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“This letter serves as your official notice. The parole period for Ralph Angel Bordelon concluded on July 31st of this year. No further obligations in connection with the below listed conviction are due to the state of Louisiana.”
QUEEN SUGAR, Season 4, Episode 1

“This letter serves as your official notice. The parole period for Ralph Angel Bordelon concluded on July 31st of this year. No further obligations in connection with the below listed conviction are due to the state of Louisiana.”
QUEEN SUGAR, Season 4, Episode 1

The rights of the formerly incarcerated in the United States is a recurring theme in the television series QUEEN SUGAR. This lesson explores the barriers faced by parolees and why recidivism rates remain high.

Although he wants to honor his father by farming the family land, reality sets in when Ralph Angel’s parole officer informs him that he needs to find a steady paying job and work 40 hours a week in order to fulfill the terms of his parole.

Video clip courtesy of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network

The rights of the formerly incarcerated in the United States is a recurring theme in the television series QUEEN SUGAR. This lesson explores the barriers faced by parolees and why recidivism rates remain high.

Although he wants to honor his father by farming the family land, reality sets in when Ralph Angel’s parole officer informs him that he needs to find a steady paying job and work 40 hours a week in order to fulfill the terms of his parole.

Video clip courtesy of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network

LESSON FOUR

Key Themes

1. Incarceration and reentry
2. Recidivism
3. Restorative Justice

After completing this lesson, learners will have a better understanding of the challenges faced by people who are formerly incarcerated, the barriers they face returning to life beyond incarceration and why the recidivism rates remain high.

LESSON FOUR

Objectives

At the end of this lesson, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the historical background of incarceration and its links to enslavement
  • Support and advocate for formerly incarcerated persons
  • Explore challenges the formerly incarcerated face upon reentry
  • Identify factors that contribute to recidivism

LESSON FOUR

Introduction

In QUEEN SUGAR, Ralph Angel Bordelon is a single father. He is also a formerly incarcerated Black man. Multiple episodes of QUEEN SUGAR highlight this invisible but significant population.

Hannah Giorgis, Culture Writer for Buzzfeed News, expressed how “QUEEN SUGAR excels at navigating the most personal effects of the prison-industrial complex, painting a picture of the ways in which incarceration holds people back from fulfilling promises they’ve made to themselves and to others. In Ralph Angel’s case, there is redemption to be found; but for so many others, incarceration is an insurmountable hurdle.”

QUEEN SUGAR is set in Louisiana, which was at one time home to the largest slave market in North America and currently leads the world in mass incarcerations at the rate of 1,094 per 100,000 people. The largest maximum security prison in the U.S. sits atop 18,000 acres of Louisiana soil in West Feliciana Parish and is dubbed “The Farm.” Known by many as Angola, this prison was once recognized as the most dangerous in the United States. Many of the inmates were descendents of chattel slaves who—in the not too distant past—worked the very same land on which the prison sits.

Even though the national incarceration rate is at its lowest in 20 years, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Roughly a quarter of the population are in federal prisons, local jails and detention centers.

While we don’t know what criminal charge put Ralph Angel in prison, or how long he was incarcerated, we meet him as he navigates the system of parole. Parole is a conditional freedom for those who have been incarcerated. If released from prison on parole, a parolee must meet a specific set of conditions for a specified period of time. If these conditions are not met at any point during the parole period, the parolee can be returned to prison. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at the end of 2020 approximately 7 in 10, or 3,890,400 formerly incarcerated persons were under correctional probation surveillance or parole.

Micah tells the full story of his police altercation.
Video clip courtesy of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network

LESSON FOUR

Introduction

In QUEEN SUGAR, Ralph Angel Bordelon is a single father. He is also a formerly incarcerated Black man. Multiple episodes of QUEEN SUGAR highlight this invisible but significant population.

Hannah Giorgis, Culture Writer for Buzzfeed News, expressed how “QUEEN SUGAR excels at navigating the most personal effects of the prison-industrial complex, painting a picture of the ways in which incarceration holds people back from fulfilling promises they’ve made to themselves and to others. In Ralph Angel’s case, there is redemption to be found; but for so many others, incarceration is an insurmountable hurdle.”

QUEEN SUGAR is set in Louisiana, which was at one time home to the largest slave market in North America and currently leads the world in mass incarcerations at the rate of 1,094 per 100,000 people. The largest maximum security prison in the U.S. sits atop 18,000 acres of Louisiana soil in West Feliciana Parish and is dubbed “The Farm.” Known by many as Angola, this prison was once recognized as the most dangerous in the United States. Many of the inmates were descendents of chattel slaves who—in the not too distant past—worked the very same land on which the prison sits.

Even though the national incarceration rate is at its lowest in 20 years, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Roughly a quarter of the imprisoned population are in federal prisons, local jails and detention centers.

While we don’t know what criminal charge put Ralph Angel in prison, or how long he was incarcerated, we meet him as he navigates the system of parole. Parole is a conditional freedom for those who have been incarcerated. If released from prison on parole, a parolee must meet a specific set of conditions for a specified period of time. If these conditions are not met at any point during the parole period, the parolee can be returned to prison. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at the end of 2020 approximately 7 in 10, or 3,890,400 formerly incarcerated persons were under correctional probation surveillance or parole.

Micah tells the full story of his police altercation.
Video clip courtesy of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network

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“This was something that’s very important to me, really illuminating the fact that prison is far beyond a place where bad people go and allowing folks to see the day-to-day, the week-to-week journey of a formerly incarcerated man. What folks in that situation go through as second-class citizens is something that’s quite moving, and Kofi [Siriboe] brings such an emotional resonance to everything that he’s doing in that part.”
— Ava DuVernay

“This was something that’s very important to me, really illuminating the fact that prison is far beyond a place where bad people go and allowing folks to see the day-to-day, the week-to-week journey of a formerly incarcerated man. What folks in that situation go through as second-class citizens is something that’s quite moving, and Kofi [Siriboe] brings such an emotional resonance to everything that he’s doing in that part.”
— Ava DuVernay

Lesson Four: Until Everybody’s Free

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Lesson 4 Overview

Overview:
Until Everybody's Free

Module 1

Incarceration is a
Civil Rights Issue

Module 2

Gate
Money

Queen Sugar sugarcane graphic
MODULE 1:
Incarceration is a Civil Rights Issue

This lesson is presented in several modules. Use your desktop or tablet to go deeper with QUEEN SUGAR into these lessons and activities.

MODULE 2:
Gate Money

This lesson is presented in several modules. Use your desktop or tablet to go deeper with QUEEN SUGAR into these lessons and activities.

MODULE 3:
Follow the Money — Advocating for Reform

This lesson is presented in several modules. Use your desktop or tablet to go deeper with QUEEN SUGAR into these lessons and activities.

QUEEN SUGAR