May 312016
 
Warden Burl Cain (Louisiana State Penitentiary) Photo: Blake Boyd's "Louisiana Cereal."

Warden Burl Cain (Louisiana State Penitentiary)
Photo: Blake Boyd’s “Louisiana Cereal.”

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:

James LeBlanc
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.

Tonia Cain
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.

Marshall Cain
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.

Tim Hooper
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.

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.

Kenny Norris
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)

James Hilburn
is a lawyer for the state.

Pam Laborde
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.

Natalie Laborde
is a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

Darrel Vannoy
is Angola’s new warden replacing Burl Cain Sr.

Greg Phares
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.”

Stephen Street
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.

William Kissinger
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”

Related:

“Mr. Marksville” dies at the age of 88

Book: With Edwards in the Governor’s Mansion – From Angola to Free Man

Louisiana Correctional Officer Pleads Guilty to Covering up Assault on an Inmate

Ex-Governor Edwin Edwards back on stage

Ex-Governor Edwin Edwards’ credibility

USA: Almost 50% of all prisoners worldwide are in the “Land of the Free”

Legislators slowly react to Louisiana’s collapsing penal system

 

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Jan 192016
 

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.”

These articles might interest you:

Jobs – a free ticket for nearly everything in politics

Legislators slowly react to Louisiana’s collapsing penal system

USA: Almost 50% of all prisoners worldwide are in the “Land of the Free”

Ex-Governor Edwin Edwards back on stage

Ex-Governor Edwin Edwards’ credibility

 

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Jun 072011
 

Yesterday, a 13-12 vote by the 25 members of the House Appropriations Committee defeated House Bill 545 (by Representative Henry Burns), the prison sale and privatization bill. Experts believe it is “unlikely that the Senate will put it back in.”

Representatives who voted against the sale and privatization of prisons in Louisiana were:
James Armes III, D-Leesville;
Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles;
Mickey Guillory, D-Eunice;
Rickey Hardy, D-Lafayette;
Chris Hazel, R-Ball;
Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville;
Bernard LeBas, D-Ville Platte;
Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans;
Tom McVea, R-St. Francisville;
Gary Smith, D-New Orleans;
Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge;
Charmaine Marchand-Stiaes, D-New Orleans
and Patrick Williams, D-Shreveport.

Representatives who voted in favor of the sale and privatization were:
James Fannin, D-Jonesboro;
Simone Champagne, R-Jeanerette;
Charles “Bubba” Chaney, R-Dry Prong;
Patrick Connick, R-Harvey;
Paige Cortez, R-Lafayette;
Noble Ellington, R-Winnsboro;
Joe Harrison Jr., R-Napoleonville;
Tony Ligi, R-Metairie;
James Morris, R-Oil City;
Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs;
M.J. “Mert” Smiley, R-St. Amant;
and Mack “Bodi” White, R-Central.

There is still a US$27.5 million hole in the budget and Department of Corrections Secretary James M. LeBlanc sent layoff notices to wardens at the Avoyelles Correctional Center (Cottonport), C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center (DeQuincy), J. Levy Dabadie Correctional Center (Pineville), and Forcht Wade Correctional Center (Angie). The layoffs of the 1,144 staff would be effective July 17, 2011.

Several legislators call this threat “a political tactic to scare prison workers into supporting the privatization plan,” reports NOLA.com/ The Times-Picayune.

House Bill 416 by Representative Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie and House Bill 414 by Representative Joe Lopinto and Moreno aim at reducing the world’s highest incarceration rate in the State of Louisiana. NOLA.com/ The Times-Picayune reports that George Steimel (lobbyist for the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers) said, “We’ve failed to take the first step if we don’t adopt these (two bills).”

One reader commented that Louisiana’s tax payers need to get rid of mandatory sentences and three-strike laws for non-violent offenders.

On June 1, 2011, Louisiana State Penitentiary Warden Burl Cain asked the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice to embrace House Bill 138  by Representative Patricia Smith to lower the costs for older inmates with health problems, reported The Advocate.

The legislative session adjourns by 6 p.m. on June 23, 2011.

This might interest you as well:

USA: Almost 50% of all prisoners worldwide are in the “Land of the Free”

How Germany does Prison – Americans on a mind-boggling incarceration road trip. (from June 16th through June 21st 2015)

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May 092011
 

prison tower

Louisiana State Prison tower

As administrations of former Louisiana Governors, also incumbent Governor Jindal has made a growing economy in the rural state his priority number one. The Republican tries to create new jobs by attracting investors, i.e. companies, to Louisiana, and his promise to “veto any tax increase that comes to [his] desk” is his bait. Jindal explains that higher “taxes kill jobs and opportunities.”

