashed their tendons, and the governor of Louisiana decided to appoint a "special committee" to investigate the conditions at Angola. (200)

The committee discovered the conditions at Angola through powerful, explosive, and damning testimony provided to the committee by an unimpeachable source: Mrs. Mary Margaret Daughtry, an Irish nurse employed at Angola. (201) Mrs. Daughtry, a registered nurse at Angola for seven and a half years, told the committee Angola was "a sewer of degradation" and "still in the Dark Ages." (202) Men lived in huge dormitories that "are filthy and stink like the hold of a slave ship." (203) She testified about sexual abuse of new prisoners, beatings, and whippings. (204) "Of the nearly seven thousand men discharged from the penitentiary since she was employed there, Mrs. Daughtry said, she never saw one who was 'as qualified to enter society as he was the day he was admitted--this is the true brutality of Angola.'" (205) Daughtry produced an envelope of heroin and nude pictures, which she said she bought inside the prison for five dollars. (206) She also asserted that "[v]ery few employees are qualified for their positions; the remainder are small-time politicians to whom a political position is owed and who for the most part are unable to hold any other legitimate job for the state." (207)

Daughtry saw this magnitude of suffering because there were often no doctors at Angola. (208) She performed surgeries, administered shots, stitched up wounds, and even delivered the babies of women prisoners. (209) Days after she testified, Daughtry resigned from Angola. (210) She later explained that she told the truth despite the fact that Warden insisted that she lie and tried to bribe her, in addition to a threat from the local sheriff to prosecute her. (211) The committee also heard reports of whipping by guards:
A former prison captain (overseer) who was called admitted that he
himself had flogged a prisoner until his arms were tired; and then
given the whip to a younger relative, who had flogged until he was
tired; and the younger man had returned the whip to the captain, who
meanwhile had regained strength to finish the punishment. The victim of
this outburst was a Negro. His offense, as stated by the captain: he
"brushed against my daughter." (212)

The committee described physical punishment as "medieval," referencing "one of the most pathetic victims being a sixty-one-year-old man who had been lashed with a leather strap fifteen or twenty times until he lost consciousness." (213) The committee observed windowless concrete boxes no bigger than a small clothes closet that held as many as seven men at a time. (214)

The citizens committee concluded in 1951 that physical brutality caused the heel slashings and that physical, mental, emotional, and moral brutality was established beyond question. They recommended the abolition of corporal punishment and solitary confinement in dungeons, the establishment of programs for rehabilitation and a merit system for hired personnel, and the segregation of dangerous or vulnerable inmates from the rest of the population, as well as the removal of the women's camp from Angola. (215)

Unfortunately, the problems remained so extreme that Collier's magazine named Angola "America's worst prison" in 1952. (216) The Collier's article, written by a member of the investigatory committee, shone a spotlight on Angola for the nation and the world to see. There were 2,640 prisoners, all but 880 of whom were black, and all of whom were treated "as beasts." (217) The article detailed work days from sunup to sundown (often twelve hours a day), whippings, dungeon punishment on bread and water, frequent sexual assaults, and dorms of two hundred fifty men sharing four toilets without seats. (218) Other dormitories held 294 inmates in just one room, while what was considered the "best dormitory" held three hundred inmates and had eight toilets. (219) Committee members found "government by buckshot, leather strap and rubber hose... [and] many deaths by violence." (220)

While some of the committee's recommendations for change were put into effect over the following decade, many of the interests and practices in the prison were long entrenched and slow to yield. (221) One significant change was the 1956 legislation that authorized working inmates to be paid between two and five cents an hour, with half the money given directly to the inmate and the remainder saved up until their release. (222)

However, the initial bursts of mild reform brought on by the national publicity were not sustained, and the traditional lack of concern about the isolated prison and its inmates again became the norm. The objective of prisoner rehabilitation was totally absent for most of this time. Reforms were blunted by the concerns of politics, power and patronage. Rehabilitation cost money, which no one wanted to spend, as the Louisiana public cared little for the conditions under which black inmates labored. Thus, the original slave plantation continued to beget slave-like conditions. (223)

D. Angola in the 1960s: Bloodiest Prison in the South

Angola's own museum concedes that "[d]uring the late 1960s, Angola became known as "The Bloodiest Prison in the South" due to the excessive number of inmate assaults." (224) In the absence of meaningful reform, the violence at Angola escalated. (225) Angola was the most violent prison in the United States from 1965 to 1975. (226) The barbaric life of Angola inmates was further aggravated as the prison seethed with conflict between inmates from New Orleans and around the state, the emergence of the Black Panthers, and other internal workings of Angola that are set out in detail in Wilbert Rideau and Jodie Sinclair's excellent law review article on prisoner litigation. (227)

Though 1960s brought some limited progress, Angola proved resistant to significant improvement. (228) The warden's position was changed nine times between 1964 and 1968 because those appointed to the position were unable to govern the institution due to the traditional influences of politics, patronage and profit. (229) Hundreds of inmates continued to work as guards because the prison "was 2,000 employees short of an acceptable employee-inmate ratio." (230)

Prison rape was extensive at Angola in this time period. (231) Wilbert Rideau, renowned prison journalist, wrote an extensive description of rapes and the culture of rape at Angola in the late 1970s. (232) Usually described as homosexual relations instead of rape, rape is common at prisons filled with men at the peak of sexual energy where inmate-on-inmate violence is either tolerated or unable to be prevented. The new and the powerless inmates were immediately raped and forced to assume the subservient role of "wife" or "whore" to powerful inmates. (233) Weaker inmates were routinely forced into slavery to powerful and violent inmates and security officials, some for sex, and still others for service:
The Angola prisoner lived in a sub-human world in which the strong
survived and ruled, while the weak served and perished. It was a time
of cliques, lawlessness, and violence--anything was possible, including
the ownership of as many slaves as a convict could claim and hold... A
"slave" was a prisoner who belonged to and served the interests of
another prisoner. While some prisoners became slaves because they
simply could not or would not fight, most had no real choice. Young
prisoners were gang-raped by as many as 20 inmates in one night and in
the presence of an entire dorm while others, who were not used for
sexual purposes, were gang-beaten into complete submission. Human life
had no value in Angola.... The strong routinely enslaved the weak, and
new inmates entering the prison had to pass a test of violence to
determine the status they would have in the prison community--"man" or
"slave." The younger slaves served as effeminate homosexuals, while the
older slaves served as servants who were made to produce income for
their owners. In keeping with prison tradition, slaves were bought,
sold, and traded among the strong. This practice was accepted as a
natural part of prison life by both inmates and security officials....
Several well-known security officers had their own slaves. They had
claimed them as inmates did and used them for sexual purposes. Some of
the guards lost their identities and became lost in the brutal
psychology of the world of the kept." (234)

E. Angola in the 1970s: Medieval, Squalid and Horrifying

In 1971, a team of three lawyers from the American Bar Association, the nation's largest organization of lawyers, visited Angola as part of a nationwide tour of prisons. (235) Later reports described portions of the prison as "squalid, medieval and horrifying." (236) The population of Angola continued to expand in the 1970s. (237) As the Louisiana legislature passed dozens of laws increasing jail time, the parole board was releasing far fewer people and the public continued to support putting more people in jail. (238) This was the beginning of the dramatic growth in prisoners in the United States (US) and Louisiana. Nationwide, the rate of incarcerated people in the US nearly doubled between 1925 and 1980. (239)

Concern in Louisiana and across the nation grew when, on September 9, 1971, nearly half of the two thousand inmates at Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York, took over the prison and took forty-two staff members hostage. (240) The attempted revolt ended with forty-three dead, including nine hostages. (241) For years afterwards, Louisiana remained worried that overcrowding and violence at Angola could lead to similar results as occurred at Attica. (242)

One high-profile example of the growing violence at Angola was the April 17, 1972, murder of Angola Corrections Sergeant Brent Miller; Sergeant Miller was found dead at after being stabbed thirty-eight times. (243) Out of this tragedy came decades of trials and the solitary confinement of "The Angola 3." (244) One Louisiana criminal justice expert summed it up thusly: "From 1972 to 1975, Angola was a full-blown monster, with potential as dangerous as the quality of life in its bowels. It was a particularly vicious period.... It was a dog-eat-dog jungle and having a knife was almost a prerequisite for survival." (245) In 1975, Angola earned the distinction of being "the number one prison in America on two counts: with 4,300 inmates, it was the largest, and with one or two stabbing deaths each month, it was also the bloodiest." (246) There were at least 137 stabbings at Angola in 1973 alone; (247) between 1972 and 1975, "[f]orty prisoners were stabbed to death and more than 350 treated with serious knife wounds." (248)

In addition to putting more people in prison, Louisiana nailed the exit doors shut as well. One of the ways Louisiana had kept its prison population down over the last fifty years was by using the "10-6" rule, which, from 1926 to 1972, operated to allow release of prisoners sentenced to life if they behaved themselves for ten years and six months, a practice stopped in the 1970s. (249) People who had been sentenced to life in prison had the clear understanding that life imprisonment meant that if the prisoner engaged in good conduct he was eligible and usually released after serving a term of ten years and six months. (250) In 1979, the Louisiana statute that authorized good conduct release after ten years and six months was repealed, and the Louisiana Supreme Court decided no prisoner was entitled to rely on its promise since it did not provide for automatic commutation. (251) The Angola prison population began to swell as the "10-6" exit was closed. The ending of the 10-6 rule expanded the number of people serving "natural life" at Angola, resulting in that group of prisoners growing from 193 in 1972, to 1084 in 1982, and to over 2,400 by 1994. (252)

There were two positive developments in the 1970s. First, Edwin Edwards was elected Governor of Louisiana in 1972 with overwhelming support from the African American community. (253)

Edwards appointed Elayne Hunt as Director of Corrections. (254) Hunt was a Baton Rouge attorney who was thought of as prison reformer. (255) One of her first acts was to close the Red Hats, the solitary confinement hot house. (256) Although the Red Hats were closed, the authorities opened up the notorious Camp J, the punishment camp of Angola, in 1977. (257)

Another important positive event in the 1970s was the reorganization of The Angolite, the inmate published magazine of the penitentiary. Originally written and published by an all-white staff, its importance grew dramatically when Wilbert Rideau and Billy Wayne Sinclair became editors in the late 1970s. (258) Under their leadership the magazine became "a must read for corrections officials and prisoners' rights groups across the world," in the words of the New York Times. (259) The Angolite published exposes on prison rape, murders, executions, and the conditions inside the prison. In 1978, they won the American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. (260) In 1979, Rideau and Sinclair received the George Polk Award in Journalism for Special Interest Reporting. (261) This publication, more than any other, exposed what life was like inside the penitentiary.

1. Why Angola Prison Litigation Did Not Arise Until the 1970s

Looking back, one might wonder why there was no federal civil rights litigation challenging the appalling conditions at Angola until the 1970s. There was little successful litigation challenging the conditions and practices at Angola for at least five reasons.

The first reason was that the United States Courts of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which covered Louisiana, had for decades been uninterested in prisoner rights. In 1934, it stated that "[t]he court has no power to interfere with the conduct of the prison or its discipline, but only on habeas corpus to deliver from the prison those who are illegally detained there." (262) In 1944, the Fifth Circuit restated this in the case of a Georgia prisoner, who was challenging his medical care and his access to the courts: "The courts have no function to superintend the treatment of prisoners in the penitentiary, but only to deliver from prison those who are illegally detained there." (263)

Second, in 1948 the United States Supreme Court promulgated what is called the "hands off doctrine that had the effect of removing federal court enforcement of constitutional and civil rights from all federal courts. The hands-off doctrine was first announced in Price v. Johnson in response to a constitutional challenge by an Alcatraz inmate who asked to argue his own case in the federal Court of Appeals. (264) In words used to close the courthouse door to prisoners for decades, the Supreme Court stated: "Lawful incarceration brings about the necessary withdrawal or limitation of many privileges and rights, a retraction justified by the considerations underlying our penal system." (265) The Fifth Circuit continued its hands off approach. In 1952, in response to a complaint by Homer Adams against Texas prison officials for interference with his constitutional rights, the Fifth Circuit reaffirmed its past holding: "As this Court has said, it is not the function of the Courts to superintend the treatment and discipline of prisoners in penitentiaries, but only to deliver from imprisonment those who are illegally confined." (266)

Third, until 1969, it was difficult for inmate counsels, also known as jailhouse lawyers, to counsel and file actions from inside the prisons due to lack of resources. For a confined and isolated population, this made access to the courts extremely difficult and nearly impossible. (267)

This changed when a jailhouse lawyer in Tennessee, William Johnson, filed a successful federal district action in 1965 for access to law books, a typewriter, and release from solitary confinement so he could assist other prisoners in their cases. (268) The federal district court decided that prison regulations forbidding prisoners from helping other prisoners with their legal cases was unconstitutional. (269) However, the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in Johnson's case, (270) finding that he was properly punished for possessing a typewriter and acting as a "writ writer" or "jailhouse lawyer" for fellow inmates. (271) The court noted that:
The perspective through which we view this question, even though it
seems one of first impression, must be framed by the well-established
reluctance of the Federal Courts to intervene in internal affairs of
state or Federal penal institutions.... This proposition is soundly
based on the fact that prison administration is a function of the
executive branch of the Government and one for which the courts, with
their limited experience and facilities, are ill-suited to undertake.
Further, in this case the imperatives of our Federal system require
special concern for the boundaries of state and Federal governmental
competence as allocated by our basic charter. (272)

The United States Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit in 1969 in Johnson v Avery, (273) which made it clear that "unless and until the State provides some reasonable alternative to assist inmates in the preparation of petitions for post-conviction relief, it may not validly enforce a regulation... barring inmates from furnishing such assistance to other prisoners." (274)

The Johnson v. Avery decision also clarified that where state regulations for prisoners conflict with federal constitutional or statutory rights, such regulations may be found invalid:
There is no doubt that discipline and administration of state detention
facilities are state functions. They are subject to federal authority
only where paramount federal constitutional or statutory rights
supervene. It is clear, however, that in instances where state
regulations applicable to inmates of prison facilities conflict with
such rights, the regulations may be invalidated. (275)

This decision had the major effect of empowering prisoners to bring their own cases, as well as to assist others in doing so.

