Hardly any other warden in the USA has been covered by national and international media as much as the longest serving, controversial, former warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) at Angola, also known as “The Farm”. Often, the coverage was positive – especially from authors and film makers who intended to return for more stories – when it was about rehabilitation through religion, morals, inmate labor, and consequences. Others criticized him for arbitrariness, how he handled high profile prisoners like the “Angola 3” (former Black Panthers) and non-Christians (including Catholics), while he made his friends’ convicted friends or relatives trusties with amazing privileges: An undisputed double murderer was working at the Governor’s Mansion and stayed at the State Police Barracks in Baton Rouge. On another lifer’s behalf, Cain coaxed a videotaped deathbed confession from a dying LSP prisoner, which – however – allegedly did not fit the details of the killing.
Republican Nathan Burl Cain actually managed to have got a tight grip on many important things in the State of Louisiana. He was the wirepuller, a powerbroker. Officially, not everything that is (not) granted to the prisoners he oversaw was in Cain’s power, but those working for the state give a warden’s word “a tremendous amount of weight,” State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson says in an article by The Advocate of Baton Rouge.
Burl Cain was born on July 2, 1942 and grew up with his siblings in the small rural town of Pitkin (Vernon Parish), approximately 50 miles west of Avoyelles Parish. He earned a bachelor’s degree at the Louisiana State University in Alexandria and graduated with a master’s degree in criminal justice from Grambling State University in Lincoln Parish.
Cain then worked in the Louisiana branch of the American Farm Bureau Federation and soon became Assistant Secretary of the money-making agri-business (now also known as the Prison Enterprises Division) for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. At the age of 38, Cain was appointed to the position of Warden of the Dixon Correctional Institute (1981-1995) at Jackson – one of the Farm’s satellite prisons.
In 1990, Cain successfully campaigned and became the employee representative on the State Civil Service Commission. The commission is a “review board that enacts and adjudicates State Civil Service Rules to regulate state personnel activities, and hears appeals from state employees and agencies,” reads its website. Cain served for 20 years and was the commission’s chairperson until 2011.
In 1991, Cain was a co-founder of the newly established organization Louisiana Wardens and Superintendents (LAWS) that pursued the appointment of his friend, Richard Stalder, as the corrections secretary (1992-2008) by lobbying Governor Edwin Edwards. In 1995, Stalder returned the favor and promoted his supporter Cain to the position of Warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, the oldest and largest state prison. The Farm is the only maximum security facility in the pelican state.
In 2002, Burl Cain was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame (one year before his boss, Department of Corrections Secretary Richard Stalder, was honored the same way in 2003).
In 2011, a federal investigation into Burl Cain’s private real estate deals began. In early 2015, Cain considered running for governor, but eventually did not do so. Last December (effective January 1, 2016), Warden Cain abruptly quit his well-paid job when the Baton Rouge Advocate for not quite a month had been investigating Cain’s private dealings with family and friends of some of his own inmates. Due to a now-closed loophole, retired Cain continues to live in the warden’s residence on the prison ground for free and receives more than three-fourth ($134,000) of his prior annual salary this year until August 2016.
Cain is a businessman to the core and has been the state’s highest paid civil servant. Some might be of the opinion that whenever he has a hand in something, it either serves his power, his purse, or ideally both. Current state legislator, Senator J.P. Morrell (Democrat), is chairman of the committee that oversees the Department of Corrections (DOC). He wants to fill loopholes in the law that the Department of Public Safety and Corrections may have used in Cain’s vindication of any wrongdoing. The main objective is that no warden is getting away with fraternizing with an inmate’s loved one again. Meanwhile, further probes by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections have far reaching implications in Cain’s network of family members, friends, colleagues, and beyond.
There have been several different allegations and parallel investigations in this scandal around the Cain Clan by the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, the state Inspector General’s Office (specialized in public corruption), the State Police, and Louisiana’s legislative auditor. But how reliable are all the probes when family bonds and political ties are stronger than ethics and morals in the State of Louisiana? Some of the key figures around Burl Cain, Sr. are:
Current Department of Corrections Secretary (annual salary: $136,700), Cain’s ex-boss and “very best friend”, reappointed by the newly elected Governor John Bel Edwards (not related to ex-Governor Edwin Edwards). Earns $30,000 less than Cain (annual salary: $167,200) per year. LeBlanc and Cain are close longtime friends and private business partners. The Advocate reports that during LeBlanc’s tenure of office, “Cain’s children have been steadily promoted within the department’s hierarchy without raising any questions of nepotism.”
