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

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Wilbert Rideau, an award-winning journalist who spent forty-four years in prison, delivers a remarkable memoir of crime, punishment, and ultimate triumph.
 
After killing a bank teller in a moment of panic during a botched robbery, Wilbert Rideau was sentenced to death at the age of nineteen. He spent several years on death row at Angola before his sentence was commuted to life, where, as editor of the prison newsmagazine The Angolite, he undertook a mission to expose and reform Louisiana's iniquitous justice system from the inside. Vivid, incisive, and compassionate, this is a detailed account of prison life and a man who accepted responsibility for his actions and worked to redeem himself. It is a story about not giving up; finding love in unexpected places; the power of kindness; and the ability to do good, no matter where you are.
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About the author

Wilbert Rideau was editor of The Angolite, a prison newsmagazine that during his tenure was nominated seven times for a National Magazine Award. While in prison, he was a correspondent for NPR’s Fresh Air; coproduced and narrated a radio documentary, “Tossing Away the Keys,” for NPR’s All Things Considered; served as correspondent for "In for Life" for ABC-TV's Day One”; and codirected the Academy Award–nominated film The Farm: Angola, USA. He is the recipient of a George Polk Award and an American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award, among others. He was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship in 2007 and works as a consultant with the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project. He lives in Louisiana.
 
www.wilbertrideau.com
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Reviews

4.7
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Additional Information

Publisher
Vintage
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Published on
Apr 27, 2010
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Pages
384
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ISBN
9780307593740
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
Language Arts & Disciplines / Journalism
Social Science / Penology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Pete Earley
A stunning account of life behind bars at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, where the nation’s hardest criminals do hard time.
 
“A page-turner, as compelling and evocative as the finest novel. The best book on prison I’ve ever read.”—Jonathan Kellerman
 
The most dreaded facility in the prison system because of its fierce population, Leavenworth is governed by ruthless clans competing for dominance. Among the “star” players in these pages: Carl Cletus Bowles, the sexual predator with a talent for murder; Dallas Scott, a gang member who has spent almost thirty of his forty-two years behind bars; indomitable Warden Robert Matthews, who put his shoulder against his prison’s grim reality; Thomas Silverstein, a sociopath confined in “no human contact” status since 1983; “tough cop” guard Eddie Geouge, the only officer in the penitentiary with the authority to sentence an inmate to “the Hole”; and William Post, a bank robber with a criminal record going back to when he was eight years old—and known as the “Catman” for his devoted care of the cats who live inside the prison walls.
 
Pete Earley, celebrated reporter and author of Family of Spies, all but lived for nearly two years inside the primordial world of Leavenworth, where he conducted hundreds of interviews. Out of this unique, extraordinary access comes the riveting story of what life is actually like in the oldest maximum-security prison in the country.
 
Praise for The Hot House
 
“Reporting at its very finest.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“The book is a large act of courage, its subject an important one, and . . . Earley does it justice.”—The Washington Post Book World
 
“[A] riveting, fiercely unsentimental book . . . To [Earley’s] credit, he does not romanticize the keepers or the criminals. His cool and concise prose style serves him well. . . . This is a gutsy book.”—Chicago Tribune
 
“Harrowing . . . an exceptional work of journalism.”—Detroit Free Press
 
“If you’re going to read any book about prison, The Hot House is the one. . . . It is the most realistic, unbuffed account of prison anywhere in print.”—Kansas City Star
 
“A superb piece of reporting.”—Tom Clancy
Ozzy Osbourne
"They've said some crazy things about me over the years. I mean, okay: 'He bit the head off a bat.' Yes. 'He bit the head off a dove.' Yes. But then you hear things like, 'Ozzy went to the show last night, but he wouldn't perform until he'd killed fifteen puppies . . .' Now me, kill fifteen puppies? I love puppies. I've got eighteen of the f**king things at home. I've killed a few cows in my time, mind you. And the chickens. I shot the chickens in my house that night.

It haunts me, all this crazy stuff. Every day of my life has been an event. I took lethal combinations of booze and drugs for thirty f**king years. I survived a direct hit by a plane, suicidal overdoses, STDs. I've been accused of attempted murder. Then I almost died while riding over a bump on a quad bike at f**king two miles per hour.

People ask me how come I'm still alive, and I don't know what to say. When I was growing up, if you'd have put me up against a wall with the other kids from my street and asked me which one of us was gonna make it to the age of sixty, which one of us would end up with five kids and four grandkids and houses in Buckinghamshire and Beverly Hills, I wouldn't have put money on me, no f**king way. But here I am: ready to tell my story, in my own words, for the first time.

A lot of it ain't gonna be pretty. I've done some bad things in my time. I've always been drawn to the dark side, me. But I ain't the devil. I'm just John Osbourne: a working-class kid from Aston, who quit his job in the factory and went looking for a good time."
William Queen
In 1998, William Queen was a veteran law enforcement agent with a lifelong love of motorcycles and a lack of patience with paperwork. When a “confidential informant” made contact with his boss at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, offering to take an agent inside the San Fernando chapter of the Mongols (the scourge of Southern California, and one of the most dangerous gangs in America), Queen jumped at the chance, not realizing that he was kicking-starting the most extensive undercover operation inside an outlaw motorcycle gang in the history of American law enforcement.

Nor did Queen suspect that he would penetrate the gang so successfully that he would become a fully “patched-in” member, eventually rising through their ranks to the office of treasurer, where he had unprecedented access to evidence of their criminal activity. After Queen spent twenty-eight months as “Billy St. John,” the bearded, beer-swilling, Harley-riding gang-banger, the truth of his identity became blurry, even to himself.

During his initial “prospecting” phase, Queen was at the mercy of crank-fueled criminal psychopaths who sought to have him test his mettle and prove his fealty by any means necessary, from selling (and doing) drugs, to arms trafficking, stealing motorcycles, driving getaway cars, and, in one shocking instance, stitching up the face of a Mongol “ol’ lady” after a particularly brutal beating at the hands of her boyfriend.

Yet despite the constant criminality of the gang, for whom planning cop killings and gang rapes were business as usual, Queen also came to see the genuine camaraderie they shared. When his lengthy undercover work totally isolated Queen from family, his friends, and ATF colleagues, the Mongols felt like the only family he had left. “I had no doubt these guys genuinely loved Billy St. John and would have laid down their lives for him. But they wouldn’t hesitate to murder Billy Queen.”

From Queen’s first sleight of hand with a line of methamphetamine in front of him and a knife at his throat, to the fearsome face-off with their decades-old enemy, the Hell’s Angels (a brawl that left three bikers dead), to the heartbreaking scene of a father ostracized at Parents’ Night because his deranged-outlaw appearance precluded any interaction with regular citizens, Under and Alone is a breathless, adrenaline-charged read that puts you on the street with some of the most dangerous men in America and with the law enforcement agents who risk everything to bring them in.


From the Hardcover edition.
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