The Angolite

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The Angolite
Frequency Bimonthly
Year founded 1976
Company Louisiana State Penitentiary
Country United States
Based in Angola, Louisiana
Language English
ISSN 0402-4249
The Angolite is published from the Louisiana State Penitentiary

The Angolite is the inmate published and edited magazine of the Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola) in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana.


In 1976 the administration allowed the magazine to begin.[1] Each year, six issues are published.[2] Louisiana prison officials believed that an independently edited publication would help the prison. The Angolite gained a national reputation as a quality magazine and won international awards under two prisoner editors, Wilbert Rideau and Billy Sinclair,[3] who became co-editors in 1978.[4] The magazine won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award.[5] In 1979, Rideau and Sinclair won the George Polk Award for the articles "The Other Side of Murder" and "Prison: a Sexual Jungle".[5][6][7] The Angolite was the first prison publication ever to be nominated for a National Magazine Award, for which it was nominated seven times.[8] The Columbia Journalism Review once referred to Rideau and Sinclair as "the Woodward and Bernstein of prison journalism."[9]

Wilbert Rideau was one of two co-editors of The Angolite

By 1987 Sinclair disclosed that he was an informant of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, investigating a scheme involving the sale of pardons. The New York Times stated "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."[3]

Federal authorities feared that Sinclair could be murdered in Angola. Jason Berry of The New York Times said that "Sinclair became a pariah in the highly politicized prison system" and that Sinclair had "a bitter falling out with Rideau."[10] Sinclair moved to the Louisiana State Police Barracks,[11] and later, the N-5 Special Management Unit cell block in the David Wade Correctional Center because of the stigma against "snitches" in prison. 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.[12]

By 1989,[13] Sinclair filed a $100,000 federal lawsuit against Rideau, concerning the textbook "The Wall Is Strong: Corrections in Louisiana," a University of Southwestern Louisiana composition of magazine and newspaper articles and papers from the Center for Criminal Justice Research of the university. Rideau edited the book, and about half of the book's articles originated from The Angolite. Sinclair said that four of the articles quoted in the book should have his name in the bylines, and Sinclair accused Rideau of plagiarism.[14] Sinclair also named as defendants Burk Foster, a LSU criminal justice professor; Hilton Butler, a former warden of LSP; and Roger Thomas, a former assistant warden. Frank Polozola, the U.S. district judge, dismissed Sinclair's suit, because Sinclair had never obtained a copyright for the articles.[15]

Rideau said that when he was incarcerated, the LSP administration began "clamping down" on the newspaper. Rideau 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."[16] In 2007 The Angolite received the 11th annual Thurgood Marshall Journalism Award for Print Journalism for its record of journalism.[17]

Status within the prison[edit]

In Angola, some prisoners argue that the prison administration uses it as propaganda and, in the words of Kalen Mary Ann Churcher of Pennsylvania State University, "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."[18]


  1. ^ "Rehabilitative Services / Work Programs." Louisiana State Pentientiary. Retrieved on August 29, 2010.
  2. ^ "Time in Prison." Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections. 34/40. Retrieved on September 23, 2010.
  3. ^ a b "TOPICS OF THE TIMES; Freedom Behind Bars." The New York Times. May 11, 1987. Retrieved on October 7, 2010.
  4. ^ McConnaughey, Janet. "Jailhouse journalist is released." Associated Press at The Argus-Press. Sunday December 24, 2000. 8A. Retrieved from Google News (5 of 25) on October 7, 2010. "Under Rideau and Billy Sinclair who became coeditor in 1978 [...]
  5. ^ a b "U.S. APPEALS COURT THROWS OUT 1961 CONVICTION OF KILLER WHO BECAME A JOURNALIST IN PRISON." Associated Press at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. December 23, 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[...]"
  6. ^ Crider, Billy. "Prison Success Story." Associated Press at The Evening Independent. Friday March 7, 1980. 3A. Retrieved from Google Books (3 of 58) on October 27, 2010.
  7. ^ "Press: Jail Journal." TIME. Monday March 10, 1980. Retrieved on February 19, 2011.
  8. ^ George Colt, “The Most Rehabilitated Prisoner in America,” Life, March 1993, pp 69-76.
  9. ^ Johnson, Allen, Jr. "Keys To Freedom." The Gambit. March 13, 2001. Retrieved on February 20, 2011.
  10. ^ Berry, Jason. "Good Behavior." The New York Times. February 11, 2001. 2. Retrieved on October 28, 2010.
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ Johnson, Allen Jr. "Shared Fate." Gambit Weekly. March 20, 2001. Retrieved on October 2, 2010.
  13. ^ Foster, Mary. "Award-Winning Prison Writers Fall Out." Associated Press at the Schenectady Gazette. November 22, 1989. B8. Retrieved from Google News (47 of 74) on November 12, 2010.
  14. ^ Foster, Mary. "Prison Journalists Clash Over Who Wrote What." Associated Press at the Los Angeles Times. January 7, 1990. Retrieved on November 12, 2010.
  15. ^ "Inmate plagiarism suit dismissed." The Advocate. February 13, 1991. Retrieved on February 19, 2011.
  16. ^ "Inside Man: An Interview with Wilbert Rideau." Mother Jones. Retrieved on October 27, 2010.
  17. ^ "Eleventh Annual Thurgood Marshall Awards Announced." Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved on October 27, 2010.
  18. ^ 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

External links[edit]