First season of ground-breaking series Louisiana Lockdown gave viewers an insider’s view of prison life to consider.
The first season of the ground-breaking series Louisiana Lockdown not only gave viewers of the program an insider’s view of what goes on in Angola prison, one of the most infamous maximum security prisons in the United States, but it gave those watching a lot to consider when it comes to the way a prison “should” function.
Many of us have the “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” idea about prisoners.
They did the crime, now do the time, hopefully in the harshest way possible.
That is a valid opinion. These prisoners at Angola, they are not there for jaywalking. Most prisoners at Angola have committed some of the worst crimes possible, including murder and rape, and they will never see the outside of the prison walls again—and shouldn’t.
But, as Warden Burl Cain has pointed out in various episodes, prisons are for reformation, not to torture and torment.
And, his program at Angola reflects his belief that it is his responsibility to be sure that the men who come through the gates of Angola have the opportunity to make a change in their lives.
They may not choose to do so—and that no doubt happens—but it won’t be because they did not have the chance to make the change.
It is important, as well, Warden Cain has pointed out, that the employees who work in the prison are as safe as possible, and when the inmates are cooperative rather than rebellious—well, the majority of them, anyway—employees are indeed safer.
Employees of Angola are truly dedicated in a way most of us are not dedicated to our careers, even living within the walls of the prison on what is called the “B-line.”
It is hard to imagine, raising a family and having a marriage within the walls of a prison, but they do.
Some relationships make it, some don’t, and that is true of marriages anywhere. But, living on the B-Line cannot help the situation.
Angola Prison Rodeo
One of the most controversial aspects of Angola is the annual Prison Rodeo.
The rodeo is looked forward to by prisoners all year long, and can be that carrot-on-the-stick that keeps inmates in line year-round.
To those of us on the outside, it may not seem like that big of a deal, but to someone who is likely never going to see freedom again, the opportunity to participate in such an event is indeed a big deal.
“At that rodeo,” one inmate explained, “it’s like a day of freedom. Suddenly, you matter, if only for that day.”
The rodeo is for five weekends each October. “What the rodeo does is help drive the morality and economy of this prison,” Warden Cain said, explaining that the event helps fund the prison in the financially strapped state.
Additionally, it gives inmates an incentive to behave. “It lets the inmates have an environment of rehabilitation,” Warden Cain says. “It’s a big deal to be a cowboy.”
Overall, the rodeo, though controversial, is a key program in Warden Cain’s overall philosophy of running Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
“Good food, good medicine, good playin’, good prayin’, good prison,” says Warden Cain.
Will Louisiana Lockdown be back for a second season on Animal Planet?