Inmates enter Angola’s gates as young men and many will never again leave, even after death.
When many inmates go to Angola prison, they are making a one-way trip—there is no opportunity to ever return to life on the outside.
Ninety percent, in fact, will die within Angola’s walls. But, in the microcosm that is the Louisiana State Penitentiary, life has to go on, and it does, as Animal Planet’s reality television series, Lousiana Lockdown, demonstrated this week.
Major Ronnie Fruge has worked at Angola for 40 years, and has seen inmates enter the prison and, ultimately, die at the prison.
“Some of them, I’ve been watching them 30, 40 years, and they’re probably gonna die here.
Some of them that were here when I got here are getting old and they’re passing away on a weekly basis. It’s just a whole circle of life.”
Lloyd Bone is one of those prisoners who has been at Angloa for 40 years, and who knows he is going to die at Angola.
Now, his 23-year-old grandson is a lifer at Angola, as well, but he still has dreams of returning to his life on the outside.
He and Lloyd had never met before, but on this episode of Louisiana Lockdown, Eric gets some sound advice from his grandfather when they do finally have the opportunity to sit down and talk.
“I told your mama, I was gonna take and talk to you. Watch what you do, watch what you say, Do your job.
Stay away from the bad crowd. You’re gonna be alright. And don’t never think that I don’t ever worry about going home, but I can’t let it get the best of me. And that’s what you got to do.”
“I ain’t with that,” Eric said. “I’m really feeling I’m gonna go home, gonna be with my family. I still gotta raise my youngun. He miss daddy.”
Lloyd told his grandson that he had been through that but, as the years passed, the idea of going home went away.
“You got to realize, you’re doing a life sentence. I’m giving you good advice. So, it’s on you.”
Generations of inmates have passed through Angola’s gates, and many had the same dreams as Eric—that they would again be on the outside world.
But, over time, through the course of many years, man after man has also had to come to terms with the reality that their crimes put them behind bars for a life sentence, and that a life sentence means life at Angola, literally ending when the grave comes calling. For most, there will be no life on the outside ever again.
Sometimes relatives do not wish to claim the bodies of inmates when they pass at Angola.
In these cases, the men are laid to rest in the prison cemetery where, as one inmate said, they are forgotten, with a stark headstone identifying the prisoner by name and inmate number. Assistant Warden Cathy Fontenot attends every funeral.
“We want them to know that every life is valuable,” she explains, “and that gets back to their original victim.
They’ve hurt someone, physically hurt someone. There are people out there that are hurting because of choices that they’ve made. Every life is important, and they have to face that.”
In the circle of life, perhaps that is a lesson learned by some at Angola. If so, maybe the lifetimes spent behind bars are not, for those who face the enormity of their actions, entirely in vain.