|Editor||Wilbert Rideau (original co editor 1975-1987, associate editor 1997-2005)|
|Company||Louisiana State Penitentiary|
|Based in||Angola, Louisiana|
As with the rest of the prison, The Angolite was segregated; originally only white prisoners, a minority at the facility, were allowed to work on it. Under federal court-ordered reforms, including desegregation of work assignments and programs, the prison warden picked Wilbert Rideau as editor in 1975. He was the first African-American editor of any prison newspaper in the United States. This choice was ratified in 1976 by a new prison warden. In 2009, the magazine published six issues annually. Louisiana prison officials believed that an independently edited publication would help the prison.
The Angolite gained a national reputation for reporting. It won international awards under prisoner co-editors Rideau and Billy Sinclair; Sinclair joined as co-editor in 1978. The magazine won the George Polk Award in 1979, for the articles "The Other Side of Murder" and "Prison: a Sexual Jungle".
The magazine won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award. The Angolite was the first prison publication ever to be nominated for a National Magazine Award, for which it was nominated seven times by early 1993. In 1993 the Columbia Journalism Review had referred to Rideau and Sinclair as "the Woodward and Bernstein of prison journalism."
In 1987 Sinclair disclosed that he had been cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in their investigation at the prison of a pardons-for-sale scheme. Eventually the state indicted the head of the pardons board, an appointee of Governor Edwin Edwards. No federal or state charges were made against Edwards. The New York Times said, "But news of Mr. Sinclair's role shattered The Angolite's credibility. Mr. Sinclair, now a snitch, has been transferred out of the prison for his own safety, leaving Mr. Rideau to confront skeptical readers and sources."
Federal authorities feared that Sinclair could be murdered in Angola. Jason Berry of The New York Times reported that "Sinclair became a pariah in the highly politicized prison system" and that he had "a bitter falling out with Rideau." Sinclair was moved by authorities to highly secure quarters within the Louisiana State Police Barracks, and later, the N-5 Special Management Unit cell block in the David Wade Correctional Center, for his protection. In 1987 Rideau said that he felt "betrayed" by Sinclair's actions and that The Angolite's credibility suffered with its readers. Sinclair said that a journalist agency in a prison could not operate like one in the free world.
In 1989, Sinclair filed a $100,000 federal lawsuit against Rideau, in an argument about authorship. Rideau had edited The Wall Is Strong: Corrections in Louisiana, " a compilation of magazine and newspaper articles, and papers from the Center for Criminal Justice Research of University of Southwestern Louisiana the university. About half the newspaper articles were from The Angolite. Sinclair said that four of the articles used in the book should have credited him in the bylines, and he accused Rideau of plagiarism. Sinclair also named as defendants Burk Foster, an LSU criminal justice professor; Hilton Butler, a former warden of LSP; and Roger Thomas, a former assistant warden at LSP. In 1991 Frank Polozola, the U.S. district judge, dismissed Sinclair's suit, because Sinclair had never obtained a copyright for the articles.
In 1988 Ron Gene Wikberg became associate editor on the magazine. He and Rideau collaborated on editing some compilations of articles and stories from the magazine. In 1991 they worked on a textbook, The Wall Is Strong: Corrections in Louisiana (1991). It was a compilation of magazine and newspaper articles, and papers from the Center for Criminal Justice Research of University of Southwestern Louisiana. Together they edited and published Life Sentences in 1992 (now out of print), articles and stories drawn from The Angolite. Wikberg was paroled in 1992.
Status within the prison
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In Angola in the early 21st century, some prisoners argue that the prison administration uses the magazine for propaganda. Scholar Kalen Mary Ann Churcher of Pennsylvania State University described it in 2008 as "a pseudo-pacifier for a select group of men who 'sold out' to the state and now get to walk through a few more doors unsupervised."
In 2010 Rideau said that even during the period when he was still incarcerated, the LSP administration under Burl Cain began "clamping down" on the newspaper. He was released in 2005 after a new trial in which he was convicted on lesser charges, for which he had served twice the maximum sentence. About the current magazine, he said,
If you pick up the magazine now, there's no controversy, there's no criticism of the administration or anything that's going on in the prison. There's a whole lot about sports and religion. They'll write about issues, but not about practices. Mostly it's about religion.
- "Rehabilitative Services / Work Programs Archived 2011-02-14 at the Wayback Machine." Louisiana State Pentientiary. Retrieved on August 29, 2010.
- "Time in Prison Archived 2012-10-23 at WebCite." Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections. 34/40. Retrieved on September 23, 2010.
- "TOPICS OF THE TIMES; Freedom Behind Bars." The New York Times. May 11, 1987. Retrieved on October 7, 2010.
- McConnaughey, Janet. Associated Press, "Jailhouse journalist is released", The Argus-Press. 24 December 2000. 8A. Retrieved from Google News (5 of 25) on October 7, 2010. "Under Rideau and Billy Sinclair who became coeditor in 1978 [...]
- "Associated Press, "U.S. APPEALS COURT THROWS OUT 1961 CONVICTION OF KILLER WHO BECAME A JOURNALIST IN PRISON", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 23 December 2000. News 17. Retrieved on October 27, 2010. "Under Rideau and Billy Wayne Sinclair, who became co-editor in 1978, the magazine won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the American Bar[...]"
- Crider, Billy. Associated Press, "Prison Success Story," The Evening Independent, 07 March 1980. 3A. Retrieved from Google Books (3 of 58) on October 27, 2010.
- "Press: Jail Journal." TIME. 10 March 1980. Retrieved on February 19, 2011.
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- Johnson, Allen, Jr. "Keys To Freedom." The Gambit. March 13, 2001. Retrieved on February 20, 2011.
- Berry, Jason. "Good Behavior", The New York Times. February 11, 2001. 2. Retrieved on October 28, 2010.
- Sinclair, Billy and Jodie Sinclair. A Life in the Balance: The Billy Wayne Sinclair Story. Arcade Publishing, 2000. 283. Retrieved from Google Books on October 28, 2010. ISBN 1-55970-555-8, ISBN 978-1-55970-555-4
- Foster, Mary. Associated Press, "Award-Winning Prison Writers Fall Out," Schenectady Gazette. November 22, 1989. B8. Retrieved from Google News (47 of 74) on November 12, 2010.
- Foster, Mary. Associated Press, "Prison Journalists Clash Over Who Wrote What," Los Angeles Times. 07 January 1990. Retrieved on November 12, 2010.
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- Wolfgang Saxon, Obituary: "Ron Wikberg, Prison Reporter And Author, 51", New York Times, 04 October 1994; accessed 21 May 2017
- "Eleventh Annual Thurgood Marshall Awards Announced." Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved on October 27, 2010.
- Churcher, Kalen Mary Ann. Self-governance, Normalcy and Control: Inmate-produced Media at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Pennsylvania State University. ProQuest, 2008. p. 84. ISBN 0-549-92173-7, ISBN 978-0-549-92173-8
- "Inside Man: An Interview with Wilbert Rideau." Mother Jones. Retrieved on October 27, 2010.