Wilbert Rideau

Author of In the Place of Justice and tireless advocate for criminal justice reform

  • About Wilbert Rideau

    After killing a woman in a moment of panic following a botched bank robbery, 19-year-old Wilbert Rideau, denied a fair trial, was sentenced to death. He served 44 years in Louisiana prisons, mainly in the notorious state penitentiary at Angola. He was on death row for 12 years, in solitary confinement for over 11 years, and had four trials—and yet he maintained a strength of body and spirit, fighting to reform the state’s corrupt penal system.

    While in prison, Rideau became editor of the prison newsmagazine The Angolite, which under his leadership became an uncensored, daring, and crusading journal that won accolades, including a George Polk journalism award for Rideau himself. Still in prison, Rideau corresponded for National Public Radio, collaborated on “In for Life” for ABC-TV’s Day One, and even co-directed the Academy Award–nominated documentary film The Farm: Angola, USA. In 1993, Rideau was described by Life magazine as “the most rehabilitated prisoner in America.” A jury acquitted Rideau of murder and convicted him of the lesser crime of manslaughter, which was punishable by 21 years in prison. Since he had served 44, he was immediately freed. He was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship in 2007. In 2010 Alfred A. Knopf published his memoir In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance.

    Rideau lectures around the country at journalism schools, law institutions, and conferences for defense attorneys. He recently spoke at Zócalo Public Square in Los Angeles, where he discussed the importance of prison reform. In addition to writing and speaking, Rideau currently works as a consultant to capital defense teams in both federal and state cases around the country. He lives with his wife in Louisiana, where he treasures his freedom to tend his garden and train for a marathon.

  • Speaking Topics

    Against All Odds: The Value of Hope and Perseverance

    Rideau v. Louisiana: The Untold Story of a Landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

    The World of Prison: Myth versus Reality

    Lifting Censorship and Prison Reform: Maximum Benefit, Minimum Cost

    A Free Press Behind Bars: The Angolite Experience and Prison Journalism

    How to Avoid the Mistakes Capital Defense Attorneys Commonly Make: See Yourself Through Your Client's Eyes

    A Stranger in the House: Reentry of Ex-Cons

    Capital Defense Attorneys: Thanks for Doing a Thankless Job

    The Power One Person Has to Make a Difference

    Faith, Hope, and Charity: And the Greatest of These Is Charity

    Categories: Diverse Voices
  • Video

  • Praise for Wilbert Rideau

    He was a compelling and professional speaker, and the university considers it the best event we’ve had in several years.

    Sandra Quinn, St. Ambrose University

    Praise for In the Place of Justice

    Incisive . . . As emotional, as any words I’ve read in a long time.

    Dwight Garner, The New York Times

    Riveting . . . Amazing . . . The picture of prison life painted by Rideau isn’t the one portrayed in many movies. . . . Now he has provided a wonderful chance to share his remarkable life.

    Associated Press
  • Books by Wilbert Rideau

  • Media About Wilbert Rideau

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  • 212 572-2013
  • Wilbert Rideau travels from Baton Rouge, LA

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