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In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  344 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
From Wilbert Rideau, the award-winning journalist who spent forty-four years in Louisiana prisons working against unimaginable odds to redeem himself, the story of a remarkable life: a crime, its punishment, and ultimate triumph.

After killing a woman in a moment of panic following a botched bank robbery, Rideau, denied a fair trial, was improperly sentenced to death at the
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Published April 27th 2010 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2010)
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No one can fault this book for what it is. It's an extraordinary tale (what a cliche) of one man's struggle for freedom, as he survives a life behind bars. What's great about this book: Rideau never once shies away from admitting he killed a woman, and we know this from the very beginning. And it's hard not to find his tale of rehabilitation in one of America's toughest prisons (Angola in Louisiana) impressive. Yet, even he admits that part of that was sheer dumb luck. Had he not been sentenced ...more
Nov 21, 2011 Kathrina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs-bios, lock-up
Incredibly detailed account of a man imprisoned at 19 years of age for murdering a white woman in 1961, but developed into a mature, thoughtful and successful journalist within Angola Prison. He made great gains for prison reform and for freeing individuals wrongfully incarcerated. Proof positive that literacy interventions, information resources, and respect for individuals' rights and attitudes of self-worth within the prison system create a better outcome for all, as opposed to a philosophy b ...more
Non-fiction can be scary to read because it is NON fiction. For Wilbert Rideau, a black man, to have survived after being sentenced for death after killing a white woman in 1961 Louisiana, and then becoming "the most rehabilitated prisoner in America" is amazing.

I reviewed this book for New York Journal of Books, but in short I recommend this book to everyone because it's not JUST about racism in America's penal system, but about American JUSTICE. What the author relates is backed up by court do

April 27, 2010 A death row inmate finds redemption as a prison journalist in this uplifting memoir. In 1961, after a bungled bank robbery, Rideau was convicted of murder at the age of 19 and received a death sentence that was later commuted to life in prison at Louisiana's Angola penitentiary, then the most violent in the nation. Against all expectations, his own included, he turned his up-to-then cursed life around, becoming editor of the prison newsmagazine, the Angolite, and an NPR correspon

Jun 03, 2010 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was quite engaged by this biography for two reasons. Firstly, it read like a novel, because it contained large amounts of dialogue, which helps to break up the text and improves the flavour you get for the setting. Secondly, I'd just been reading about racism in the American South recently, in The Help, so In the Place of Justice continued on a thread I already had open and primed by another fine book.

Before this, I had never thought to try to find out what prison might really be like. I was s
Mar 04, 2011 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who thinks racism is dead and gone in 21st century America, or just words on a page, needs to read Rideau's story. A bit lengthy at times, it is intense and fascinating. Rideau committed an impulsive crime at age 19 for which he was railroaded onto death row. Feel sorry for him? Well, he doesn't feel sorry for himself so get past that. Three trials and forty-four years later he's one of the longest-serving prisoners in Louisiana and doing time with him is a real eye-opener into issues of ...more
Mar 24, 2014 Casey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, criminology
Capote-esque in its narrative, "In the Place of Justice" chronicles Wilbert Rideau's 44 year incarceration in the Louisiana penal system. Convicted at age 19 of capital murder in the Jim Crow South, Rideau's is a tale of overcoming both institutional racism and personal demons. He never shies away from the truth, including his role in his victim's death, which is a testament to his true journalistic integrity. As the NY Times Book Review stated, "Rideau is the rarest of American commodities - a ...more
May 21, 2010 Janie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good read but I got bored reading the same ole' same ole' page after page. I also felt the writer was a bit over the top consistently taking about "me" to the point of losing sight of the fact he was in prison for a reason.
Aug 13, 2010 Elyssa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Excellent memoir by a man who was imprisoned in Angola for 44 years. He provides an insider's view of the criminal justice system from 1961-2005 that is unique and worth reading.
Alex Rogers
This is quite an incredible story, and I really enjoyed the first half. Rideau has lived an extraordinary life, and is clearly very smart and erudite - for someone self-taught, he is quite amazing. But the book really ran out of steam and got very repetitive / dull towards the end. I also felt that he wasn't being honest with himself or the reader about the motives and events regarding his initial crime - which cast doubts on the veracity of much of the rest of it. I don't doubt the facts - but ...more
Jan 05, 2014 Barbaraleah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wilbert Rideau is sentenced to death row for killing a woman in a botched robbery attempt. Let me say first and foremost, he consistently expresses his remorse for what he did. However, much of what he writes teaches us about the penal system in this country. The story is a spell-binding, incisive look into our prisons. It is a story of rehabilitation and redemption.
The story dragged a bit but I am not sure what he could have cut out. I guess that's why I'm not an editor.
As late, I have been rea
This was such an interesting, enlightening and baffling book. (Having read at least a few nonfiction books about life in the South in the 1960s, I don't question the accuracy of what is written. For one, I have to assume that a man who built great success and following in journalism for 25 years would be telling the truth.) I found myself wondering on so many occasions, "how could this have happened?" and "how could those people have been at peace with themselves for weaving such lies?"

