This week on Animal Planet’s Louisiana Lockdown, there was a wedding on the grounds of Angola. The main question for most viewers, it seems, would be, “Why?”
The question of “why” could be asked in a number of contexts regarding a prison wedding.
Certainly, one might ask why a person on the “outside” would want to marry a prisoner, especially one with decades of time to do, who has been behind bars since they met.
Another question could be asked of the inmate, in the form of, “Why bother?”
And, certainly, a question could be asked of the warden: Why grant the privilege of marriage to a convicted Angola prisoner?
The prisoner in question at Angola is a trustee, Oliver Howard. He met his now-wife at one of the Angola Prison Rodeo weekends. They had “dated” for over four years when he proposed.
“It made me a better person,” Howard says of his proposal to his bride. “Helps me to stay focused, keeps my mind on something positive.”
Keeping the prisoners’ minds focused on something positive is a goal of Warden Burl Cain, who has an incentive program in place in Angola.
Additionally, keeping the inmates busy is important, Warden Cain believes.
“Busy. I’m busy. I don’t have idle time. Idle time is the devil’s workshop,” the Warden says.
Oliver is a prison minister, and he makes alligator-skin purses in the prison hobby shop.
But, previous to his prison life, he says he drank a lot, which he blames for conduct that led to an armed robbery conviction and a 50-year sentence. Today, 14 years later, he believes he has changed.
“It doesn’t take but one time to get in trouble real good,” he says, but Oliver says his choices have been different since arriving at Angola.
“I made a choice to be a man, not a predator. You can make a bad choice. You can make a good choice. I chose the good way.”
Warden Cain approved Oliver’s request to marry his fiancée, and even attended the wedding.
“Love is a real good catalyst for peace and harmony,” Warden Cain says. “and being able to do this time.
Certainly it’s frustrating. Certainly they can’t consummate the marriage. … But, this gives him hope, and it gives her hope.
The lack of hope and despair is my enemy in this prison. I have to fight despair and keep the morale high.”
“Now, I’m a married man,” Oliver says happily. “That’s a blessing. That’s something I can cherish for the rest of my life, that’s for sure.”
Leona, Oliver’s bride, no doubt has her own reasons for choosing to marry an inmate–one would assume, of course, that she loves him–but her thoughts, unfortunately, were not discussed with the camera, so the question remains: Why? But, the Warden maintains Oliver’s wedding is a good thing for all involved, including Leona, who, he points out, will never have to worry about her man running around on her.
“It’s a happy day for Angola,” sums up Warden Cain.