Fourth, the general legal civil rights revolution did not reach prisoners in the South until the early 1970s. (276) Arkansas prisons were found unconstitutional in 1970 due to a number of factors, including isolation, racial segregation, and a lack of rehabilitation services. (277) Virginia's practice of solitary confinement and "the bread and water diet" was found unconstitutional in 1971. (278) Mississippi's prisons were declared "unfit for human habitation" in 1974, (279) and in 1976, Alabama's prisons were found "wholly unfit for human habitation." (280)

Fifth, the federal district court judge in Baton Rouge, Louisiana showed little concern, at least initially, for the civil rights claims of prisoners. (281) Consider the 1965 case of Edgar Labat: Mr. Labat was confined on death row at Angola for the crime of rape since 1957. (282) He had been allowed to correspond with "a white woman... from Stockholm, Sweden." (283) for several years until a new warden arrived and the correspondence was terminated. When Labat challenged the termination, the warden's office responded that a state law allowed the warden to limit mail and that "correspondence is not permitted unless correspondents are of the same race." (284) Labat filed suit in Baton Rouge federal court to challenge the law with the help of Ben Smith, a prominent civil rights lawyer in New Orleans. (285) Federal Judge Gordon West dismissed the suit, finding against the prisoner and decided that the state law limiting prisoner mail was neither discriminatory on its face nor was it being applied in a discriminatory manner. (286)

The judge admitted that though it may appear unconstitutional for a prison to restrict the ability of a "colored inmate" to have white correspondents, "the State has every right to place all reasonable and necessary restrictions upon the activities of inmates in a penitentiary, just so long as the restrictions imposed are not discriminatorily based on racial considerations." (287) The judge found the race-based written response from the warden's office unfortunate and "entirely unnecessary" because the warden already had the power to limit correspondence to family and lawyers. (288)

To get an idea of the political sensibilities of the U.S. District Court Judge West, one need only look at a revealing observation in his opinion that managed the trifecta of writing inappropriately on race, gender and national origin. "While this comment in the letter was entirely unnecessary in order for the prison officials to regulate the correspondence between these inmates and the outside world, nevertheless it drew considerable attention not only from the press, but also from certain foreign women who seemed, for some unexplained reason, deeply concerned about the manner in which the prisons in this country are administered." (289)

2. Sinclair Litigation Opens the Federal Courthouse Doors

It was a pro se federal complaint brought by Angola death row inmate Billy Wayne Sinclair in 1970 that began to turn the tide in the federal courts in Louisiana. Sinclair challenged the conditions on death row as violations of the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. (290)

Sinclair wrote that as a Death Row inmate, he was confined to his cell for all but "fifteen minutes each day during which time he must shave, bathe, wash his clothing, and get what little physical exercise he can. He is never outside the immediate vicinity of his death cell thus he is denied sunshine and exercise." (291) As a result of this treatment, Sinclair claimed that he sustained physical illnesses, as well as pain and suffering:
The men must live and eat in a cell where his toilet facilities are
located in which many leak and some are constantly bubbling over. The
men must drink water that is loaded with rust and it stains everything
it touches. Regardless of how much a man cleans and disinfects his
cell, he still comes in contact (with) excessive amounts of bacteria.
The men are fed from a food cart that is usually filthy and numerous
times insects, roaches, or human hair is found in his food and many
times the trays he must eat out of are stained with two or three day
old grease. Several months past hundreds of small roaches were found
nesting in the same bread box from which the men are served because
these bread boxes are used week after week thus creating a haven for
roaches. (292)

It was true. Inmates on death row were only allowed out of their cells fifteen minutes each day to shave, wash, and exercise; they were never allowed outside in the fresh air; they were forced to eat near toilet facilities that were continuously overflowing; and they were only provided rusty water to drink, with food contaminated by insects, roaches and human hair, including hundreds in the "bread box" alone. (293)

District Judge West dismissed Sinclair's complaint without an evidentiary hearing. (294) In a signal that new days were dawning, however, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed and sent the case back to the district court; the inmate had indeed set forth a valid claim of violation of his constitutional rights to safe, humane, and sanitary conditions of confinement, and the District Court was ordered to hold a hearing on the merits. (295)

The case was sent back to Judge West in 1971, and, as directed, he held a hearing on Sinclair's complaints. (296) West dismissed all of the complaints except two; first, he ruled that inmates had the right to due process before they could be put in punitive segregation. (297) He ordered basic due process safeguards be instated before an inmate could be disciplined: written rules and regulations of what the rules are, written rules and notice of what punishment is allowed for infractions and what the procedures are; written notice of the specific charge against the prisoner; and an opportunity for a hearing before someone other than the complaining officer. (298) Second, he agreed that inmates had a right to regular outdoor exercise, which he ordered the State to provide: "Confinement of petitioner for long periods of time in state penitentiary without the opportunity for regular outdoor exercise constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution." (299) Solitary confinement for twenty-three hours and forty-five minutes every day had to be modified to allow regular outdoor exercise immediately. (300)

The Sinclair action was a huge breakthrough in Angola prisoner litigation and signaled a turning point in legal challenges to Angola. Though Judge West continued to be skeptical of prisoner civil rights actions, the Fifth Circuit continued to demand he take these seriously. (301)

3. Major Litigation Erupts in 1971 with Haynes Williams Case

In 1971, four Angola inmates--Hayes Williams, Lazarus Joseph, Lee Stevenson, and Arthur Mitchell--filed civil rights actions under Title 42, Section 1983 of the United States Code against the governor of Louisiana, the warden of Angola, and several other Louisiana officials. (302) These actions challenged racial discrimination at the penitentiary, asserted that the conditions qualified as cruel and unusual punishment, and claimed the prison routinely violated state fire and sanitation codes. (303) This case came to define the conditions at Angola for decades. The docket of the case, which began in 1971 and continued until 2004, is hundreds and hundreds of pages long and is comprised of over ten thousand entries. (304)

Hayes Williams, wrongfully incarcerated for thirty years, (305) described life inside of the Louisiana State Penitentiary as follows: "Imagine the worst moment of your life, and then think of living that moment every minute, every hour, every day, of every year, and that's Angola." (306) Arthur Mitchell suffered from and was taking medicine for sickle-cell anemia. (307) In spring of 1970, he was sent to solitary confinement for twelve days, where he was deprived of his medication and "became seriously ill, requiring hospitalization, medication, and several blood transfusions." (308) "In toto, Mitchell... alleged that prison officials refused his requests for medical attention and deliberately denied him vital medication and access to a physician, knowing that this would make him gravely ill." (309)

In 1973, the United States Department of Justice intervened into the case on the issue of racial discrimination. (310) Judge E. Gordon West assigned the matter to Magistrate Frank Polozola, who started hearing the case as a special master in December of 1973. (311) After numerous unsuccessful attempts at settlement, the Magistrate filed his findings on April 28, 1975. (312) The Magistrate's fifty-five-page order concluded that the penitentiary was in violation of constitutional and state laws and called for employment of 365 more correctional officers, hiring medical personnel and the end of inmates treating other inmates, and the relocation of prisoners with psychiatric problems. (313)

In the 1975 decision, Judge West followed the recommendations of the Magistrate, announced that the conditions constituted "an extreme public emergency" and wrote that the conditions at Angola "shock the conscience of any right thinking person," "flagrantly violate basic constitutional requirements as well as applicable State laws," and that "the State authorities, who have the power to do so, are either failing or refusing to take the necessary steps to correct these conditions." (314) Judge West found that both inmate conditions as a whole and the system of medical care at Angola violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (315)
As conditions to the continued operation of Angola the District Judge
developed a 15-page list of requirements concerning inmate protection,
medical care, maintenance, repair, construction and safety, food and
sanitation, racial discrimination and segregation, religious freedom,
censorship of mail, conditions of punitive or administrative
confinement and procedural due process. (316)

The changes demanded by the Court included hiring four hundred guards, hiring more doctors, placing guards in the dormitories, segregation of "aggressive homosexuals" from general prison population, erection of temporary housing, and bringing all buildings and facilities up to state fire, safety and health standards. (317) Finally, "as long-range relief [West] required that the appellants develop and submit within 180 days a plan, including specific timetables and funding plans, for the future constitutional operation of Angola." (318) "... Louisiana's corrections system has not been the same since." (319)

State officials "did what all red-blooded Southerners would do in the face of a federal court order: screamed that the federal courts were interfering in state business and appealed." (320) Louisiana immediately appealed, (321) and improvements to Angola in the next six months were minimal. (322) During the appeal, the United States moved for emergency relief to prevent any more prisoners from being sent to Angola from local jails due to overcrowding, and Judge West issued an order on September 5, 1975, prohibiting Louisiana from accepting any new prisoners at the penitentiary. (323) The judge placed a population limit of 2,640 prisoners at Angola at a time when the state already had 3,571 inmates incarcerated there. (324) The overpopulation issue was also included in Louisiana's appeal to the U.S. Fifth Circuit. (325)

Problems of overcrowding plagued local jails during this interim period. (326) Local jails predictably started backing up with state prisoners when the district court put population caps on Angola and issued an injunction against accepting any new inmates. (327) In effect, the state prison system was no longer just Angola and a few other facilities; it had spread to all sixty-four parishes in Louisiana.

In 1976, the Louisiana legislature met in special session and approved over $90 million in bonds to expand Angola and build other prisons to relieve overcrowding. (328)
In 1977, the Fifth Circuit agreed that the District Court was fully
justified to find the totality of the circumstances of confinement at
Angola amounted to a violation of the Eighth Amendment. "Among the
facts found were these: During the three years preceding the Special
Master's hearings more than 270 stabbings of inmates by other inmates
were reported; 20 deaths resulted. This deplorable condition is due to
overcrowding and to lack of security. Numerous "forcible rapes" were
committed on inmates by other inmates, the total number being unknown.
Inmate dormitories were "terribly overcrowded" and insufficient cell
space existed to segregate dangerous prisoners from the rest of the
inmate population. The prison staff included too few guards to protect
the inmates from one another through either supervision or through
confiscation of weapons. Easy inmate access to unsupervised machinery
and other resources resulted in widespread possession of weapons. Fire
and safety hazards constituted an "immediate threat to the life and
safety" of both inmates and staff. Multiple health and sanitation
violations were in evidence, including accumulation of sewage under the
main kitchen (since cleaned out) and including a "serious rodent
problem." (329)

On medical care, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the finding of unconstitutional lack of care, noting that the district court found there were no registered nurses at the prison hospital, no licensed pharmacist, and often no physicians, meaning that most medical assistance was provided by inmates with only grade school educations. (330)

While the Fifth Circuit was sympathetic with the state of Louisiana's argument that the federal courts could not order the expenditure of funds by the state as the Eleventh Amendment bars it, it ultimately found that "this argument misconstrues the nature of the District Judge's order." (331) The order required that Angola modify its procedures in order to operate under constitutional conditions as dictated by the Constitution and both federal and state law, but "the District Judge did not order the expenditure of funds by appellants. He only set the conditions under which the Angola prison could continue in operation constitutionally in the 'immediate' and 'intermediate' future." (332) The court noted that, "[c]ompliance with the order may require as incidental and ancillary consequence the expenditure of state funds but that is not forbidden." (333)

On the issue of security, the Fifth Circuit approved the district court order to have two security officers stationed in every dormitory at night, citing in its opinion the testimony in the record of two security officers:

Q: Col. Bryan, is homosexuality a problem inside the penitentiary?

A: It is, in every penitentiary.

Q: Isn't it in your particular penitentiary?

A: It is.

Q: How severe is this problem inside Angola?

A: No worse than any other prison, I would think.

Q: Would you classify it as one of the more serious problems you have?

A: It is.

Q: Are any of the stabbings related to homosexuality?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What percentage?

A: About fifty percent.

Q: How is it possible for those homosexual acts to occur inside the penitentiary?

A: We have open type dormitories. We do not have officers inside the dormitories at all times.

Another defendant, Deputy Warden Dees, testified:

Q: All right, how many ways do you have in order to prevent them from being in possession of weapons?

A: Very few. The only thing we can do is shake them down, search them periodically.

Q: What would you need at your disposal in order to make the situation better than what it is or what it has been?