Richard Lee Stalder
Former Department of Corrections Secretary (1992–2008). Cain along with the LAWS lobbied Governor Edwards and Edwards in return appointed Stalder as corrections secretary, a position traditionally given to political supporters. Stalder had been one of Cain’s former deputies and ex-warden of the Wade Correctional Center. As corrections secretary, Stalder promoted Cain from the Dixon Correctional Institution to the Louisiana State Penitentiary in 1995. He was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame one year after Cain in 2003.
Nathan Burl “Nate” Cain II
Cain Sr.’s eldest son has been the Warden of the Raymond Laborde Correctional Center (RLCC) formally known as the Avoyelles Correctional Center (ACC) in Cottonport since 2012. (Annual salary: $109,000.)
Three years before his promotion to the top job at the Avoyelles Correctional Center (ACC), Nate Cain had been Warden Robert Henderson’s deputy at the Phelps Correction Center in DeQuincy and witnessed the brutal beating of a recaptured work release inmate in handcuffs by three guards and praised them for the “good job”, reports The Advocate. According to the prisoner, Nate Cain even participated in the assault himself. Neither the District Attorney’s Office, nor the FBI seem to have a record of the incident. Cain Jr.’s misconduct was not prosecuted and did not end his career either. Instead, he climbed up the ladder. Phelps was closed, ACC’s Warden Lynn Cooper retired, and Cain Jr. took over. Sergeant Randon Harrington, who was involved in the inmate beating at Phelps, is now a major at RLCC. Jessie Bellamy and Brandon Fruge were the other two guards implicated in the misconduct. Bellamy now is a captain at Angola and Fruge does not work in corrections anymore.
Avoyelles Parish has made headlines for escapes from jails and prison for decades. Except for a female guard, there have never been meaningful consequences for those persons in charge. Now it is not about the escape of a criminal but – as far as journalists could find out – about $76,000 of state money for a possibly unauthorized construction (the “Ranch House”) near the RLCC’s prison gate, its’ shutdown late last year, and misconduct regarding reports of inmate rapes.
Amidst an internal probe, Cain Jr. was on paid leave from April until May 24, 2016, when he resigned alleging some health issues. RLCC’s internal investigators Beau Milligan and Randon Harrington remain on paid leave.
Cain Sr.’s daughter-in-law, Nate Cain’s wife, is RLCC’s ex-prison business manager. She retired on May 20, 2016 amidst an internal probe now claiming her husband’s health issues.
RLCC’s Deputy Warden Paul Gaspard retired on May 18, 2016.
Cain Sr.’s second son is Regional Manager of Prison Enterprises. Annual salary: $63,500.
Seth Smith, Jr.
is Cain Sr.’s son-in-law. Smith is an expensive “Confidential Assistant” (also called “the No. 2 official”) for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. He assigns prisoners, i.e. their low-paid labor, to the profitable Transitional Work Program for parish sheriffs and private operators.
Smith’s annual salary: $150,000. That is $13,300 more than his boss, Department of Corrections Secretary LeBlanc, receives.
Smith is former deputy warden of the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center at St. Gabriel, a prison complex plagued with high-profile escapes. Warden Howard Prince quit his job and Smith replaced him.
According to the Associated Press, Smith was also “the person tasked with locating supplies of lethal injection drugs for use at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola” two years ago, when companies refused to sell the chemicals for such purpose after botched executions in other states.
is Deputy Warden of the Elayn Hunt Correction Center in St. Gabriel. Hooper’s son is married to Cain’s granddaughter and Seth Smith’s stepdaughter: Capt. Kristen Hooper.
is Captain at the Angola Prison. She is Cain Sr.’s granddaughter, Seth Smith’s stepdaughter, and Tim Hooper’s daughter-in-law.
is Cain Sr.’s assistant warden at Angola and married to Cain’s niece. He lives in Cain Sr.’s hometown Pitkin. An allegation regarding a payroll fraud (annual salary: $93,000) could not really be investigated, because Norris was not required to log his comings and goings as his colleagues must do. State Police investigator Trooper Jesse Brown and D.A. Sam D’Aquilla relied on Norris himself, his family and subordinates. They determined that they are not charging Norris, although assistant warden Stephanie Lamartinier found out that Norris’ time sheets did not add up with those from the front gate log books.
Deputy Warden Leslie Dupont, Col. Stewart Hawkins and Capt. Kristen Hooper supported Cain’s and Norris’ statement.
