For many Americans, life on death row is unimaginable – but this stark reality is tantamount to daily life for almost 3,000 prisoners across the nation.
Gary Tyler used to be one such prisoner, unjustly convicted and punished to death for a crime he did not commit. After spending 41 years of his life at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, the country’s largest maximum-security prison, Tyler was released this past April.
On Thursday, October 13 at 1 p.m. PDT / 4 p.m. EDT, Tyler will join the Truthdig team for a live discussion on the prison system, streamed directly to our Facebook page. Tyler recently sat down for an interview with Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer for KCRW’s “Scheer Intelligence” podcast, and the two discussed how Tyler was able to hold on to his hope of freedom during those dark decades, as well as the prison system itself.
“When I was in prison, I was introduced to a culture that I never thought existed,” Tyler tells Scheer in the interview. “I’ll never forget that when I went to death row, they had these doors that were slamming and prisoners shouting and hollering. It was like being introduced to an insane asylum, I guess.”
During his time in Angola, Tyler directed a passion play exclusively featuring other inmates as cast members. This project became the basis of the documentary “Cast the First Stone.” Tyler explains:
Of course, I was able to recruit people from all walks of life in the prison. Also, that we’re talking about some people that had disciplinary problems and I knew these guys. I knew that giving them a chance, an opportunity, I could help transform them. I like that I had opportunity to interview and audition, you understand, these guys, because I opened it up to the prison population and I was getting, if you consider the worst of the worst, and to hear these guys say, “Give me chance. Let me prove myself.” It’s like people asking society, “Give me a second chance.” So, I heard their cries and I gave them that chance. I found them to be the most committed and dedicated actors that I had in the production.
Tune in on Thursday to hear more from Tyler about his experiences in, and take on, America’s prison system—as well as about what he’s doing with his own chances after his release.
—Posted by Emma Niles