A: Well, we can make it better, I guess, but we need more security personnel where you could be constantly searching people, have someone constantly on the scene within the dormitories. That is the only way I know. (334)

Ultimately, the Fifth Circuit affirmed all the findings of the district court and remanded the case for remediation. (335) Prisoners at Angola welcomed the court orders, recognizing that the Fifth Circuit stood as the sole "moral leader willing to respond to the cries for relief coming from the hellish confines of Angola. The feelings of many corrections officials around the state... [were] that federal court intervention was a godsend, that prison reform could not have been achieved without it." (336)

F. Angola in the 1980s and 1990s

Despite these landmark federal court decisions, Louisiana remained strongly committed to putting more and more people in prison. It increased penalties for crimes, reduced the amount of time off prisoners could earn for good behavior, and cut back on the number of people being paroled while public opinion polls showed strong support for locking more people up. (337) As a result, by the early 1980s, Louisiana was now one of the national leaders in putting its people in jail; at a rate of 502 per 100,000, Louisiana nearly doubled the national average of 286 and led the nation in the backlog of convicted prisoners languishing in local jails. (338)

By 1980, over $300 million had been spent to open up four new medium-security prisons and to expand two minimum-security facilities. (339) The backlash against prison spending began to build even as the state continued its campaign to send more people to prison. In 1982, a new governor, David Treen, called for adding many new prisoners without building new prisons by double bunking in 1982. (340) In the decade following Judge West's 1975 order forbidding the admission of any new inmate to Angola, Louisiana expanded its overall prison population from 5,300 to 13,300 and grew the corrections budget by six hundred percent. (341) By 1986, the state held 14,580 people in prison, with an incarceration rate of 322 per 100,000; this was fifth highest in the nation, behind Delaware, Nevada, South Carolina, and District of Columbia. (342)

In September 1982, Judge Polozola began ordering population caps on Louisiana local jails and requiring sheriffs in the state to submit to the court basic information about how many prisoners it could safely hold in its jails. (343) On December 3, 1982, Judge Polozola held a hearing and demanded that the state prove how it was going to add more prisoners without additional space. (344) By February 1983, the court had approved a new plan, costing over $30 million, to add prefabricated housing and allow double bunking in several of the smaller prisons. (345) This was the beginning of a growing trend: every state adult prison and parish prison, over one hundred city jails, and all five juvenile jails were under federal court supervision by December 7, 1983. (346)

Prison populations continued to climb in part because there was a dramatic reduction in pardons in the early 1980s with the election of Governor Dave Treen, who granted fewer than two hundred pardons. (347) In contrast, his predecessor, Governor Edwin Edwards, pardoned more than two thousand people between 1972 and 1980. (348)

African-Americans continued to be incarcerated at Angola in disproportionate rates. Reported numbers indicate a large majority of the prisoners at Angola in the twentieth century were African-American, sometimes up to seventy percent, at least since the Civil War through the 1980s. (349) Violence continued to plague Louisiana's prisons in the early 1980s; nearly 2,500 incidents of violence in one year were reported in the State's prisons, with Angola having the highest rate with 812 fights, 39 stabbings, 29 cuttings, 120 assaults on corrections officials, and over 200 self-mutilations. (350) Physical abuse was an accepted part of a prisoner's life, and the courts failed to seriously consider individual complaints from prisoners. (351)

Despite the problems of Angola, people on the inside were organizing to bring about change. In 1986, one group of Angola prisoners organized themselves into the Angola Special Civics Project. (352) Norris Henderson, Kenneth "Biggy" Johnston, Checo Yancy, and other individuals inside Angola organized with Ted Quant of the Loyola University Institute for Human Relations. (353) Together they helped family members and friends outside of the prison to organize meetings across the state, distribute leaflets, and register people to vote, as well as actually vote and participate in the Louisiana gubernatorial election themselves. (354) The group went on to analyze legislation and work for transformation of the Louisiana penal system. The group, assisted by Louisiana Representative Farve, was able to pass legislation that made it easier for some, but not all, prisoners to become parole eligible after serving twenty years. (355)

Yet shocking conditions at Angola continued and Louisiana's prisoner population continued to grow. (356) On June 21, 1989, Federal Judge Polozola declared a state of emergency at Angola after reports of a number of inmate suicides and escapes. (357) Ross Maggio, a former warden, was appointed to investigate the conditions at Angola and to advise the court and the state on what needed to be done. (358) The judge also asked that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) initiate a civil and criminal investigation. (359) '"These problems are so severe that the lives, safety and property of the citizens of the entire state are affected," the judge declared. (360) By 1990, Louisiana's prisoner population had reached 18,599, giving the state an incarceration rate of 427 per 100,000 residents; this was the fourth highest in the nation, behind Nevada, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia. (361)

Further evidence of the continuing unconstitutional conditions at Angola was forthcoming. On May 13, 1991, the DOJ issued a damning report on medical care at Angola. (362) The DOJ concluded that the constitutional rights of inmates were violated by the failure to provide adequate medical care, adequate psychiatric care, and a safe environment; their rights were further deprived because of segregation by race in cell assignments and arbitrary and excessive use of extended lockdown. (363) The care "provided to inmates with chronic illnesses is grossly inadequate" because neither doctors nor nurses were assigned to the sixty-bed infirmary. (364) Medication orders could take more than two weeks to fill. (365) Mentally ill inmates were locked down within cells up to twenty-four hours a day and shackled in leg irons, cuffs, and chains when let out of their cells or transported. (366) No trained medical personnel staffed the facilities for the mentally ill inmates. (367) Heat inside the cells was routinely over ninety degrees, and there were numerous fire safety violations. (368) All cells with more than one inmate in them were racially segregated. (369) Many inmates were in extended lockdown for months and years, allowed out of their cells for only one hour at a time, three or four times a week. (370)

Despite the disasters of Angola, its major prison, Louisiana remained committed to aggressively locking people up. By 1995, Louisiana held 25,427 people in prison, an incarceration rate of 568 per 100,000, third highest in the nation behind the District of Columbia and Texas. (371) In 2000, this increased to 35,047 people in prison, a rate of 801 per 100,000, making Louisiana the second highest in the nation behind only the District of Columbia. (372)


While there have been marked improvements in the recent past, Angola's bad days are not behind it. Louisiana continues to incarcerate its people at rates higher than any other place in the world, and Angola alone presently imprisons over six thousand people. (373) Angola remains the largest maximum-security prison in the United States. (374) Further developments within Angola in the twenty-first century show the penitentiary, despite its modest improvements, perseveres in its disrespect for constitutional rights.

In 2000, Louisiana held 35,047 people in prison, a rate of 801 per 100,000, second highest in the nation behind only the District of Columbia. (375) By 2005, Louisiana held 36,083 in prison, with an incarcerate rate of 797, the highest in the nation. (376) A decade later, although the number of individuals incarcerated had remained stagnant, Louisiana's incarceration rate continued to rise to 867, highest in the nation by far--more than 200 ahead of the next highest state, Mississippi. (37)" (7) In 2014, Louisiana held 38,030 in prison, 816 per 100,000, still far and away first in the United States, with the next-closest state, Oklahoma at 700. (378) These numbers do not even include the ten thousand people in jail awaiting trial. (379) Overall, in Louisiana in 2016 there were 37,739 prisoners in custody; 18,767 in state facilities; and 18,027 in local jails. (380)

The physical abuse of inmates continues. In 2012, a major at Angola pled guilty to federal charges of lying to federal investigators about other Angola officers who repeatedly beat an inmate with a baton, smashed his head against a vehicle, and kicked him, all while the inmate was cuffed with his hands behind his back. (381) Two other guards later pled guilty. (382) Likewise, rape at Angola continues, accepted by many as a demented fact of life in the nation's prisons. (383) A 2016 official report on Louisiana documented cover-up of prison rape. (384)

Human rights groups investigated and condemned the conditions on death row in Angola as actual torture. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights issued a human rights report in May 2013 condemning conditions on death row at Angola as torture in violation of international human rights treaties. (385) The report declared "Angola... infamous for its history of brutality and racism," and detailed the oppressive heat, isolation, and utter lack of any mental health care. (386) In 2015, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture was asked to investigate allegations of torture of the eighty-five individuals on death row at Angola. (387)

The abuse of solitary confinement continues as hundreds are kept in such isolated conditions at Angola. About three hundred are in Camp J, a punishment camp where prisoners are confined twenty-three hours a day; sometimes this isolation lasts for years. (388) In July 2013, four members of Congress wrote to the U.S. Department of Justice asking for an investigation into the unconstitutional use of solitary confinement in Louisiana prisons, noting that in Angola specifically, several inmates had been held in solitary in Camp J for over four decades. (389) Camp J's four buildings have thirty-two tiers with thirteen cells on each tier, thus making it capable of holding 416 people in solitary. (390) Herman Wallace, exonerated in 2013 after forty-one years of solitary confinement in a six-by-nine-foot cell at Angola, was released. (391) Terminally ill, he was released on a Tuesday and died that Friday. (392) Glenn Ford was released from prison in 2014 after spending thirty years in solitary confinement on death row for a murder he did not commit. (393) Mr. Ford died the following year. (394)

Healthcare remains atrocious. In 2013, Angola's medical director acknowledged that over five hundred prisoners were prescribed psychotropic drugs for mental illnesses with diagnoses ranging from depression to schizophrenia. (395) Evidence in federal litigation in 2014 found temperatures were consistently over one hundred degrees in cells on Death Row at Angola, sometimes with a heat index of 107.79 degrees. (396) A federal class action was filed on behalf of the entirety of the more than six thousand prisoners at Angola, challenging grossly inadequate medical conditions under the Eighth Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act. (397) The lead plaintiff in the class action was Joseph Lewis, an eighty-one-year-old inmate who repeatedly complained of throat problems beginning in early 2013 and was only given throat spray. (398) Once a lawyer visited him in 2015, more than two years after Lewis's initial complaint, he was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with throat cancer. (399) Another man with a broken clavicle was assigned to work in the fields. (400)

Prisoners at Angola continue to die at alarmingly high rates, more than triple the national average for state prisons, which is not surprising given the fact that Louisiana spends less than half the national average on inmate healthcare. (401) Prisoners are charged co-payments for medical care, usually a few dollars, which, if the prisoner is one of the many earning only a few cents an hour, can take dozens of hours to pay off. (402)

In 2014, the state of Louisiana disclosed that "roughly 73% of Angola's 6,250 inmates are serving life without parole.

The average sentence for the rest is 90.9 years." (403) This means that eighty-five percent of the individuals held in Angola will never live on the outside again. (404) In 2016, Louisiana reported 4,860 offenders were incarcerated in state prisons serving life sentences, the average age was forty-six years, and seventy-three percent were African American. (405) This is the highest rate in the nation. (406) Among those inmates who constitute the six hundred percent increase in "lifers" since 1980, nearly half are first offenders who would likely never receive a mandatory life without parole sentence in other states. (407) Among those serving life without parole sentences in Louisiana are 400 prisoners (approximately nine percent) who were convicted of non-violent offenses. (408) Ninety-one percent of prisoners serving life without parole in Louisiana for non-violent offenses are African American. (409) Blacks are twenty-three times more likely to be sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) for non-violent crimes in Louisiana than whites. (410) Latinos are twice as likely as whites to be serving LWOP for non-violent crimes in Louisiana than whites. (411) A single nonviolent offender serving life without parole "will cost the Louisiana taxpayers approximately half a million dollars over his or her lifespan," and cumulatively, these nonviolent prisoners will cost Louisiana about $180 million. (412) Even former Angola Warden Burl Cain criticized life sentences for nonviolent offenders "I want something done to him. But not all his life. That's extreme. That's cruel and unusual punishment to me." (413)

As a result of these lengthy sentences without the benefit of parole, aged prisoners now constitute over twenty-five percent of the population at Angola. (414) In 2016, Louisiana held 7,423 prisoners over the age of fifty; approximately thirty percent of these geriatric inmates were held at Angola. (415)

A series of scandals involving prison administrators and guards began to be revealed in 2015. The warden was accused of entering into suspicious outside real estate business partnerships with families and friends of prisoners. (416) Two Angola officials were charged with stealing $140,000 from the rodeo. (417) Three more guards were accused by federal prosecutors in the beating of a handcuffed and shackled inmate. (418) Further news reports detailed a set of interlocking relationships between the warden, corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc, and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, including two sons, one son-in-law, and five nieces and nephews who were employed in various parts of the state and private prison entities and firms that work on prison buildings. (419) One paper reported that "[t]he organizational chart for Louisiana prisons looks more like a family tree." (420)

In 2016, the Department of Public Safety and Corrections reported there were 6,312 prisoner beds at Angola with a total staff of 1,415. (421) Louisiana reported paying over $127 million to operate Angola Penitentiary: $56.15 per offender per day, over $20,000 per prisoner per year. (422) The total corrections budget was $658 million, with $360 million going into state prisons, $161 million for local jails to hold state prisoners, $67 million on probation and parole, $46 million in administration, and $22 million in medical care. (423)


"It's like a big plantation in days gone by. We hate to call it that in a way, but it kinda is, because we have the, you know, the, it's inmates in prison."

Burl Cain, Warden of Angola Penitentiary, 1998 (424)

"We have no right to say that corrections have failed in Louisiana.... It has never been tried. "

Elayne Hunt, Director of Louisiana Department of Corrections, May 12, 1975 (425)

Angola penitentiary has been an ongoing unconstitutional human rights disaster for well over a century. Despite periodic publicity about its problems, decades of litigation, and many shifts in wardens and state administrations, deep problems remain. Given its brutal history and its ability to consistently resist meaningful reform, the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola should be closed.

Angola remains much like the slave plantation it once was. Visitors today to Angola can bear witness to exactly what people have seen since the prison was opened in 1869: hundreds of African American men laboring in the fields with hand tools under the supervision of armed, mostly

white men on horseback. (426) They are not free to decline the labor. They are forced laborers, many working for as little as two cents an hour. (427) As Professor Andrea Armstrong writes, "Forcing African-American prisoners to pick cotton and soybeans for approximately thirty-two cents a day in modern times looks, smells, and feels like slavery." (428)

When prisoners return from the fields, they are locked into packed bunkhouses with up to a hundred other unfree men. They share a few toilets and they are given a few cents an hour for their work. The next day they will rise early and do the same thing; while "Angola prisoners technically work eight-hour days... extra work can be mandated as punishment for 'bad behavior,"' meaning it is not unusual for a prisoner to work sixty-five hours a week. (429) Half of Angola's thousands of prisoners remain engaged in agricultural and factory work, seven hundred are trusties, and about fifteen hundred remain locked down in cellblocks. (430) Angola prisoners tend to over 2,000 cattle and raise about 250 acres of vegetables. (431) As one journalist wrote: "In a sense, slavery never ended at Angola; it was reinvented." (432)

Angola penitentiary, like the plantation it once was, remains a monument to white supremacy and racism in the criminal legal system. Its inmates are overwhelmingly African American, while its guards are overwhelmingly white. (433) The Louisiana criminal legal system, which is responsible for maintaining the state's position as number one in the nation in incarceration, targets, prosecutes, sentences, and incarcerates black men at the highest rate in the United States. (434) While there have always been white men at Angola, black men have been the clear majority of the population in the prison, usually at least double their population in the state at large.

