The subjects, Robert King, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were imprisoned in Louisiana for crimes which ordinarily would have seen their release with a fairly standard period of imprisonment. Instead, following the horrific death of a prison officer and later another inmate, all three were convicted of murder or conspiracy to murder on unreliable and inconsistent evidence from fellow inmates after little or no investigation, without proper legal representation, before biased juries and in an era of segregation and prejudice. One eventually secured his release with a plea bargain. The other two are still detained in closed cell restriction clinging to their wit to survive.

Narrated by Samuel L Jackson (pictured), it soon becomes clear there is scant evidence to support the convictions and ample evidence that their treatment has been inhumanly cruel as they have been “confined to oblivion”; held for decades in tiny cells in a Louisiana correctional facility known as Angola and built on a former slave plantation.

Campaigning for release

Since his release, Robert King has campaigned tirelessly and with grace and dignity for the release of his former fellow convicts. All three are intelligent and erudite and have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of justice and black emancipation, challenging the system at every turn and surviving isolation and degradation, sometimes just by playing chess.


Vadim Jean’s movie allows us to confront the ease with which serious human abuses can occur and be tolerated. The film is presented in a digestible and thought provoking format which leaves you feeling quite uplifted at the power of an individual to survive.

“In the Land of the Free ...”
Released March 2010
Directed by Vadim Jean
Narrated by Samuel L Jackson
Running time: 84 minutes
Certificate 15

Felicity Gerry is a barrister at 36 Bedford Row and co-author of The Sexual Offences Handbook