The article probes the impact of prison on Huey P. Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party. Incarcerated for three years in various locations in California, Newton descended into cocaine addiction and criminality soon after his 1970 release. The current literature fails to account for the impact of solitary confinement on Newton’s life and consequently misinterprets his descent into criminality. The article suggests that the immense pressures placed on Newton in prison and after freedom were related to the decline of the rehabilitative experiment in California’s prison system. It reveals the psychological effect of prison on Newton before linking his fragile mental state to his drug addiction. It concludes by demonstrating how Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) surveillance unwittingly took advantage of Newton’s fragility to compound his psychological stress, indicating the extent to which prison successfully prevented Newton reclaiming his position as a significant force in the African American political struggle.
- © 2015 by the Pacific Coast Branch, American Historical Association