Angola continues to be a place where cruel and unusual punishment is the norm. For the most part, it is punishment without purpose. Forced labor, solitary confinement, and life sentences are the daily bread for thousands in the prison. (435) Nearly all the prisoners are serving life sentences, so while there are many who take advantage of the additional training opportunities that are offered, they have no chance for release and so the potential purpose of these opportunities goes unrealized. (436)

Despite the continuing constitutional problems documented repeatedly since the 1970s, Louisiana has quadrupled the number of people it locked up from that time to the present. (437)

Given its history, it is unrealistic to think Louisiana could ever transform Angola into a place where the Constitution and human rights are respected. Much of what happens in Angola will never even be known outside the prison. National data on prisoners is collected about race and gender but not about education, physical or mental disability, sexuality, violence, or work assignments. (438) Journalists are only allowed inside the prison with permission of the warden, and the last major journalistic inquiry into Angola happened years ago. (439)

This article closes with a quotation from the federal class action complaint filed in 2015 by thirteen prisoners at Angola on behalf of the rest of the six thousand people confined at Angola, which challenged the grossly inadequate medical care provided to them. (440) One of the thirteen plaintiffs was Kentrell Parker, a thirty-six-year-old quadriplegic incarcerated at Angola for four years, and his condition was described as follows:
Mr. Parker is completely dependent for his care on prisoner orderlies.
The orderlies are not adequately trained. He used to have an air
mattress that was appropriate for his condition, but it broke in or
around 2011 and has not been replaced. In his experience, men on Ward 2
are often not cleaned at all unless there is a tour group visiting. Mr.
Parker is excluded from attending church unless a nurse or EMT
accompanies him. In summer 2014, Mr. Parker was accused of disobedience
and put in an isolation cell where he could not be seen by staff, until
attorneys expressed urgent concern for the health risks that posed.
Around the same time, the Angola hospital underwent a severe shortage
of hygiene supplies including bed mats, subjecting Mr. Parker to an
increased risk of bedsores and other life-threatening complications. He
is regularly left to sit in his own feces for several hours before an
orderly comes to change his bedding. In May 2015, Mr. Parker was
brought to LSU hospital with a blood infection. The doctor there told
him that bacteria entered his blood from his stool. He has a
tracheotomy hole in his neck. Angola regularly runs out of tracheal
supplies, subjecting him to unnecessary risk of infection. Mr. Parker
does not have a tracheal machine at his bedside that he can use in the
event of choking. He never receives physical therapy and relies on
prisoner-orderlies for feeding. For six of eight days in early April
2015, with only one orderly on the Ward, there was no one to feed Mr.
Parker his breakfast and he went hungry. (441)

The complaint includes similar stories for another dozen prisoners. (442)

The ongoing lack of human respect, the disregard for human dignity, and the complete lack of adequate care of Mr. Parker shows the world it is past time to declare the Louisiana Angola Penitentiary a constitutional and human rights stain on humanity and close it permanently. Tens of thousands have been punished there. Its continued existence says more about our crimes against humanity than theirs.

William Quigley (1)

(1) The author is indebted to the following sources: Andrea C. Armstrong, Slavery Revisited in Penal Plantation Labor, 35 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 869 (2012); Carol Anne Blitzer, The Evolution of Angola, ADVOCATE, Apr. 24, 2005; ANNE BUTLER & C. MURRAY HENDERSON, ANGOLA: LOUISIANA STATE PENITENTIARY, A HALF-CENTURY OF RAGE AND REFORM (1990); MARK T. CARLETON, POLITICS AND PUNISHMENT: THE HISTORY OF THE LOUISIANA STATE PENAL SYSTEM (1971); THE WALL IS STRONG: CORRECTIONS IN LOUISIANA (Burk Foster, Wilbert Rideau & Douglas Dennis eds., 3rd ed. 1995); THE WALL IS STRONG: CORRECTIONS IN LOUISIANA (Burk Foster, Wilbert Rideau & Douglas Dennis eds., 4th ed. Univ. of La. at Lafayette Press 2014); MATTHEW J. MANCINI, ONE DIES, GET ANOTHER: CONVICT LEASING IN THE AMERICAN SOUTH, 1866-1928 (1996); Kerry Myers & Marianne Fisher-Giorlando, Bad Girls, Convict Women: The Historically Unseen of the Louisiana Prison System (pts. 1-3), ANGOLITE 42, Nov./Dec. 2011, ANGOLITE 28, Jan./Feb. 2012, ANGOLITE 28, May/June 2012; Lydia Pelot-Hobbs, Organizing for Freedom: The Angola Special Civics Project, 1987-1992, at 35-37 (Aug. 4, 2011) (unpublished M.S. thesis, University of New Orleans); WILBERT RIDEAU, IN THE PLACE OF JUSTICE: A STORY OF PUNISHMENT AND DELIVERANCE (2010); WILBERT RIDEAU & RON WIKBERG, LIFE SENTENCES: RAGE AND SURVIVAL BEHIND BARS (1992); Wilbert Rideau & Billy Sinclair, Prisoner Litigation: How it Began in Louisiana," 45 LA. L. REV. 1061 (May 1985); The Angolite: The Prison News Magazine; BILLY WAYNE SINCLAIR & JODIE SINCLAIR, A LIFE IN THE BALANCE: THE BILLY WAYNE SINCLAIR STORY (2012); Edward W. Stagg & John Lear, America's Worst Prison, COLLIER'S, Nov. 22, 1952; ELIZABETH WISNER, PUBLIC WELFARE ADMINISTRATION IN LOUISIANA (1930).

(2) Carol Anne Blitzer, The Evolution of Angola, ADVOCATE (Apr. 24, 2005),

(3) Alexis de Tocqueville condemned the Louisiana prison in 1831 as unfit for humans and upon completion of the penitentiary in Baton Rouge in 1835, the governor of Louisiana, in his message to the state legislature, "remarked that Louisiana was at last free from the reproach which had been attributed to her in a recent publication of having the worst prison in the United States." ELIZABETH WISNER, PUBLIC WELFARE ADMINISTRATION IN LOUISIANA 143 (1930). See John Lear & E.W. Stagg, America's Worst Prison, COLLIER'S, Nov. 22, 1952, at 13-16.

(4) When Louisiana was made a state in 1812, the main prison was in New Orleans. It moved to Baton Rouge and then in 1869 moved to Angola plantation. See discussion infra Sections III(A), "The Worst Prison in America" and III(C), "Post-Civil War Reinstatement of Convict Leasing and Re-enslavement."

(5) See discussion infra Section III(C), "Post-Civil War Reinstatement of Convict Leasing and Re-enslavement."

(6) See The Louisiana Penitentiary, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Dec. 6, 1861, at 1; Mark Carleton, Major James and Convict Leasing, in THE WALL Is STRONG: CORRECTIONS IN LOUISIANA 6, 6-7 (Burk Foster et al. eds., 3d ed. 1995).

(7) After dozens of inmates slashed their own heels in protest of the brutality, in 1952 Collier's magazine named Angola "America's worst prison." See Lear & Stagg, supra note 3, at 14.

(8) Wilbert Rideau & Billy Sinclair, Prisoner Litigation: How It Began in Louisiana, 45 LA. L. REV. 1061, 1067 (May 1985).

(9) The Angola Museum--History of Angola Prison, ANGOLAMUSEUM.ORG, (last visited Mar. 27, 2018) [hereinafter History of Angola Prison].

(10) Governor Writes Burger to Defend Prison System, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Apr. 6, 1971, at 1-13.

(11) J. Douglas Murphy, Court Order for Reform at Angola Signed, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Jun. 11, 1975, at 1-13.

(12) Ron Wikberg & Wilbert Rideau, Prison Medical Care, in THE WALL IS STRONG: CORRECTIONS IN LOUISIANA 111, 132-36 (Burk Foster, Wilbert Rideau & Douglas Dennis eds., 3d ed. 1995) [hereinafter Prison Medical Care]. This article contains the entire letter from the Department of Justice to Louisiana plus valuable additional reporting by the Angolite staff on medical care at Angola. Id.

(13) For details of these current problems, see discussion infra Section IV, "Angola 2000 to Present."

(14) In 2014, Louisiana held 38,030 in prison, 816 per 100,000, still far and away first in the United States, with the closest next state being Oklahoma with 703 prisoners per 100,000 residents. E. ANN CARSON, U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, NCJ 248955, PRISONERS IN 2014, at 3, 8 (2015), [hereinafter PRISONERS IN 2014].

(15) In 2016, the Louisiana Department of Corrections reported there were 6,312 prisoner beds at Angola with a total staff of 1,415. BUDGET AND COST DATA SUMMARY, FY 2016-2017, LA. DEP'T OF CORR. (2016),

(16) See James Ridgeway, The Overseer: If You Ever Find Yourself Inside Louisiana's Angola Prison, Burl Cain Will Make Sure You Find Jesus-or Regret Ever Crossing His Path, MOTHER JONES (July 1, 2011),; Patricia Gannon, Prison Hospice Program Blesses Both the Living and the Dying, ADVOCATE (Mar. 18, 2016),

(17) See Patricia Cohen, Guard Tower and Cell Help Tell "Unvarnished Truth" of Black America, INT'L HERALD TRIBUNE (July 11, 2013),; The Angola Prison Rodeo: Life, Death and Raging Bulls, ECONOMIST (May 8, 2014),

(18) David Oshinksy, The View from Inside, N.Y. TIMES (June 11. 2010),[hereinafter View from Inside]. Bounded on three sides by the Mississippi River, it is about an hour away from Baton Rouge. Id. The nearest town, St. Francisville, is over twenty miles away; take Louisiana Highway 66 out of St. Francisville for about twenty-two miles, and the highway ends at the front gate of the prison. Driving directions from St. Francisville to Angola, (search starting point field for "St. Francisville, LA" and search destination field for "Angola, LA").

(19) See PRISONERS IN 2014, supra note 14, at 8, tbl.6.


(21) Id. Three other plantations, Hope, Monticello, and Oakley, all sugar cane farms, were later added to the original Angola Plantation to make up what is now the prison. See MARK T. CARLETON, POLITICS AND PUNISHMENT: THE HISTORY OF THE LOUISIANA STATE PENAL SYSTEM 93 (1994).

(22) See T.P. Hubert, Angola: Taming the Beasl Within, WA VETERAN (Jan./Feb. 2009),

(23) Id.

(24) Cindy Chang, Angola Inmates Are Taught Life Skills, Then Spend Their Lives Behind Bars, TIMES-PICAYUNE (May 15, 2012, 12:56 PM), [hereinafter Angola Inmates].

(25) Id.

(26) Id. There is ongoing litigation over the constitutionality of keeping sick men on death row in heat stroke intensive temperatures. See Federal Judge Frustrated with Louisiana's Opposition to Air Conditioning for Angola's Death Row, NOLA.COM (May 20, 2016),; See also Henry James, Testimony of Angola conditions to Human Rights Advocacy Project, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law (Sept. 2, 2014).

(27) Hubert, supra note 22.

(28) Laura Sullivan, Doubts Arise About 1972 Angola Prison Murder, NPR (Oct. 27, 2008),

(29) Liliana Segura, Dispatch from Angola: Faith Based Slavery in a Louisiana Prison, COLORLINES (Aug. 4, 2011, 10:03 AM)

(30) Segura, supra note 29; Hubert, supra note 22.

(31) Hubert, supra note 22; Giles Clarke, Louisiana Slate Penitentiary Hosts a Rodeo for Its Inmates, VICE (Nov. 15, 2013, 7:00 AM),

(32) Hubert, supra note 22; Segura, supra note 29.

(33) Cindy Chang, Louisiana Is the World's Prison Capital, TIMES-PICAYUNE (May 13, 2012),

(34) LA. ADMIN. CODE tit. 22 [section] 331. Prisoner pay is regulated by the Louisiana Administrative Code. Id. New prisoners who work start at two cents per hour; a certified sign language tutor or a paralegal with ten years of experience can earn up to one dollar an hour. Id.

(35) James, supra note 26.

(36) See Gary Fields, Prison's Guards Are Part Wolf, All Business, WALL STREET J. (July 31, 2012, 8:09 PM),; Clarke, supra note 31.

(37) Clarke, supra note 31.

(38) Sullivan, supra note 28.

(39) Id. In the early 1990s, six hundred staffers and their families, all of whom were white, lived on the grounds. Jason Berry, Pen State: A Year in the Life of Angola, in THE WALL IS STRONG: CORRECTIONS IN LOUISIANA, at 90, 93 (Burk Foster et al. eds., 3d ed. 1995).


(41) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 153.

(42) See, e.g., Whitney Benns, American Slavery, Reinvented, ATLANTIC (Sept. 21, 2015),; Laura Dimon, A Modern Day Slave Plantation Exists, and It's Thriving in the Heart of America, MIC (May 8, 2014),

(43) Dimon, supra note 42.

