Wilbert Rideau reads In the Place of Justice_lowres


Wilbert Rideau may not be the most famous inmate to spend time in Louisiana's State Penitentiary at Angola. That dubious honor probably goes to the blues singer Leadbelly. But Rideau is one of the few inmates to become famous while in prison. He was incarcerated in 1961 at the age of 19 for murdering a woman during a failed robbery. He spent a dozen years on death row before his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Eventually he started writing for the prison's magazine, The Angolite, for which he gained great acclaim as a journalist, and he worked on the award-winning documentary The Farm: Angola, USA. Life magazine called him "the most rehabilitated prisoner in America." And Rideau often left the prison to give talks about life behind bars and prison reform. His first book, Life Sentences: Rage and Survival Behind Bars (Three Rivers), was a gripping collection of essays that included other prisoners' work. Since his release in 2005, he completed the autobiographical In the Place of Justice (Knopf), a lucid account of his crime and punishment and a thoughtful discussion of the workings of one of the nation's most infamous prisons. — Will Coviello

May 18

Wilbert Rideau reads from In the Place of Justice

6 p.m. Tuesday

Octavia Books, 513 Octavia St., 899-7323; www.octaviabooks.com