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Radical Philosophy Review

Volume 3, Issue 1, 2000

Robert Perkinson
Pages 8-19

Angola and the Agony of Prison Reform

With 5,000 convicts, most of them lifers, working soy, corn, and cotton crops, Angola’s “penal slavery” system today eerily recalls Louisiana’s past investment in the peculiar institution. Present-day form of discipline (chain gangs and striped uniforms) also indicate that dehumanization and popular vengeance are the selling points of a new punishment order. Using “America’s worst prison” as a case study, the author charts an archeology of the penal system in the U.S. South, arguing that prison revolts, and particularly the heelslinger revolution of 1951, have historically ushered in significant if short-lived improvements in the penal system, and that activists in the free world must heed them in their efforts to bring about prison reform.

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