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The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison


The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison

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Sprawled out over 18,000 acres in Louisiana, Angola is the largest and most notorious maximum-security penitentiary in the country, holding inmates with long sentences in a state that shows little flexibility when it comes to parole. About 85% will die there and, of those, more than 70% are black. That it rests on a former slave plantation, where inmates are paid four cents an hour for contributing their labor to a multimillion-dollar farming business, is just one of the ironies and injustices exposed in The Farm, a powerful and moving survey of prison life. Shot over the course of one year, the Academy Award-nominated documentary follows six inmates in different stages of their sentencing, from a 23-year-old newcomer with a life sentence to a convicted killer on death row. Each struggles in his own way to resign himself to the crushing inevitability that Angola will be his home while, at the same time, holding on to a glimmer of hope that he'll eventually be released or, in some cases, exonerated. But the system turns away from redeemable characters and even possibly innocent ones. In one shocking sequence, a man 20 years into an aggravated-rape charge presents the parole board with compelling evidence, only to be denied in insultingly short order. The Farm has many such unforgettable moments, including an orientation in which new prisoners are told that their loved ones will no longer stay in touch with them, a clown brought into solitary confinement to relieve holiday depression, and a terminally ill inmate who chooses against his family's wishes to be buried alongside his friends in the prison cemetery. Though Angola's reputation for violence remains conspicuously unexplored, The Farm is nonetheless an urgent and gripping indictment of an inhumane system.