(44) Burk Foster, Between Reform and Slavery: The Dilemma of the Baton Rouge Penitentiary, in THE WALL Is STRONG: CORRECTIONS IN LOUISIANA 1, 4 (Burk Foster et al. eds., Univ. of La. at Lafayette Press 4th ed. 2014) [hereinafter Between Reform and Slavery].

(45) GUSTAVE DE BEAUMONT & ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE, ON THE PENITENTIARY SYSTEM IN THE UNITED STATES, AND ITS APPLICATION IN FRANCE 13 (Francis Lieber trans., Phila., Carey, Lea & Blanchard 1833); See also CARLETON, supra note 21, at 8.

(46) Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 5.

(47) Id.; See Acts, 10th Leg., 3d Sess., at 110 (La. 1832).

(48) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 8; Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 5.

(49) Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 5.

(50) WISNER, supra note 3, at 143.

(51) Id. (emphasis added).

(52) Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 5; CARLETON, supra note 21, at 8.

(53) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 8.

(54) Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 6.

(55) Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 5-6; WISNER, supra note 3, at 142-44.

(56) ADAMS, supra note 20, at 136.

(57) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 13.

(58) Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 7.

(59) Id. at 8. Treating white men, who made up a majority of Louisiana's pre-Civil War prisoner population, as less than slaves, was a problem for the private system. As Professor Carleton reported, "Not long after the lessees took over, the legislature was informed that the convicts were being treated 'like slaves.'" Id. at 7 (quoting CARLETON, supra note 21).

(60) Bill Quigley & Maha Zaki, The Significance of Race: Legislative Racial Discrimination in Louisiana, 1803-1865, 24 S.U. L. REV. 145, 160, 174-75, 205 (1997) ("[F]irst, all whites were legally superior to all people of color, free or unfree; second, slaves were totally powerless; third, slaves were to be treated as pieces of property; fourth, emancipation was made difficult; fifth, free blacks were not to enter Louisiana; sixth, as many free blacks in Louisiana as possible were expelled; and seventh, there was rigorous suppression of all efforts for change."); See generally Mitchell F. Crusto, Blackness as Property: Sex, Race, Status, and Wealth, 1 STAN. J. CIV. RTS. & CIV. LIBERTIES 51 (2005).

(61) Quigley & Zaki, supra note 60, at 160.

(62) Id.

(63) See S. N. D. NORTH, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU, A CENTURY OF POPULATION GROWTH: 1790-1900, at 139-40 tbl.70 (1909), (showing that 255,491 white people and 244,809 slaves lived in Louisiana in 1850, revealing a ratio of 96 slaves for every 100 whites).

(64) Quigley & Zaki, supra note 60, at 160.

(65) Id. at 195-203.

(66) Kerry Myers & Marianne Fisher-Giorlando, Bad Girls, Convict Women: The Historically Unseen of the Louisiana Prison System, Part 1: 1835-1901, ANGOLITE, Nov./Dec. 2011, at 42, 42 [hereinafter Myers & Fisher-Giorlando, Part 1] This three-part article is an excellent history of a seriously neglected part of Angola's past.

(67) Id.

(68) Id.

(69) Id. at 47.

(70) Id. at 45-46.

(71) See id. at 42.

(72) Id. at 45 (discussing Act of Dec. 4, 1848, No. 4, 1848 La. Acts 3-4).

(73) Id.

(74) Act of Dec. 4, 1848, No. 4, 1848 La. Acts 3-4.

(75) Id.

(76) Id.

(77) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 9. The private firm chosen in 1844 to run the prison was McHatton, Pratt and Company. Id.

(78) See id. at 9-12.

(79) Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 6.

(80) Act of Jan. 1, 1844, No. 79, [section] 1, 1844 La. Acts 41, 41.

(81) [section] 3, 1844 La. Acts at 42.

(82) [section] 4, 1844 La. Acts at 42.

(83) Id.


(85) Id.

(86) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 9 (quoting WISNER, supra note 3, at 147).

(87) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 10.

(88) Id. at 11.

(89) Act of Mar. 18, 1852, No. 269, 1852 La. Acts 187.

(90) Act of Mar. 16, 1857, No. 130, [section] 2, 1857 La. Acts 111.

(91) During the Civil War, as the federal forces took control of Baton Rouge, prisoners in Louisiana were transported from Baton Rouge to the New Orleans Workhouse, and the state penitentiary fell into serious disrepair. See WISNER, supra note 3, at 154, where the author notes many of the penitentiary buildings were demolished during the war. The Times-Picayune referred to this event in a January 3, 1863, article about a crime:
Three years ago the same parties murdered a butcher named Clavery, for
which they were tried, found guilty and sentenced for life to the

On the evacuation of Baton Rouge by the Federals, they were brought,
with other convicts, to this city, and placed in the Workhouse. From
there, however, they succeeded in effecting their escape, and another
deed of blood has been the consequence.

Murder in Jefferson City, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Jan. 3, 1863.

(92) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 13. ("The most decisive event in the history of southern penology was the Civil War. The conflict itself, of course, had no direct bearing upon penal law or practices, but the war changed the status of half of the population--the slaves--who were most liable to penal action, and it thus created a wholly new situation for the penal system to deal with.")

(93) Results from the 1860 Census, CIVIL WAR HOME PAGE (last visited Apr. 25, 2018),

(94) Recall that prior to the Civil War, penitentiaries in the South were reserved mostly for whites. ADAMS, supra note 20, at 137. When slaves committed crimes, they had primarily been punished on their plantations. WISNER, supra note 3, at 155. The rise in black population in prison was in part because of "the great increase in the number of free negroes imprisoned who were formerly subject to private discipline." Id.

(95) The Louisiana Penitentiary, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Dec. 6, 1861.

(96) During the war, the Baton Rouge penitentiary was temporarily disbanded and the prisoners were moved back to New Orleans. WISNER, supra note 3, at 154; Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 9. By 1868, state prisoners were moved back to Baton Rouge. Id. In 1868, of the 222 convicts in the Louisiana penitentiary, seventy percent were black, over half were under the age of twenty-five, forty-three were between the ages of fifteen and twenty, and three were between ten and fifteen years old. GEOFF K. WARD, THE BLACK CHILD SAVERS: RACIAL DEMOCRACY AND JUVENILE JUSTICE 67 (2012) (citing CARLETON, supra note 21).

(97) See CARLETON, supra note 21, at 13. Indeed, the targeting of Negro citizens was questioned as soon as 1868 in a report by the board supposedly overseeing the operations of the private company at the prison who asked the legislature to "inquire into the reason so many are sent to this institution for the term of three, four, and six months upon the most trivial charges? Does there not lurk beneath, the low, mean motive of depriving them of the rights of citizenship?" Id. at 15 (citing 1868 ANNUAL REP. BOARD CONTROL LA. ST. PENITENTIARY, at 52).


(99) NOVAK, supra note 98, at 13-15.

(100) DU BOIS, supra note 98, at 108 ("[T]he police system of the South was originally designed to keep track of all Negroes, not simply of criminals; and when the Negroes were freed and the whole South was convinced of the impossibility of free Negro labor, the first and almost universal device was to use the courts as a means of reenslaving the blacks").

(101) Andrea C. Armstrong, Slavery Revisited in Penal Plantation Labor, 35 SEATTLE U.L. REV. 869, 900 (2012).

(102) DAVID M. OSHINSKY, WORSE THAN SLAVERY: PARCHMAN FARM AND THE ORDEAL OF JIM CROW JUSTICE 21 (1996). Louisiana followed the lead of Mississippi and South Carolina in enacting its Black Code. THEODORE BRANTNER WILSON, THE BLACK CODES OF THE SOUTH 66-80 (1965).

(103) OSHINSKY, supra note 102, at 14.

(104) See Acts of Nov. 23, 1865, Nos. 10-12, 16, 1865 La. Acts 14-20, 24-26. There are a number of references in the literature to a Black Code of Louisiana 1865 which contain references this author has been unable to verify. The first such citation is in the highly respected EDWARD MCPHERSON, THE POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DURING THE PERIOD OF RECONSTRUCTION: APRIL 15, 1865-JULY 15, 1870 (1871) at 43-44. It seems other compilations have copied the same. See, for example, DOCUMENTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY 455-57 (Henry Steele Commager ed., Prentice-Hall 9th ed. 1973) (1938). These sources cite an 1865 Louisiana statute, which said agricultural freedmen were to have a written contract for their labor by January 10 of each year in writing, signed in front of a Justice of the Peace, with two witnesses. The statute also required workers to labor ten hours a day in the summer, nine in the winter, six days a week, and follow orders; they were not allowed to swear, be impudent, quarrel, leave home without permission, receive visitors during working hours, or be disobedient. Leaving before the contract was up subjected the person to forfeiture of all wages owed to them and criminal penalties including being forced to work on public roads without pay.

The author, in all humility and trepidation asking how Henry Steele Commager can be wrong, can find no such Louisiana Act in 1865 like this. There was a series of laws restricting labor and punishing vagrants but none which contain the provisions like the ones cited above.

(105) WILSON, supra note 102, at 77-78 (quoting Louisiana, Journal of the Senate, 1865, extra session, at 6, 14, 30).

(106) Act of Jan. 15, 1855, No. 120, [sections] 120-25, 1855 La. Acts 130, 148-50.

(107) Act of Dec. 20, 1865, No. 12, 1865 La. Acts 16-18.

(108) Act of Dec. 20, 1865, No. 11, 1865 La. Acts 16.

(109) Act of Dec. 20, 1865, No. 19. 1865 La. Acts 28-30. See also WILSON, supra note 102, at 79.


(111) As W.E.B. DuBois remarked:

The celebrated ordinance of Opelousas, Louisiana, shows the local ordinances regulating Negroes. "No Negro or freedman shall be allowed to come within the limits of the town of Opelousas without special permission from his employer, specifying the object of his visit and the time necessary for the accomplishment of the same.

"Every Negro freedman who shall be found on the streets of Opelousas after ten o'clock at night without a written pass or permit from his employer, shall be imprisoned and compelled to work five days on the public streets, or pay a fine of five dollars.

"No Negro or freedman shall be permitted to rent or keep a house within the limits of the town under any circumstances, and anyone thus offending shall be ejected, and compelled to find an employer or leave the town within twenty-four hours.

"No Negro or freedman shall reside within the limits of the town of Opelousas who is not in the regular service of some white person or former owner, who shall be held responsible for the conduct of said freedman.

"No Negro or freedman shall be permitted to preach, exhort, or otherwise declaim to congregations of colored people without a special permission from the Mayor or President of the Board of Police, under the penalty of a fine of ten dollars or twenty days' work on the public streets.

"No freedman who is not in the military service shall be allowed to carry firearms, or any kind of weapons within the limits of the town of Opelousas without the special permission of his employer, in writing, and approved by the Mayor or President of the Board.

"Any freedman not residing in Opelousas, who shall be found within its corporate limits after the hour of 3 o'clock, on Sunday, without a special permission from his employer or the Mayor, shall be arrested and imprisoned and made to work two days on the public streets, or pay two dollars in lieu of said work."

W.E.B. Du BOIS, BLACK RECONSTRUCTION IN AMERICA 177-78 (Atheneum 1992) (1935). Opelousas was also the site of the Opelousas Massacre where it is estimated that one hundred to three hundred black citizens were killed. See Carolyn E. Delatte, The St. Landry Incident: A Forgotten Incident of Reconstruction Violence, 17 LA. HIST.: J. OF LA. HIST. Ass'N, 41, 46-48 (Winter 1976).

(112) NOVAK, supra note 98, at 5.

(113) Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 9-10.

(114) Act of Jan 4, 1869, No. 55, 1869 La. Acts 56. The legislature furthered ordered that food and rations for the prisoners not be less than that provided to soldiers, there be no excessive punishment. [section] 2, 1869 La. Acts at 57.

(115) Ahmed A. White, Rule of Law and the Limits of Sovereignty: The Private Prison in Jurisprudential Perspective, 38 AM. CRIM. L. REV. 111, 128-29 (2001) ("To say that the enterprise of convict leasing was corrupt in more traditional ways can only be an understatement. Corruption was utterly intrinsic to the perverse juridical structure of convict leasing, comprising not an isolated aspect of leasing, but the functional essence of the system's blurring of the line between the public and private. In the words of historian Edward Ayers, 'The convict lease system became a sort of mutual aid society for the new breed of capitalists and politicians of the white Democratic regimes of the New South.'")

(116) Gabriel J. Chin, The Jena Six and the History of Racially Compromised Justice in Louisiana, 44 HARV. CIV. RTS. CIV. LIBERTIES L. REV. 361, 372 (2009). See generally ALEX LICHTENSTEIN, TWICE THE WORK OF FREE LABOR: THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF CONVICT LABOR IN THE NEW SOUTH 82, 87-104, 163-64 (1996) (discussing the use of convict labor in the mining industry).

(117) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 44.

(118) Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 10; CARLETON, supra note 21, at 17. The purchasers likely also purchased legislative approval. Id. at 19-21.

(119) Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 10; CARLETON, supra note 21, at 23.

(120) Blitzer, supra note 2.

(121) ADAMS, supra note 20.

(122) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 93.

(123) The penal farm was "an institution uniquely southern, which in Louisiana still serves as the sacrosanct nucleus of penal operations." CARLETON, supra note 21, at 14.

(124) Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 11.

(125) Id.

(126) Id.

(127) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 45.

(128) Id. (quoting WILLIAM IVY HAIR, BOURBONISM AND AGRARIAN PROTEST 109 (1969)). The contract for Major James was first awarded in 1870 with near unanimous support from black legislators. Id. at 65-69. This support continued until the 1990s. Id. The assumption is that the black legislators, like many of their white colleagues, were cast due to financial support. Id.

(129) Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 11.

