William, to be honest, the goal posts have been moved to them.
About five decades ago, they were promised that if they pleaded guilty, they would have a chance for parole. They will also have the opportunity to find freedom. But that did not happen. Many of them, as you said, are still in prisons. There are about 55 so-called “10/6 lifes”. Five of them have already been released from the Louisiana state prison, better known as Angola.
Keep in mind that they were sentenced in the 60s and 70s, which was a very different time then, especially for most of these African American men, who were not always guaranteed a fair trial. They were faced with a tough choice: Will we accept this plea bargain, or will we almost certainly face an electric shock in the state’s electric chair?
Many chose to live in Angola, the infamous 18,000-acre prison on a former slave plantation. Many of them said that if they knew they would spend the rest of their lives in prison, they would not have made a deal.
We met Louis Mitchell shortly after his release from prison. He’s been there since he was 19. He was charged with two rapes. Now he thinks he was deceived.
Louis Mitchell, 55-year prisoner: I didn’t want the death penalty, but I really didn’t want to plead guilty. But my lawyer said the best option for me was to plead guilty.
So I pleaded guilty to an agreement that, when I plead guilty, I get 10 years and six months.