Famed author, ex-inmate visits GSU

Dr. Marianne Fisher-Giorlando of GSU’s Criminal Justice Department held an informal reception for author Wilbert Rideau, an ex-convict of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, on Feb. 23. During his 44 years in the notorious Angola prison, Rideau was on Death Row for more than a decade and eventually became editor of The Angolite, a publication done by prisoners. The Angolite earned such acclaim that Rideau became known worldwide and was frequently interviewed on TV news programs and served as a correspondent for NPR’s Fresh Air.

At the reception, Rideau spoke briefly about The Angolite’s freedom to document what was going on at the prison which helped improve conditions, changing Angola from what was called “the bloodiest prison in the United States” to a much safer facility.

The reception, held at the Holiday Inn Express in Ruston, was attended by students, faculty and friends of Grambling State and Louisiana Tech universities. Rideau was accompanied by his wife, Linda.

Rideau appeared in the Performing Arts Center recital hall on Feb. 24 to share his experiences at Angola with a criminal justice class. The class was moved to the larger venue to accommodate other students, faculty and staff who wanted the chance to hear Rideau speak of his experiences as a prisoner and as a free man. He was released from Angola in 2005.

Dr. Giorlando met Rideau in 1992 when she went to Angola to do research. They became friends during her many subsequent visits.

Rideau said he learned to enjoy reading while incarcerated, crediting some “good correctional officers” who allowed him to read a “big heavy green sociology book.”

That appreciation for reading and his work on The Angolite have paid off since his release. His prison memoir, In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance, was released last year.