(130) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 22 (citing to OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF LA. 213 (1874)).

(131) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 22.

(132) Id. at 7; Blitzer, supra note 2.

(133) WISNER, supra note 3, at 158-59.

(134) Id. at 160-61.

(135) Id. at 161.

(136) MATTHEW J. MANCINI, ONE DIES, GET ANOTHER: CONVICT LEASING IN THE AMERICAN SOUTH, 1866-1928, at 2-3 (1996) (quoting Hastings H. Hart, Prison Conditions in the South, in 1919 PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL PRISON ASSOCIATION 186, 200).

(137) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 46. Between 1894 and 1901, an estimated ten percent of the inmates died. WISNER, supra note 3, at 170. Mortality rates for the one thousand or so prisoners during these last years alone ranged from a low of 67 in 1895 to a high of 216 in 1896. WISNER, supra note 3, at 174.

(138) GEORGE WASHINGTON CABLE, The Convict Lease System, in THE SILENT SOUTH 171, 173 (Patterson Smith Publ'g Corp. 1969) (1885). Cable later repeated this point and added, "Such are the official figures of a prison system which exists nowhere among civilized people except where two centuries of slave-holding have blunted our sense of the rights of man." G.W. Cable, Open Letter, The True South vs. The Silent South, 32 CENTURY MAG. 164, 170 (May 1886).

(139) Blitzer, supra note 2,

(140) Id.

(141) The Penitentiary: Report of the Clerk to the Governor, TIMES-PICAYUNE, June 4, 1882, at 6 [hereinafter The Penitentiary Report].

(142) Id.

(143) Louisiana Prison System, TIMES-PICAYUNE, June 11, 1882, at 4.

(144) Id.

(145) HAIR, supra note 128, at 131.

(146) The Penitentiary Report, supra note 141.

(147) Myers & Fisher-Giorlando, Part 1, supra note 66, at 53-54; Kerry Myers & Marianne Fisher-Giorlando, Bad Girls, Convict Women: The Historically Unseen of the Louisiana Prison System, Part 2: 1901-1950, ANGOLITE, Jan./Feb. 2012, at 28 [hereinafter Myers & Fisher-Giorlando, Part 2].

(148) Myers & Fisher-Giorlando, Part 1, supra note 66, at 53-54; Myers & Fisher-Giorlando, Part 2, supra note 147, at 28.

(149) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 20.

(150) "Louisiana is rivaled only by Florida in the recklessness and unmanageability of its post-Civil War convict system, the frontier character of its justice system and the rashness of the men who directed it." MANC1NI, supra note 136, at 144.

(151) Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 12.

(152) WISNER, supra note 3, at 163, 202.

(153) Act of July 6, 1900, No. 70, 1900 La. Acts 116-21. Section 14 authorized convict work on public works. 7a!. Section 17 addressed the child convicts. Id. Article 196 of the Louisiana Constitution of 1898, tried to regulate convict leasing to state-approved methods and under state supervision, effective at the end of the existing lease:
The General Assembly may authorize the employment under state
supervision and the proper officers and employees of the state, of
convicts on public roads or other public works, or convict farms, or in
manufactories owned or controlled by the State, under such provisions
and restrictions as may be imposed by law, and shall enact laws
necessary to carry these provisions into effect; and no convict
sentenced to the State penitentiary shall ever be leased, or hired to
any person, or persons, or corporation, private or public, or
quasi-public, or board, save as herein authorized. This article shall
take effect upon the expiration of the penitentiary lease, made
pursuant to Act No. 114, approved July 10th, 1890.

LA. CONST. of 1898, art. Cxcvi,

(154) Act of July 6, 1900, No. 70, 1900 La. Acts 116-21. Sections 2-19 controlled the Board of Control of the State Penitentiary who were paid $3,000 a year. Id.

(155) WISNER, supra note 3, at 165. Angola was primarily a cotton plantation and the other prison plantations were sugar cane producers. CARLETON, supra note 21, at 92-93.

(156) WISNER, supra note 3, at 166-67.

(157) Mr. Fuqua went on to be elected Governor of Louisiana in 1924. Myers & Fisher-Giorlando, Part 2, supra note 147, at 32-33.

(158) WISNER, supra note 3, at 163.

(159) "Black convicts in Louisiana during the early twentieth century were treated very much like black slaves had been treated on any large, 'well-run' antebellum plantation...." CARLETON, supra note 21, at 108. A 1909 report indicated that on-site farm labor at what was called the Angola plantation was now the occupation for white male prisoners. WISNER, supra note 3, at 172-75. There were some females at the penitentiary. Id. All females were assigned to the Angola plantation. Id.

(160) WISNER, supra note 3, at 174-75

(161) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 100-01.

(162) Id. at 88-89.

(163) Myers & Fisher-Giorlando, Part 2, supra note 147, at 32-34.

(164) Id.

(165) Id.

(166) Id.

(167) Id.

(168) Id. at 34.

(169) Kerry Myers & Marianne Fisher-Giorlando, Bad Girls Convict Women: The Historically Unseen of the Louisiana Prison System, Part 3: 1950 to a Home of Their Own, ANGOLITE, May/June 2012, at 28, 41 [hereinafter Myers & Fisher-Giorlando, Part 3].

(170) Id. at 38.

(171) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 99.

(172) Myers & Fisher-Giorlando, Part 2, supra note 147, at 36. The legislature authorized a reform school for girls between eight and eighteen years old in 1918, Act of July 10, 1918, No. 143, 1918 La. Acts, but it was not opened until 1928. See WISNER, supra note 3, at 175; CAKLETON, supra note 21, at 119.

(173) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 144-45.

(174) Id. at 95 (quoting President of the Louisiana Board of Control of the State Penitentiary).

(175) Id. at 87. Though some of the most brutal methods of the convict lease system were abandoned, there was still no focus on rehabilitation. Id. at 94.

(176) WISNER, supra note 3, at 171. A 1918 state report found the death rate of prisoners had dropped from about 100 per year during the last decade of the convict leasing system to thirty-five per year from 1900 to 1917. CARLETON, supra note 21, at 103.

(177) CARLTON, supra note 21, at 138.

(178) Id.

(179) OSHINSKY, supra note 102, at 149.

(180) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 112.

(181) Id. at 131.

(182) Myers & Fisher-Giorlando, Part 2, supra note 147, at 37-38.

(183) Kerry Myers, Red Hat, in THE WALL Is STRONG: CORRECTIONS IN LOUISIANA 31-34 (Burk Foster et al. eds., Univ. of La. at Lafayette Press 4th ed. 2014).

(184) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 132.

(185) Blitzer, supra note 2. A 1939 article by Harnett Kane described Angola as the "Alcatraz of the South." CARLTON, supra note 21, at 133.

(186) Myers, supra note 183, at 32.

(187) Id.

(188) Until the 1940s, executions at Angola were by hanging. Blitzer, supra note 2. In 1941, the first person was executed in the electric chair. Id. Since 1991, executions have been by lethal injection. Id.

(189) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 140-42.

(190) Id. at 141.

(191) Id.

(192) Id.

(193) Id. at 146.

(194) Id.

(195) E. M. Clinton, Angola Officials Deny Brutalities, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Feb. 26, 1951, at 1. For a much longer and detailed account of this incident, the inquiry and its impact, see BUTLER & HENDERSON, supra note 40, at 7-33.

(196) Clinton, supra note 195.

(197) Id. at 5.

(198) Angola Incident, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Feb. 27, 1951, at 8.

(199) Lear & Stagg, supra note 3, at 15.

(200) Long Invites 27 to Probe Angola, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Feb. 28, 1951, at 7; More Convicts Slash Heels as Angola Trouble Spreads, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Feb. 28, 1951, at 7. See also CARLETON, supra note 21, at 151.

(201) E. M. Clinton, Prison Nurse Calls Angola a 'Sewer of Degradation', TIMES-PICAYUNE, Mar. 9, 1951, at 1.

(202) Id. at 1

(203) Id.

(204) Id. at 3.

(205) Id.

(206) True Brutality at State Pen, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Mar. 13, 1951, at 3.

(207) Id. at 1.

(208) One Prison Head, Broader Industries Urged at Angola, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Apr. 19, 2951, at 7.

(109) Id.

(210) Nurse at Angola Quits Prison Job, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Apr. 3, 1951, at 1.

(211) Id. at 3.

(212) Lear & Stagg, supra note 3, at 15.

(213) Id.

(214) Id. at 16.

(215) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 155-56.

(216) Lear & Stagg, supra note 3, at 13-16.

(217) Id. at 13.

(218) Id. at 13-14.

(219) Id. at 16.

(220) Id. at 13-16.

(221) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 15-16.

(222) Id. at 170.

(223) Id. at 190-92.

(224) History of Angola Prison, supra note 9.

(225) See Elie v. Henderson, 340 F. Supp. 958 (E.D. La. 1972) (which colorfully discussing politics, prison demonstrations, prison tales, and allegations of preparations for violence and riots, all in the context of whether civil rights lawyers could be allowed to visit the prison).

(226) See Wilbert Rideau, Prison: The Sexual Jungle, reprinted in THE WALL IS STRONG: CORRECTIONS IN LOUISIANA, 142, 150 (Burk Foster et al. eds., 3d ed. 1995) [hereinafter Prison: The Sexual Jungle].

(227) See Rideau & Sinclair, supra note 8, at 1066-73.

(228) CARLETON, supra note 21, at 177-90.

(229) Id. at 184.

(230) Id. at 189.

(231) Prison: The Sexual Jungle, supra note 226, at 151. See also BILLY WAYNE SINCLAIR & JODIE SINCLAIR, A LIFE IN THE BALANCE: THE BILLY WAYNE SINCLAIR STORY (2012) 98-107, 147-55.

(232) Prison: The Sexual Jungle, supra note 226, at 151.

(233) Id. Importantly, however, it was also noted that:
while the hyper masculine prison code continues to shape life at
Angola, this is far from all there is. In addition, many prisoners
discuss their emotions, describe lasting friendships and efforts to
help their peers, and denounce violence. Other prisoners talk of the
importance of determination, principles, and personal growth, and imply
that these are signs of manhood.

Liam Kennedy, "He Must Learn What Being a Man is All About": Negotiating the Male Code at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, 37 DEVIANT BEHAVIOR 151, 164 (2016).

(234) Rideau & Sinclair, supra note 8, at 1067, nn. 36-37.

(235) Henderson Takes Action on Overcrowding Section, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Mar. 23, 1971, [section]4, at 2.

(236) Governor Writes Burger to Defend Prison System, supra note 10, at 13. See also Linda Ashton, Louisiana Inmates Blame Unrest on Governor: Roemer's Stinginess with Clemency Has Created 'Time Bomb,' Lifers Claim, LA. TIMES (July 23, 1989),

(237) See Burk Foster, Angola in the Seventies, reprinted in THE WALL IS STRONG: CORRECTIONS IN LOUISIANA 45 (Burk Foster et al., Univ. of La. at Lafayette Press 4th ed. 2014) [hereinafter Angola in the Seventies].

(238) See id. This article remains the single best summary of this period at Angola.

(239) In 1925, the entire United States held 91,669 people in state and federal prisons, a rate of 79 per 100,000 people. U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, NCJ 85861, PRISONERS 1925-81, at 2, tbl. 1 (1982), By 1930, that number had grown to 129,453, and the rate had grown to 104. Id. By 1940, it was up to 173,706 with a rate of 131. Id. By 1950, it had grown to 166,123 as the rate dropped to 109. Id. By 1960, it had gone up to 212,953, a rate of 117. Id. By 1970, it had grown to 196,429, a rate of only 96. In 1980, there were 315,974 in prison, a rate of 138. Id. And the population continued to grow. In 1990, there were 773,905 in state and federal prisons; and by 2000, there were 1,381,892. ROBYN L. COHEN, U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, NCJ 129198, PRISONERS IN 1990, at 1, tbl.1 (1991), [hereinafter PRISONERS IN 1990]; ALLEN J. BECK & PAIGE M.HARRISON, U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, NCJ 188207, PRISONERS IN 2000, at 1 (2001), [hereinafter PRISONERS IN 2000].

In 2010, 1,612,395 people were in state and federal prisons. PAUL GUERINO ET AL., U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, NCJ 236096, PRISONERS IN 2010, at 1 (2011), [hereinafter PRISONERS IN 2010], In 2014, there were 1,561,500 people in prison in the United States. PRISONERS IN 2014, supra note 14, at 1.

(240) Lewis M. Steel, Understanding the Legacy of the Attica Prison Uprising, NATION, Sept. 26, 2016,

(241) TOM WICKER, A TIME TO DIE 301-02 (1975) (detailing the uprising and its aftermath). In one particularly cruel story, Wicker documents how the families of the hostages were told their loved ones died by having their throats slashed by prisoners. Id. The official autopsy results showed, however, that not a single hostage had died from having his throat slashed. Id. All died from gunshots, and no prisoners had any guns. Id. "When Attica exploded in September 1971, it created an unmatched awareness of prisons and their nature. It was no longer true that prisons and prisoners were 'out of sight, out of mind.' The prisoners' rights movement began in earnest." Rideau & Sinclair, supra note 8, at 1069, n.40 (quoting ALVIN J. BRONSTEIN, OFFENDER RIGHTS LITIGATION: HISTORICAL AND FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS, PRISONERS' RIGHTS SOURCEBOOK 9-10 (1980)).

(242) Bruce Dansker, Violence May Be on Horizon; Hopes Are Sinking at Angola, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Oct. 4, 1982, at 1.

(243) Angola Prison Guard Killed, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Apr. 18, 1972, [section] 2, at 16.

