The Mark of Cain: God and Man at Angola Prison

The Associated Press today put out a laudatory piece on Warden Burl Cain’s program of Christian education at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. The article, which was picked up by the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and dozens of other publications, is sure to advance Cain’s reputation as a great prison reformer. The AP piece depicts Angola as […]

A Louisiana Inmate's Death Wish

Barring a last-minute stay (which is highly unlikely), Gerald Bordelon will, on Thursday night, become the first person executed in the state of Louisiana in almost eight years. Bordelon’s case is also remarkable because he has chosen not to appeal his death sentence. His right to make that choice that was upheld by the Louisiana Supreme […]

Southern Injustice: 37 Years in Solitary

Over the past year, I’ve been writing about the Angola 3 in a series of stories for Mother Jones. Earlier stories have highlighted the men’s federal lawsuit, which claims violations of their constitutional rights, and on Albert Woodfox’s criminal appeal. The latest story, by Jean Casella and myself, focuses on Herman Wallace, and was published last week. For the better part of […]

A Lonely--and Preventable--Death in a Vermont Prison

Twenty-three-year-old Ashley Ellis wasn’t officially in solitary confinement, but she was alone in her one-person cell when she died last August at Northwest State Correctional Facility in Swanton, Vermont. She had failed to receive the common over-the-counter supplement she needed for a life-threatening condition, despite having begged for it so often that the guards were calling […]

Rising Criticism of Tamms Illinois Supermax

Some of the best reporting on solitary confinement last year came from Beth Hundsdorfer and George Pawlaczyk at the Belleville News-Democrat, a regional paper in southwestern Illinois. Their multi-part series on the state’s twelve-year-old supermax prison, “Trapped in Tamms,” appeared in the paper in August. Their expose was particularly damning on the treatment of mentally ill inmates at Tamms. In a […]