It amaze
Paul Pessolano
Feb 07, 2011 Paul Pessolano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wilbert Rideau was nineteen years old in 1961. An African American living in Lake Charles, Louisiana, born into a poor family with little hope of improving himself.

In a botched bank robbery he murders a yound lady and is sentenced to death.

Thus begins his remarkable life in the penal system of Louisiana. He is sent to Angola State Penitentiary, the Alcatraz of the South. He spends the next 44 years in various Louisiana prisons, but most are spent in Angloa. He spends 12 years on death row and 11
Mar 01, 2011 Miles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
It’s incomprehensible to imagine what Wilbert Rideau, and prisoners like him, went through during his incarceration in the infamous Angola prison in Louisiana. In an era where racial equality was non-existent, where 85% of the prison’s population were black – later that was reduced to an 80-20% ratio – and the prison run by “rednecks”, I find it miraculous that he managed not only to successfully educate himself but to rehabilitate to such a degree that made him the envy of many journalists and ...more
elliott C
Sep 07, 2010 elliott C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This has to be one of the best written books of the year, an american literary treasure for sure. Rideau is something like a Melville, a Faulkner... maybe somewhere between Gore Vidal and Junot Diaz.

What I found the most interesting in his style is the portrayal of his characters. I was expecting Rideau to give malice, pettiness, calumny to some of his characters, I thought there would be simmering resentment splashing over into the plot creating a critical world: nope. Every character in this
Nov 21, 2013 Judith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Curses! I did not write a journal entry about this right after I read it! So now I have to write something rather more condensed because my memory is not that sharp.

I first heard of this book in an interview on the radio. Ordered it. I had not started it when I came across a companion book by someone who was also in the same prison with Wilbert, who worked with him on the prison newspaper for a time. Eventually there was some bad blood between the two, with the second accusing Rideau of selling
This is the memoir of Wilbert Rideau who in 1961, at the age of 19, was convicted or murder of a white woman during a bodged bank robbery. Sentenced to death by a racially biased judical system, he was on death row at Angola, Louisana's notoriously violent penitentiary. He suffered years on death row and in solitary whilst appealing against his sentence, and was eventually resentenced to a life when in 1972 the US Supreme Court abolished the death penalty. While having only a ninth-grade educati ...more
May 10, 2011 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In The Place Of Justice is a totally absorbing, exceedingly well-written book about the author's 50-year experience in Louisiana's Angola Prison.