James David Cain
is Burl Cain Sr.’s older brother (born on October 13, 1938)
1972–1992: Louisiana State Representative for District 32 (Allen, Beauregard, and Calcasieu parishes)
1992–2008: Louisiana State Senator for District 30 (Beauregard, Calcasieu, and Vernon parishes)
is a lawyer for the state.
is the ex-Communications Director for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. She stepped down for an unknown reason on May 23, 2016 after 12 years in office. She did not answer my email.
is a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
is Angola’s new warden replacing Burl Cain Sr.
is the ex-chief investigator with the state Inspector General’s Office. He writes in a letter to the editor of The Advocate that he did not participate in the report of March 22, 2016, by Inspector General Stephen Street. The Advocate concludes that the “reports thought to clear Cain might deserve more scrutiny.”
is the Inspector General. He defends Burl Cain Sr.’s exoneration, because his team was of the opinion that there was not enough evidence for a criminal case against Cain. According to The Advocate, two corrections employees came forward to the newspaper and stated that they had worked for free on the property of Burl Cain Sr.’s wife, Jonalyn Cain, but that no investigator has ever interviewed them.
is a Louisiana state prisoner and whistleblower, who became the target of Burl Cain Sr.’s retribution. Kissinger used to serve time for murder at Angola, but in February of 2016, he was transferred to the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel against his will and allegedly thrown into a lockdown cell. The New Orleans Advocate reports that a federal judge once “ordered Cain to leave Kissinger alone”.
More in the book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish”
Raymond Julian Laborde (August 18, 1927 – January 17, 2016) is dead. Without its icon, Marksville’s “good old days” are almost over. On January 20, 2016, his interment will be at the St. Joseph Cemetery #1 (the same place, where Vincent Simmons allegedly threatened Sharon and Karen Sanders and their cousin Keith Laborde to kill them, if they told anyone of the rapes.)
Raymond Laborde’s first triumph was when he defeated his lifelong friend Edwin Edwards for senior class president at the local high school in 1943. Six years later, the Loyola graduate launched the Raymond’s Department Store, which he was running to the very end. It was directly across the street from the court house and much more than a simple clothing store. It was a place where small town politics was made.
Raymond Laborde held several honorary posts, served three terms as Mayor of Marksville, twenty years as state legislator in Baton Rouge, and four years as Commissioner of Administration under Governor Edwin Edwards. Since 2003, Laborde has been a member of the Political Hall of Fame in Louisiana.
A few years ago, he – along with District Attorney Charles Riddle – spearheaded the movement against Republican Ex-Governor Bobby Jindal’s proposal to privatize or even to close prisons in central Louisiana, especially the Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport, where one of Laborde’s sons works as a GED teacher.
Some people wonder how Raymond Laborde has managed to keep a clean slate throughout all those decades in politics, while a number of his best friends and politicians close to him were investigated or even convicted.
Read more in the book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish.”
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Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll’s second 10-year-term expires at the end of this year. In 1977, Associate Justice Knoll was her husband’s first assistant district attorney and prosecuted Vincent Simmons. State law prescribes that a judge can not seek re-election after they reach the age of 70. On January 23, 2016, is Justice Knoll’s 73rd birthday. She announced on Monday (Jan. 11, 2016) that she planned to retire on New Year’s Eve and to spend more time with her family, especially with her grand-children. In order to celebrate Justice Knoll’s 20 years on the highest bench of Louisiana, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal judges hosted a special reception in her honor on January 8 at the City Club in River Ranch (Lafayette) reported the local Advertiser. Colleagues and judges from across the state attended the celebration.
When I watched the documentary “Shadows of Doubt” and got in touch with Vincent Simmons in 2003, I would have been grateful for something like a book that analyzed his case and its background in detail. There was nothing like that. Instead, I had to run after the information I was seeking for the years to come. It was damn hard work! Now, there is such a book. If people chose to become strong activists and push the cause, they could easily do so within a week. I needed 7 years for accumulating everything and it cost me more than the book’s price of 20 $. Simmons’ supporters now only need a day or two to read the book, and theoretically, they could start from there. As we say in German: One does not have to reinvent the wheel again and again. Use the information, knowledge and experience others have gained already and go from there! But the reality looks very, very different.
I have just been notified by Facebook, because my name was marked in a FB message. I glanced over the very long “sermon” about Vincent Simmons’ case and I am very, very disappointed. Honestly, I do not understand why it is so full of disinformation although all the facts have been out there in the public in form of the book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish” since 2011. The book has handed out everything on a platter, including the sources. What else is needed to understand?!
But instead of doing their own research and correcting all the rumors buzzing around on the internet, wanna-be supporters (pardon me!) continue to spread untruths. The author of that certain FB message even states that Keith Laborde (the cousin of Simmons’ alleged rape victims) died in 2010! Gosh, double-check the facts before you write something like that!! Being declared dead in the lifetime is not funny. And it is very embarrassing to the creator(s) of the gossip once the truth comes out. Keith, by the way, has been the proud father of a little baby-boy (?) since last year. (I believe it is a boy.)
