Rare Glimpse Inside Angola, Part II !!
This is the second installment of my Angola series, the following paragraph is from the first entry.
I have a friend (let’s call him Paul) serving a decade in Angola. He never used a weapon but took any and all unlocked bicycles and entered unlocked cars and broke into glove boxes and took the contents. He was a heroin addict and came from a good uptown family and is a smart and nice guy. If you had him over the house he’d rob you blind if you turned your back. He would steal a 1,500 or $1,000 bike and sell it for $100.
One guy’s doing life plus 50 years for impregnating his 12 year old daughter. Paul ran across a mildly retarded monster of a black man who killed a guy on 2nd and Magazine who was Paul’s girlfriend’s best friend growing up in Metairie. She told him all about her friend Jonathan whose family used to take her in when things were bad for her at home. Jonathan was gay and always trying to help people out in the neighborhood. The guy killed him for his watch, the contents of his wallet and a stereo they stole from his house after stabbing him to death at his front door. Some (like him) are bad people, but most seem pretty regular. They have a few lifers in each dorm here and they serve as mentors to us guys that all have release dates (mostly within 10 years). They all have all been down for 20 years or more and are as rehabilitated as it gets, they are the nicest group you ever want to meet.
Most of them killed people in the heat of the moment when they were teenagers living in the violent street of New Orleans. Now, they are all about helping people, they teach classes (drug abuse, anger management, etc. etc.), give advice when asked, and help people with their legal work. They’re definitely not the same people they were when they committed their crimes that landed them in jail back in the 80s and 90s or even earlier. Life is life in this state and most will never leave. Out of 3,000 (65% African American) prisoners in America doing natural life sentences for non-violent offenses, fully one quarter of them are right here in Louisiana at Angola.
If Paul had taken his case to trial and been found guilty of anyone of the charges he would have been given life without the possibility of parole as a repeat offender. No matter how petty his non-violent drug addled property crimes were. He had no choice to sign away 10 years of his life for $10 worth of heroin and a stolen bicycle.
Every failed farming community around the state now has a private for profit prison, most of them in North Louisiana. To built here and create jobs they have a contract with the state that stipulates that the prison will keep their beds at at least 95% full at all times. Sick shit trafficking in misery and shattered lives and families. The politicians keep the sentences draconian because their constituents need jobs and they lobby for the prisons because it’s all about the money, big money. The gulags in Stalinist Russia didn’t lock up per capita as many people as modern day Louisiana does. Louisiana has the highest per capita prison population in the world. 90% of that population with non-violent property crimes or petty amounts of drugs.
Louisiana is sick and won’t stop even though the media and many politicians talk a lot about ending this mass incarceration of non-violent offenders for such a long time. Paul hopes the laws change and he doesn’t end up having to do all the time but he expects the worst and hopes for the best. Meanwhile, he sits, doing his time so far at the flagship of the state prison system and he’s thankful that he’s not in one of the private prisons that predominate in this state. They are truly hell holes in most every way fro what he’s heard. Hardly any yard time, guards don’t get paid shit so they are corrupt hence there’s lots more drugs and cell phones that people war over, the food (if possible) is even worse, much worse than state prisons.
So Paul is doing alright there, his friend Tod brought his mom, girlfriend and daughter to see him last weekend, driving up from New Orleans, and it was absolutely awesome. He misses his little girl more than he could ever put into words. So sad to see them leave and he has to walk back up to his hot as hell dormitory, full of noise, and stink and overcrowded to boot! 18 months down and only approximately 92 more months to go!