Wilbert Rideau, the book's author, was convicted of murder in 1961 (correctly---he acknowledges his guilt) and sent to Angola, one of the nation's most notorious maximum security prisons. Once imprisoned, Rideau taught himself how to read and write, eventually acquiring a level of literacy that enabled him to become first a writer for, then the editor
Marissa Sainz
The story of Wilbert Rideau is a long an tortured one. It is hard to fathom the number of obstacles that he had to overcome to earn his freedom. His story is one based around the racial injustices of the 1960s. The number of times that this man should have been put to death and was instead saved is enough to make you believe that there is a God that was carefully watching over him. Rideau spent over forty years in jail and over this time made the most of his existence through his writing. With e ...more
Aug 01, 2010 Mark rated it liked it
This the true story of a man who committed a stupid, tragic crime. Wilbert Rideau is sentenced first to death, then life in prison. Rideau's life in prison is extraordinary, as he becomes an influential prisoner and writer. His story is amazing, both for how he managed to create an important life while behind bars and for the machinations the state of Louisiana goes through to keep him imprisoned. Rideau is a talented writer and it is understandable that after almost forty years he wanted to get ...more
Three years later, I'm glad I gave this book another chance. Though not for the faint of heart, this is a powerful and uplifting story of grievous mistakes made, accountability, sincere regret, and redemption - in a place well-known for its hellish reputation. I have been to Angola for the rodeo and watched a few documentaries about its inmates and I have seen the sorrow and remorse in the eyes of many there. It has been fascinating, heartbreaking, and enlightening to learn more about the justic ...more
Jul 27, 2010 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. I enjoyed the story and the inside picture of something I simply do not understand. I considered the writing easy to read and engaging. Considering the history of the Author I felt the writing was very good. Character development was a little poor for some of the characters in the middle of the book, however this was made up for with the development of the major characters that influenced Wilbert's life both in prison and out.
I have read some reviews online that detrac
Chris Bartholomew
Mar 01, 2014 Chris Bartholomew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book. An autobiography of a black teenager who killed a white women in the 1950's white southern state of Louisiana. He spent the next 44 years in prison. He educated himself in prison and became a writer of some renown. A good deal of his story is his attempt to break through racial bias and to win his release from prison after completing the sentence and punishment meted out to prisoners of similar crimes across the nation. It is an interesting story and he tells it in a fair and I woul ...more
Apr 01, 2012 Maren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-issues
I hesitate to say anything critical, because I only had to read the story, not live through it, but this book could have been exceptional with some additional editing. As it is, it is likely to lose some readers as it drags on through year after year after year of this man's life. I find this unfortunate, because it is undoubtedly a story that needs to be told. As one who works in the criminal justice system, it is easy to lose sight of both what needs to change and how far we have already come. ...more
Sep 10, 2011 Nathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wilbert Rideau writes an excellent autobiography accounting his 44 years behind bars, and his ensuing rehabilitation, in one of the most violent prisons in the US. Guilty of murdering a white woman in panic during a botched bank robbery at the age of 19, he is nearly lynched by a white mob crowd before facing a racist court in 1961. This is an incredible story of the prison system, culture, politics, and struggles of those we typically lock up and throw away. But more, it is a story of redemptio ...more
Jan 28, 2015 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The amazing true account by one of the country's important prison journalists. Wlibert Rideau's story of living in Louisiana's Angola Prison is riveting literature. You can never look at the justice system the same way after reading this book.
Sep 15, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know where to start.

If you don't believe in redemption, if you believe in the death penalty, read this. It may change your mind.

Gosh it made me mad, and sad, and happy, and reflective.

The US justice system is (?was) open to such abuse of power.

Honestly. I recommend this book to Everyone. It isn't easy - in terms of hearing what is said - it is very readable - from late teens up I would say.

A very moving and profound book that has stayed with me weeks after reading it.

That poor man. Wilb
Jul 29, 2011 Marcos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's an honest, raw memoir of a man who does good, and serves his time with honor and dignity. It's an insightful book that honestly illustrates that everyone is redeemable and worthy of a second chance by proving it with diligence and patience. It's also an indictment about no matter how evil prisoners can be, and how society perceives prisoners, no one ever deserves to live inhumanly.
Sexual slavery, the annual Angola prison, being fried to death by electric chair--all forms of human cruelty th
Aug 09, 2015 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rideau's story is one that needs to be told. It was long, dense, painful, and heart wrenching, but I'm so glad I read it. Rideau touches on so much in the books hundreds of pages. Whether it be the racism of the 60s, the inequity in our judicial system, the censorship of our mainstream media, depression, or the prison system, there is so much to soak up, and Rideau does a great job laying it all out for the readers. I had some issues with some of the things he said, as expected when you read a s ...more
Sep 07, 2015 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favourite memoirs of all time.
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