“A Prisoner’s Poem” ran in a 1995 issue of The Angolite, out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary commonly known as Angola. Angola was notorious for its bloodiness, so it comes as little surprise this poem is about living surrounded by violence. Fredi Gibson used creative expression to reconcile with the brutality to which he was confined.
“A Prisoner’s Poem” spans half of the first page and most of the next page. JSTOR Daily encourages you to read it in its entirety. Gibson opines on the motives behind the murder, whether or not the victim suspected his death was near, and on the purposefulness of paranoia.
Lousiana holds the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the nation. Though it has not executed anyone in over a decade, at the writing of the poem the state was still regularly carrying out death sentences.
“Some people murder to hide their failures
While others build prisons to murder the murderers
Both ideas are insane”
The Angolite is one of the most famous prison newspapers within the American Prison Newspapers collection. It won multiple awards for its high quality journalism, including the George Polk Award in 1979 for its articles “The Other Side of Murder” and “Prison: A Sexual Jungle,” which contradicted the official narrative that sexual violence in prison was being perpetrated by “homosexuals.”
The issues of The Angolite within the collection span decades and each one is eminently readable.