All of Us Are Sinners

On May 12, 1982, Thony Green woke about dawn to put on the coffee at the Open Door Community in Atlanta. Thony had come in off the streets just a few weeks after the community had opened its doors to homeless people on Christmas Day 1981; he quickly

became an important part of its life. On this particular spring day, he was watching 2-year-old Hannah Loring-Davis while her parents were at a meeting. Mid-morning he put her down for a nap and went downstairs to ladle soup.

Moments later, four men burst through the front door, waving guns. Throwing Thony to the floor, one put a gun to his neck and hollered, "I'll blow your head to pieces if you move!" Two handcuffed him, while the fourth flashed a badge from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Thony, it turned out, had escaped from prison, where he was serving a 482-year sentence for armed robbery. He was dragged off to the Louisiana State Prison in Angola, a wretched place infamously noted in a Neville Brothers' song, "Angola Bound."

Ed Loring of the Open Door wrote after his first visit there: "Surely the year is 1845. Three men on horseback with rifles. Forty convicts in two parallel rows marching with hoes on their right shoulders." He described the prison as a 20,000-acre "Old South plantation, where 5,200 men are slaves."

Thony is paid four cents an hour for cutting brush. And there's a plasma bank at the prison. "Two bleeds equals one case of Bugler [rolling tobacco]," says Thony. "Four bleeds equals one carton of cigarettes."

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1996
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