Jindal’s intention aparently is to make Louisiana a tax haven for businesses hoping they will employ (more) people from Louisiana. Halliburton, headquartered in Houston, Texas, is his latest acquisition for his re-election campaign. (Governor Jindal’s term expires on January 9, 2012.) In the first week of April of this year, Jindal’s administration announced that Hulliburton would open a manufacturing facility in Lafayette, Louisiana. The company will produce “complex machined components for oilfield service operations” and create 150 direct and 350 indirect jobs, writes Governor Jindal on his blog.  Louisiana’s most profitable branche is the oil industry. Thus, Jindal presses for the permission of drilling from the federal government despite the oil spill one year ago.

At the same time, renewable energies, as e.g. wind power or solar energy, get momentum in Europe. The automobile industry works hard on improving new types of motors that are independent of fossil fuels. But the thinking in the oil state Louisiana has not changed yet.

Imagine you have lots of oil and nobody needs it! Jobs seem to be a free ticket for nearly everything in politics. As long as something creates jobs, progressive changes are not made, and chances are that it is subsidized by the state, i.e. the tax payers. Another example is the prison industry.

One chapter in the book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish” is entitled “Local Prison Industry.” A new discussion about this issue began when Governor Bobby Jindal formally submitted his Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Executive Budget to the Legislative on March 11, 2011. 

There is a US$1.6 billion gap in the Pelican State’s household next fiscal year (2011-2012, beginning on July 1, 2011), unless the government increases taxes or cuts spending. Jindal opposes higher taxes. The consequence is that there must be some savings somewhere. But where? Jindal’s proposal is, among others, to sell three state prisons

1.      the Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport, Louisiana

2.      the Allen Correctional Center in Kinder, Louisiana (already privately run)

3.      the Winn Correctional Center in Atlanta, Louisiana (already privately run),

and to downsize the J. Levy Dabadie Correctional Center in Pineville, Louisiana, from a 580-bed state facility to a privately run 300-bed prison.

Corrections workers of Avoyelles Parish in particular, spearheaded by former Representative Raymond Laborde (he spoke up for a state prison in his home parish in the 1980s to decrease the locally high unemployment rate), current State Representative Robert Johnson (his term expires on January 9, 2012) and Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles A. Riddle, III, have answered with a protest movement. They rallied and attended a hearing at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Their slogan is “Save our prison, save our parish.”

The current discussion is “state prisons versa private prisons.”

Arguments pro private prisons:

·         Private prison operators run prisons at a lower daily rate per offender than the state.

·         The sale of the state prisons would help bridge the US$1.6 billion-gap in the household’s budget in the fiscal year 2011-2012.

Arguments contra private prisons:

·         Jindal’s plan does not make any sense to Raymond Laborde who rhetorically asked the Associated Press, “Sell my house today and rent it tomorrow?”

·         Private corporations make profit and can generate huge amounts to contribute to political campaigns. Sponsored, elected officials then can return the favor with policies that benefit the donors.

·         Prison staff is reduced and replaced by high-tech cameras.

·         Telemedicine increases to save transportation costs for ill inmates.

·         Reduced pay and benefits for employees.

·         There are fewer programs to prepare prisoners for life after their release.

·         Private corporations invest less than the state to train their corrections workers.

·         Cuts in state jobs would have a snowball effect in rural Louisiana. It would increase unemployment, have a negative effect on the financial stability of families, and limit their buying power in the community.

However, I believe the State of Louisiana could save much tax money and would not need to privatize state facilities if the actual roots of the problem were solved. The USA, often dubbed the “Land of the Free,” has the highest incarceration rate worldwide, and Louisiana is the number one prison state nationwide. Go figure: Louisiana alone is the number one worldwide! Why is that?

·         Too many things are criminalized in Louisiana.

·         Too many non-violent offenders occupy prison bunks.

·         The penalties often are too long and do not have a rehabilitative effect.

·         The existing penal system is too expensive and eats away funds for social services, basic education, and health care.

·         There is something seriously wrong when politicians use fear of crime and unemployment to incarcerate masses of people at the tax payers’ expense.

There are several facilities in Avoyelles Parish. The collection consists of the Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport, the Avoyelles Bunkie Detention Center, the Avoyelles Women’s Center in Simmesport, the Avoyelles Simmesport Correctional Center and the main Avoyelles Parish Jail at the Sheriff’s Office in Marksville. Only a juvenile correctional facility and a federal prison are missing yet. But this may change soon. According to an article by The Advertiser, the Lafayette Regional Office of Juvenile Justice announced last Friday that Avoyelles Parish now is one of five interested parishes that would welcome a new facility for troubled Acadiana youth in its area.

The forum of the Innocent in Prison Project International provides much info on the issue Prison Industry here.

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