(244) Angela A. Allen-Bell, Perception Profiling & Prolonged Solitary Confinement Viewed Through the Lens of the Angola 3 Case, 39 HASTINGS CONST. L.Q. 763, 781-82 (2012).

(245) Angola in the Seventies, supra note 237, at 55-56.

(246) Id. at 47.

(247) Charles Layton, Judge Rejects Inmate Move, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Dec. 15, 1973, [section] 2, at 5.

(248) Angola in the Seventies, supra note 237, at 55-56.

(249) See State v. Dunn, 408 So. 2d 1319, 1321-22 (La. 1982) ("R.S. 15:571.7 was repealed by Act 490 of 1979."). La. R.S. 15:571.7 stated:
Whenever a prisoner who has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to
imprisonment for life, so conducts himself as to merit the approval of
the superintendent of the state penitentiary he may apply for a
commutation of his sentence and the application, upon approval of the
superintendent, shall be forwarded to the governor. The governor may
commute the sentence upon the recommendation in writing of the
lieutenant governor, attorney general, and presiding judge of the court
before which the conviction was had or any two of them. No commutation
under this Section shall reduce the period of incarceration to less
than ten years and six months.

Id. (quoting LA. REV. STAT. ANN. [section] 15:571.7, repealed by 1979 La. Acts 490 [section] 2). See also Smith v. Blackburn, 785 F.2d 545, 546-47 (5th Cir. 1986) (discussing the history and practice of this rule, including its repeal). The court in Smith v. Blackburn enforced the 10-6 max in a case where the prisoner proved, through testimony from his defense counsel and the district attorney, that this rule had been told to him in the sentencing in his case. Id.

(250) Dunn, 408 So. 2d at 1321-22.

(251) Id. at 1319.

(252) Lydia Pelot-Hobbs, Organizing for Freedom: The Angola Special Civics Project, 1987-1992, at 35-37 (Aug. 4, 2011) (unpublished M.S. thesis, University of New Orleans), the fifty-year practice of letting most lifers out after ten years and six months stopped, the population of Angola began to grow as the prison began keeping those people in prison for the rest of their lives, expanding the prison population by more than 2,000 people during the

next 20 years. See Burk Foster, What is the Meaning of Life?, THE WALL IS STRONG: CORRECTIONS IN LOUISIANA 80, 81-86 (Foster et al. eds., 3d ed. 1995) (explaining in detail the process of this change).

(253) Wilbert Rideau, Special Civics Project, ANGOLITE, Nov./Dec. 1987, at 13.

(254) Reforms were started under both Elayne Hunt and C. Paul Phelps, both under Governor Edwin Edwards. Blitzer, supra note 2, at 3.

(255) Id.

(256) Rideau & Sinclair, supra note 8, at 1069. Inmates had complained of the "Red Hat" punishment area, where "prisoners were kept naked in dark, damp dungeons and given only spoonfuls of food." Ashton, supra note 236.

(257) Brooke Shelby Biggs, Camp J, Red Hats, and the Hole: Inside Angola's Three Circles of Solitary Confinement Hell, MOTHER JONES (Mar. 5, 2009, 7:44 PM),

(258) Id.

(259) View from Inside, supra note 18.

(260) Janet McConnaughey, Jailhouse Journalist Is Released, ARGUS-PRESS (Dec. 24, 2000), at 8A.

(261) Id.

(262) Platek v. Aderhold, 73 F.2d 173, 175 (5th Cir. 1934).

(263) Sarshik v. Sanford, 142 F.2d 676, 676 (5th Cir. 1944).

(264) price v. Johnson, 334 U.S. 266 (1948).

(265) Id, at 285.

(266) Adams v. Ellis, 197 F.2d 483, 485 (5th Cir. 1952).

(267) Some jailhouse lawyers who were able to work were criticized by others on the inside:
There were only a few jailhouse lawyers in the nation's prison system,
especially in Louisiana, and, for the most part, they did use their
limited legal skills as mercenary weapons to secure homosexual favors
and financial gain from gullible inmates and garner influence and
status with inmate power-brokers. As a rule, the original jailhouse
lawyers were master politicians who maneuvered themselves into
positions of power by extending to the weak and strong alike the
promise of beating the system. Their power rested in hope--men confined
in the insignificance of prison will barter for any kind of hope, even
if it is false. Fool's gold is better than no gold.

However, Johnson v. Avery ultimately proved to be a good decision for
the nation's prison system. As jailhouse lawyers matured and developed
an understanding of their role, they became an asset to prison
administrators who increasingly had to face the problems of violence
and disturbances during the 1970s. Prison officials came to realize
that jailhouse law, more than any other force, encouraged the belief
that problems and grievances could be expressed and even resolved in an
orderly fashion within the framework of the system.

Rideau & Sinclair, supra note 8 at 1063.

(268) Johnson v. Avery, 252 F. Supp. 783, 784 (M.D. Tenn. 1966).

(269) Id.

(270) Johnson v. Avery, 382 F.2d 353, 357 (6th Cir. 1967).

(271) Id.

(272) Id. at 355.

(273) Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483, 490 (1969).

(274) Id. at 490.

(275) Id. at 486-87.

(276) Howard B. Eisenberg, Rethinking Prisoner Civil Rights Cases and the Provision of Counsel, 17 S. ILL. U.L.J. 417, 422-25.

(277) Holt v. Sarver, 309 F. Supp. 362, 381 (E.D. Ark. 1970), aff'd, 442 P.2d 304 (8th Cir. 1971).

(278) Landman v. Royster, 333 F. Supp. 621, 647 (E.D. Va. 1971).

(279) Gates v. Collier, 501 F.2d 1291, 1300 (5th Cir. 1974).

(280) Pugh v. Locke, 406 F. Supp. 318, 323 (M.D. Ala. 1976), aff'd sub nom., Newman v. Alabama, 559 F.2d 283 (5th Cir. 1976), rev'd in part, 438 U.S. 781 (1978), cert, denied, 438 U.S. 915 (1978).

(281) Judge Gordon West was a Kennedy appointment and a dismal one. Judge West is quoted as saying, after ordering Baton Rouge to devise a school desegregation plan, "I personally regard the 1954 holding of the Supreme Court in the now famous Brown... case as one of the truly regrettable decisions of all time." ABRAHAM L. DAVIS & BARBARA LUCK GRAHAM, THE SUPREME COURT, RACE AND CIVIL RIGHTS: FROM MARSHALL TO REHNQUIST, at 126. West then joined another Kennedy appointee, Judge Frank Ellis, in upholding the constitutionality of a Louisiana law that mandated the race of all candidates be posted on the ballot. JET MAGAZINE, NOV. 14, 1963, at 6. Ironically, the federal courthouse in Baton Rouge occupies some of the ground where the original Louisiana penitentiary was located. Between Reform and Slavery, supra note 44, at 12.

(282) Labat v. McKeithen, 243 F. Supp. 662, 663-64 (E.D. La. 1965).

(283) Id.

(284) Id. at 664.

(285) See id. at 663 (listing Ben Smith as counsel). This author was fortunate enough to clerk for Ben Smith while in law school. For more about Smith, see generally, SARAH HART BROWN, STANDING AGAINST DRAGONS: THREE SOUTHERN LAWYERS IN AN ERA OF FEAR (1998).

(286) Labat, 243 F. Supp. at 662.

(287) Id. at 665.

(288) Id. at 664.

(289) Id.

(290) Sinclair v. Henderson, 435 F.2d 125, 126 (5th Cir. 1970); SINCLAIR & SINCLAIR, supra note 231.

(291) Sinclair v. Henderson, 435 F.2d at 126.

(292) Id.

(293) Id. at 125.

(294) Id. at 126.

(295) Id. See also the Fifth Circuit's characterization of this relief in Williams v. Treen, 671 F.2d 892, 898 (5th Cir. 1982).

(296) Sinclair v. Henderson, 331 F. Supp. 1123 (E.D. La. 1971).

(297) He stated the following:
Three procedural safeguards are constitutionally required by the Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment: 1. there must be rules and
regulations officially promulgated by prison authorities and
communicated to the prisoner apprising him of what conduct can subject
him to serious discipline, what penalty he can expect and the procedure
by which such a determination will be made. (This would seem to be
required, in any event, by state law. La.R.S. 15:829 states:
"Discipline of Inmates: The director of corrections shall prescribe
rules and regulations for the maintenance of good order and discipline
in the facilities and institutions under the jurisdiction of the
department, which rules and regulations shall include procedures for
dealing with violations thereof. A copy of such rules and regulations
shall be furnished each inmate. Corporal punishment is prohibited.") 2.
The prisoner must be given official written notice of the specific
charge against him. 3. Before serious punishment (such as punitive
segregation) can be imposed, the prisoner involved must be given a
hearing at which he shall have an opportunity to be heard. The
determination to impose the punishment should be made by one other than
the accusing guard.

Id. at 1129.

(298) Id. at 1128.

(299) Id. at 1123.

(300) Id. at 1130-31.

(301) For example, Angola inmate Robert Aulds, filed a federal action claiming he was brutally beaten by guards and denied adequate medical treatment. Aulds v. Foster, 484 F.2d 945 (5th Cir. 1973). Judge West granted summary judgment for the State without oral argument or an evidentiary hearing observing that "the guards handled the plaintiff rougher than the inmates thought they should." Id. at 946. In 1973, the Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded for trial saying that an unjustified brutal beating by prison guards gives rise to a civil rights claim, and while "[a]s a matter of policy federal courts are reluctant to interfere with internal prison discipline.... this chariness does not mean that prison officials have unfettered discretion in the treatment of their prisoners." Id.

(302) Williams v. Edwards, 547 F.2d 1206, 1207 (5th Cir. 1977); A subsequent development in the case, Williams v. Treen, 671 F.2d at 894, reported that the original action was brought not in 1973 but in 1971.

(303) Id.

(304) The National Archives and Records Administration provided to the author a copy of the docket report, which begins on March 26, 1971. This docket, which runs hundreds of pages, turned out to only be the first half of the actual docket; it includes 6,138 entries up until March 11, 1993. An online version of the docket picks up at entry 6,419 in 1989 and goes on until 2004. This second half of the docket report, which is an additional 346 pages, runs to entry number 10,942 in July of 2004. See Docket Report, Williams v. Edwards, 547 F.2d 1206 (5th Cir. 1977) (No. 3:71-cv-00098-FJP),

(305) Rick Bragg, In Prison for Three Decades, Man Is Rid of Bars, Not Fears, N.Y. TIMES (NOV. 23, 1998), Hayes Williams is a tragic story himself. In 1967, at age nineteen, he was caught up as a bystander outside a gas station when a gunfight broke out between some acquaintances inside arguing with the gas station owner. Id. He was charged, along with two others, with the murder of the gas station owner. Id. At the urging of his since-disbarred lawyer, who warned that he might otherwise get the death penalty, Williams plead guilty even though he was not, in exchange for a sentence of life in prison. Id. According to that lawyer, he would only serve a sentence of ten years and six months in prison if he had a generally good behavior record. See David Rae Morris, Hayes Williams: R.I.P., SOUTHERNER (last visited Apr. 5, 2018), Williams was released in 1997 after serving thirty years wrongfully incarcerated. Id. He was murdered in 2000 at age fifty-two. Id.

(306) Bragg, supra note 305.

(307) Treen, 671 F.2d at 900.

(308) Id. His complaint was described in a later decision in the case.

(309) Id.

(310) Edwards, 547 F.2d at 1208.

(311) Id.

(312) Id.

(313) C. M. Hargroder, Ordered Angola Changes Perplex, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Apr. 30, 1975, [section] 1, at 2.

(314) Edwards, 547 F.2d at 1208-09; J. Douglas Murphy, Court Order for Reform at Angola Signed, TIMES-PICAYUNE, June 11, 1975.

(315) Edwards, 547 F.2d at 1208-09.

(316) Id.

(317) Angola in the Seventies, supra note 237, at 48-49.

(318) Edwards, 547 F.2d at 1209.

(319) Angola in the Seventies, supra note 237, at 48.

(320) Id. at 49.

(321) Edwards, 547 F.2d at 1208.

(322) J. Douglas Murphy, Nothing Has Changed, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Jan. 25, 1976.

(323) Edwards, 547 F.2d at 1208.

(324) Angola in the Seventies, supra note 237, at 58.

(325) Edwards, 547 F.2d at 1208-09.

(326) See, for example, Orleans Parish Sheriff Foti's statement that his jail was "bursting at the seams" because he could not ship convicted prisoners, whom he described as "harder and harder" men to Angola. J. Douglas Murphy, Lockdown in Parish Prison, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Sept. 17, 1975, at 1.

(327) Recall that during the appeal, the United States moved for emergency relief to prevent any more prisoners from being sent to Angola due to overcrowding and Judge West issued an order on September 5, 1975, prohibiting Louisiana from accepting any new prisoners at the penitentiary. Edwards, 547 F.2d at 1208.

(328) Angola in the Seventies, supra note 237, at 60.

(329) Edwards, 547 F.2d at 1211.

(330) Id. at 1215-18.

(331) Id. at 1212.

(332) Id. at 1215-18.

(333) Id. at 1212.

(334) Id. at 1213-14.

(335) Id. at 1219.

(336) Rideau & Sinclair, supra note 8, at 1076.

(137) Angola in the Seventies, supra note 237, at 67-68.

(338) Id. at 66.

(339) Id. at 60-61.

(340) Id. at 62-63; Jack Wardlaw, Judge Puts Lid on Jail Population, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Sept. 22, 1982, at 19.

(341) Angola in the Seventies, supra note 227, at 67.

(342) U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, NCJ 104864, PRISONERS IN 1986, at 2, tbl.2 (1987),

(343) Wardlaw, supra note 326.