There are lots of Labordes, and you better do know what you are talking about, if you really want to help Simmons! Inaccuracies, rumors, or even lies are own goals and do not serve his cause. Indeed, they do undermine what others have been working for so hard. It is all about credibility. Alleged supporters who are spreading nonsense are not of any help to the cause at all. They rather satisfy the state, i.e. the party that keeps Simmons in prison at all costs.
Do mass incarceration and its destructive consequences sicken you? Voters in Louisiana, this is your turn now! Louisiana voters have 5 weeks left before the gubernatorial primary on October 24, 2015. The ACLU has been asking the candidates for 5 months to announce their plans for ending mass incarceration in Louisiana. Yet, there has been no response so far. The current justice/ penal system wastes taxpayer money while doing little to improve public safety. Contact the candidates now and ask them “What will you do to fix our unsafe, unfair, and expensive prison system?” If you think you need more input and arguments to challenge those politicians, feel free to go to www.iippi.org to learn more.
Contact the candidates Eric Paul Orgeron, Scott Angelle, Beryl Billiot, Jay Dardenne, Cary Deaton, John Bel Edwards, Jeremy Odom, S. L. Simpson, and David Vitter via ACLU here: https://ssl.capwiz.com/aclu/mailapp/?alertid=67832656&type=SW&ms=eml_150917_aff_LA_mass_incarceration
This might interest you, too:
USA: Almost 50% of all prisoners worldwide are in the “Land of the Free”
Go figure: Louisiana alone is the prison state number one worldwide!
Update (October 9, 2015):
Candiate Eric Paul Orgeron (email@example.com) has just posted a comment on this website.
There are only two states in the USA that have mayor’s courts. Those states are Ohio and Louisiana. Since 1898, mayor’s courts in Louisiana have had limited criminal jurisdiction “over all violations of municipal ordinances” reads Chapter 33 of Title 441 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes – as traffic violations, for instance.
Mayors in wards with less than 5,000 inhabitants function as judges in misdemeanor cases, whether or not they have a law degree. Nonlawyer judges “try all breaches of the ordinances and impose fines or imprisonment, or both.”
Like state judges, mayors are elected, and therefore, they cannot always be impartial. But the fact that those mayors also control law enforcement and the local budget constitutes an additional conflict of interests. They are three parties in one and the same person so to speak.
Woodforth in Rapides Parish, a few miles south of Alexandria (central Louisiana) beyond Interstate 49, is known as the state’s speed trap number one. Cases of traffic stops in the USA demonstrate daily how quickly one can land in jail (if not even worse). A woman’s case is reported in the article “The Woman Who Spent Six Years Fighting a Traffic Stop” by Ken Armstrong.
The Louisiana Municipal Association provides the Mayor’s Court Handbook. The author calls mayor’s courts a “somewhat enigmatic tool of justice.”
Judge Mark Jeansonne and his successor
Know Your Rights: What To Do If You’re Stopped By Police
A Black Man’s Guide to Survival
“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” – Malcolm X
As quality often does, also good reporting depends on money. Small newspapers cannot spend as much as national newspapers, for instance. Thus, local newspapers often just rely on press releases and media outlets rather than practicing investigative journalism. This is also why small newspapers seldom report controversial issues like (the background of) local wrongful convictions. However, I do not understand their problem when all the facts and evidence are handed out to them on a platter. Example: the book Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish.
Hats off to A. M. „Marty“ Stroud, III. There are not many like him in Louisiana, who admit their failures and have grown to go against the tide.
Stroud does know the system from both sides. Directly after graduating law school with honors in 1976, he started his career as law clerk at the U.S. Court of the Western District of Louisiana. He served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Louisiana and a First Assistant District Attorney in Caddo Parish. Since 1989, Stroud has been in private practice (civil and criminal law).
In 1984, the 33-year old lead assistant district attorney prosecuted Glenn Ford, whose murder conviction was overturned in 2014. Stroud, who had sought the death penalty and celebrated the victory with some rounds of drinks, now describes himself in a letter to the Shreveport Times:
I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.
Marty Stroud does what he can to correct what was done to the innocent, now terminally ill man. He contacted Ford to apologize, he speaks up against capital punishment, apologizes to the victim’s family, the jury and the court. Stroud shows remorse in a video and urges the state to compensate Ford. Unfortunately, the local district court ruled differently on March 27, 2015.
Read how Stroud is connected to Vincent Simmons’ case in the book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish.”