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This scene is not a glimpse of plantation days long gone by. It's the present-day reality of thousands of prisoners at the maximum security Louisiana State Penitentiary, otherwise known as Angola. The block of land on which the prison sits is a composite of several slave plantations, bought up in the decades following the Civil War. Acre-wise, it is the largest prison in the United States. Eighty percent of its prisoners are African-American.
"Angola is disturbing every time I go there," Tory Pegram, who coordinates the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, told Truthout. "It's not even really a metaphor for slavery. Slavery is what's going on."
Much of this overt racism stems from the way the basic system - and even the basic population - of Angola and its environs have remained static since the days of slavery, according to Pegram. After the plantation was converted to a prison, former plantation overseers and their descendants kept their general roles, becoming prison officials and guards. This white overseer community, called B-Line, is located on the farm's grounds, both close to the prisoners and completely separate from them. In addition to their prison labor, Angola's inmates do free work for B-Line residents, from cutting their grass to trimming their hair to cleaning up Prison View Golf Course, the only course in the country where players can watch prisoners laboring as they golf.
Most US citizens do not understand that all convicts are officially slaves.