(344) Angola in the Seventies, supra note 237, at 63.

(345) Jack Wardlaw, Judge OKs Plan for Housing More in State Prisons, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Feb. 12, 1983; Angola in the Seventies, supra note 237, at 64-65.

(346) Angola in the Seventies, supra note 237, at 64.

(347) Michelle Millhollon, Governor Spurns Most Pardon Bids, ADVOCATE (Aug. 24, 2011),

(348) Pelot-Hobbs, supra note 252, at 39.

(349) Federal government statistics back this up: In 1926, Louisiana held 765 prisoners, 471 black, 61%; in 1930, Louisiana held 1070 prisoners, 697 black, 65%; in 1935, Louisiana held 1,118 prisoners, 740 black, 66%; in 1942, Louisiana held 825 prisoners, 580 black, 70%; in 1945, Louisiana held 777 prisoners, 492 black, 63%; in 1950, Louisiana held 1,157 prisoners, 642 black, 55%; in 1954, Louisiana held 1,702 prisoners, 954 black, 56%; in 1974, Louisiana held 1,998 prisoners, 1,323 black, 66%. PATRICK A. LANGAN, U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, NCJ 125618, RACE OF PRISONERS ADMITTED TO STATE AND FEDERAL INSTITUTIONS, 1926-86, at 10-32, tibi. 7 (1991),

(350) 2,500 Violent Prison Incidents in La. Reported to U.S. Judge, TIMES-PICAYUNE, Nov. 5, 1982, [section]3, at 29.

(351) In 1983, Angola inmate Keith Hudson argued with security officer Jack McMillian. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 4 (1992). Hudson was then placed in handcuffs and shackles by three officers and taken out of his cell, where one officer held him while he was punched, kicked in the mouth, eyes, chest, stomach and back resulting in bruises on his face, mouth and lip. Id. His teeth were loosened and cracked his partial dental plate. Id. The guard supervisor on duty watched the beating but merely told the officers "not to have too much fun." Id. Hudson sued the officers in federal court and won $800. Id. The officers appealed, and the U.S. Fifth Circuit overturned the decision saying that the use of force was objectively unreasonable, clearly excessive, and unnecessary and a wanton infliction of pain; however, the inmate could not recover because his injuries were minor and did not require medical attention. Hudson v. McMillian, 929 F.2d 1014 (5th Cir 1990). The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Fifth Circuit and found that the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment was violated because the injuries of the prisoner were not minor but significant. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. at 9.

(352) Pelot-Hobbs, supra note 252, at 45-68.

(353) Id.

(354) Id.

(355) Id. at 64-66.

(356) PRISONERS IN 1990, supra note 239, at 2, tbl.2.

(357) See Jason Berry, Pen State: A Year in the Life of Angola, in THE WALL IS STRONG: CORRECTIONS IN LOUISIANA, at 90; Mark Lambert & John Semien, State of Emergency Declared at Angola, ADVOCATE, June 22, 1989.

(358) See Docket Report, supra note 304, at 17, no. 6213.

(359) Id.

(360) Lambert & Semian, supra note 357.

(361) PRISONERS IN 1990, supra note 239, at 2, tbl.2.

(362) Prison Medical Care, supra note 12. This article contains the entire letter from the DOJ to Louisiana plus valuable additional reporting by The Angolite staff on medical care at Angola.

(363) Id. at 131.

(364) Id. at 132.

(365) Id.

(366) Id. at 133.

(367) Id.

(368) Id. at 134.

(369) Prison Medical Care, supra note 12, at 135.

(370) Id.


(372) PRISONERS IN 2000, supra note 239, at 3, tbl.3.

(373) Holly Harris, Do 'Tough on Crime' State Legislators Have the Courage to Get Smart on Crime? We'll Soon See, LENS (Apr. 26, 2016),

(374) View from Inside, supra note 18.

(375) PRISONERS IN 2000, supra note 239, at 3, tbl.3.

(176) PAIGE M. HARRISON ET AL., U.S. DEP'T OP JUSTICE, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, NCJ 215092, PRISONERS IN 2005, at 4, tbl.4 (2006), [hereinafter PRISONERS IN 2005].

(377) These demographics reflect both men and women in prison, though it is worth nothing that the imprisonment rate for men is 1,669 per 100,000. PRISONERS IN 2010, supra note 239, at 9, tbl.4.

(378) PRISONERS IN 2014, supra note 14, at 6, tbl. 2.

(179) There are also another ten thousand or so people on any given day who are in jail awaiting trial in Louisiana. See DANIELLE KAEBLE ET AL., U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, NCJ 249513, CORRECTIONAL POPULATIONS IN THE UNITED STATES, 2014, at 17, app. tbl.1 (2015), U.S. Department of Justice statistics show 49,100 people in prison or local jails in 2014, when the total in prison was 38,000. Id. Additionally, there are over 70,000 people on probation or parole in Louisiana. Id.


(381) Bill Lodge, Beating Covered up at Angola, ADVOCATE, Dec. 14, 2012,

(382) Press Release, Former Louisiana Stale Corrections Official Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Violations, U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, (June 24, 2014),

(383) ALLEN J. BECK ET AL., U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, NCJ 241399, SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION IN PRISONS AND JAILS REPORTED BY INMATES, 2011-12, at 6 (2013),, reports sexual victimization in prisons occurs nationally at about four percent. These statistics are generally viewed as under-reported "because prisoners face the possibility of retaliation by both correctional staff and other prisoners." Maurice Chammah, Rape in the American Prison, ATLANTIC (Feb. 25, 2015), Other reports of released prisoners--a group likely still to under-report--reports a rate of ten percent. See Kari Huus, Report: Nearly 10 Percent of Inmates Suffer Sexual Abuse, MSNBC (May 17, 2012),

(384) Maya Lau, Warden Nate Cain Ordered Cover-up of Prison Rape Investigation, Corrections Officials Say, ADVOCATE, June 16, 2016,


(386) Id. at 6.

(387) Letter from Jeanne Woods, the Loyola Human Rights Advocacy Project, and nearly two dozen additional individuals, including the author, to Juan Mendez (Jun. 8, 2015) (on file with author). This letter outlined numerous violations of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Id.

(388) Rev. William Barnwell, Pondering 'Our Suicide Place-Solitary Confinement in Louisiana, LENS (Dec. 5, 2016),; Rev. William Barnwell, On Death Row, Terrance Carter Found a Deep Belief in God, TIMES-PICAYUNE (Apr. 8, 2016),

For a while, solitary confinement was in the CCR series of buildings that had been Camp A, the version of the Red Hat for black prisoners. Lane Nelson, Solitary, in THE WALL IS STRONG: CORRECTIONS IN LOUISIANA 207 (Burk Foster, et al. eds., Univ. of La. at Lafayette Press 4th ed. 2014).

Also, though the Red Hats were closed, in 1977 the authorities opened up the notorious Camp J, the punishment camp of Angola. Biggs, supra note 257.

(389) Letter from Representatives Cedric Richmond, John Conyers Jr., Jerold Nadler, and Robert Scott to Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Justice (July 12, 2013),

(390) Larry Sharp, Shackling the Soul, ANGOLITE, Nov,/Dec. 2012, at 26, 30.

(391) John Schwartz, Herman Wallace, Freed After 41 years in Solitary, Dies at 71, N.Y. TIMES (Oct. 4, 2013).

(392) Id.

(393) Andrew Cohen, Freedom After 30 Years on Death Row, ATLANTIC (Mar. 11, 2014),

(394) Id.; Meghan Keneally, Exonerated Angola Prisoner Dies After Nearly 30 Years in Solitary Confinement, ABC NEWS (Jun. 30, 2015),

(395) John Corley, Slowly Fade Away, ANGOLITE, Mar ./Apr. 2012, at 30, 31.

(396) See United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Ball v. LeBlanc, 792 F.3d 584, 590 (5th Cir. 2015).

(397) Joe Cyan Jr., Lawsuit Claims Angola Inmates Receive Grossly Inadequate Medical Care, ADVOCATE (May 21, 2015),; Class Action Complaint, Lewis v. Cain, 2015 WL 3398022 (M.D. La.) (hereinafter Complaint].

(398) Complaint, supra note 397, at para. 18

(399) Id.

(400) Id. at 25.

(401) Katie Rose Quandt & James Ridgeway, At Angola Prison, Getting Sick Can Be a Death Sentence, IN THESE TIMES (Dec. 20, 2016), http :// In 2015, there were fifty-eight deaths, a mortality rate of 923 deaths per 100,000 versus the national average of 274 deaths per 100,000. Id. Angola spends just under $3,000 per person on healthcare versus the national average of $6,047. Id.

(402) Id. Prisoners are charged $3 for routine sick calls, $6 for emergency calls, and $2 for prescriptions. Id.

(403) The Angola Prison Rodeo: Life, Death and Raging Bulls, ECONOMIST (May 8, 2014),

(404) Gannon, supra note 16. In 1970, 143 people in Louisiana were serving life without parole sentences; by 2012, the number increased to 4,637. AM. CIV. LIBERTIES UNION, A LIVING DEATH: LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE FOR NONVIOLENT OFFENSES 11 (2013), [hereinafter A LIVING DEATH].


(406) Angola Inmates, supra note 24. "Louisiana is the state with the highest number of prisoners serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses in the United States, with 429 such prisoners, 91 percent of whom are Black according to the ACLU's estimates." See also A LIVING DEATH, supra note 404.

(407) Wire to Wire, ANGOLITE, June-July/Aug. 2015 at 1.

(408) A LIVING DEATH, supra note 404, at 22.

(409) Id. at 6.

(410) Id.

(411) Id.

(412) Id. at 10.

(413) Id. at 7.

(414) John Corley, Aging Prisoners by the Numbers, ANGOLITE, Jan./Feb. 2013, at 36, 40.

(415) LEBLANC, supra note 405, at 41-42.

(416) Maya Lau, Steve Hardy & Gordon Russell, Investigative Report: Burl Cain's Business Dealings Possibly Violate Rule Barring Contact with Inmates' Relatives, ADVOCATE (NOV. 29, 2016),

(417) Gordon Russell, Ex-Angola Officials Charged with Theft of $140Kin Rodeo, Other Funds for Employee Recreation, ADVOCATE (Dec. 7, 2016),

(418) Joe Gyan Jr., 3 More Former Angola Guards Charged in Beating of Inmate and Alleged Cover-up, ADVOCATE (Nov. 2, 2016),

(419) Gordon Russell & Maya Lau, Louisiana Corrections Leader, Weathering Series of Scandals, Tasked with Once-in-a-Lifetime Reform, ADVOCATE (Dec. 17, 2016),

(420) Editorial, Our Views: An Outside Reformer for Insider System, ADVOCATE (Dec. 18, 2016),


(422) Id.

(423) Id.

(424) THE FAEM: ANGOLA, USA (Gabriel Films 1998).

(425) J. Douglas Murphy, Angola Charges 'Unfair,' TIMES-PICAYUNE, May 12, 1975, at 1.

(426) Benns, supra note 42; Maya Schenwar, Slavery Haunts America's Plantation Prisons, TRUTHOUT (Aug. 28, 2008), For a historical view of pictures of life at Angola, see Mike Scott, Angola Prison Through the Years: A Visual History of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, TIMES-PICAYUNE (Nov. 2, 2016, updated Nov. 3, 2016),

(427) Schenwar, supra note 426. New prisoners who work start at two cents per hour. Benns, supra note 42. Even inmates with significant skills, such as a certified sign language interpreter, "work for little or no pay." Mike Ludwig, No Way To Call Home: Incarcerated Deaf People Are Locked in a Prison Inside a Prison, TRUTHOUT (Aug. 22, 2016), Prisoner pay is regulated by the Louisiana Administrative Code, Title 22, "Corrections, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement," Section 331, "Offender Incentive Pay and Other Wage Compensation," last amended March 2018.

(428) Armstrong, supra note 101, at 909.

(429) Schenwar, supra note 426.

(430) James Ridgeway, God's Own Warden, MOTHER JONES (July/Aug. 2011),

(431) CI Facility Tour-Louisiana Stale Penitentiary at Angola, NAT'L CORR. INDUS. ASS'N (last visited May 20, 2018),

(432) Benns, supra note 42. There is a thirteen-minute video in this article showing people working in the fields.

(433) Sullivan, supra note 28.

(434) PRISONERS IN 2014, supra note 14.

(435) Recall that though the Red Hats were closed, in 1977 the authorities opened up the notorious Camp J, the punishment camp of Angola. Biggs, supra note 257.

(436) Angola Inmates, supra note 24.

(437) The jail and prison population in Louisiana continued to grow dramatically; in the 1980s, it was 10,957 people, but by 2011, it had ballooned to nearly 40,000. The Louisiana Department of Corrections publishes population trends going back to 1983, which illustrates the steady increase: in 1987, it was 14,719. In 1991, it was 18,632. In 1995, it was 24,099. In 1999, it was 32,417. In 2003, it was 35,474. In 2007, it was 36,481. In 2011, it was 39,476. In 2015, it was 37,739. LA. DEP'T OF PUB. SAFETY & CORR., CORRECTIONS SERVICES, BRIEFING BOOK: JULY 2016 UPDATE 1-9 (July 2, 2016),

(438) Andrea C Armstrong, No Prisoner Left Behind? Enhancing Public Transparency of Penal Institutions, 25 STAN. L. & POL'Y REV. 435, 463 (2014).

(439) Ridgeway, supra note 430.

(440) Complaint, supra note 397, at para. 1, 2.

(441) Complaint, supra note 397, at para. 19.

(442) Id.
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Author:Quigley, William
Publication:Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law
Date:Mar 22, 2018

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