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This Author: David Isay
This Narrator: Wilbert Rideau
This Publisher: Story Corps

Tossing Away the Keys by David Isay

Tossing Away the Keys

by David Isay

Title Details

Running Time
25 Min.


Tossing Away the Keys is a half-hour radio documentary about men serving life sentences without the possibility of parole at the nation's largest prison, the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. Monroe Green, Henry Patterson, Donald Buffet, Joe White and Moreese Bickham are among the longest of the "long-timers" at Angola. All are African American men who were convicted before the civil rights movement. At the time of their conviction, "life" in Louisiana meant a maximum of 10 years and 6 months. But during their incarceration, Louisiana changed its life sentence to mean exactly that: life without possibility of parole. Tossing Away the Keys tells the stories of these men who define themselves by name and number. Old-timers such as Patterson and White "wonder if it's really real": growing old in prison, where they watch their first grey hairs grow in, their family members die, and their health deteriorate. As narrator and prisoner Wilbert Rideau puts it, "The state is locking up large numbers of men and throwing away the keys so that they age and eventually die behind bars."

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