The Animal Planet reality show Louisiana Lockdown is an attempt to open the eyes of some viewers to a world they would otherwise never see.
Louisiana Lockdown seems an odd show to find among reality television selections like Whale Wars, Finding Bigfoot and Call of the Wildman. However, Animal Planet’s look at infamous Angola Prison and its staff and inmates is an interesting view into a world most of us will never have to see first-hand.
For decades, Angola—Louisiana State Penitentiary—has been used as a warning for those who may be running afoul of the law, says Warden Burl Cain as each episode begins. "In Louisiana, they use Angola as a deterrent. You be good, or we gonna send you to Angola." Of the inmate population, 86% are violent offenders; 52% will never be released. Still, the Warden believes in rehabilitation, as the mission statement of the LSP indicates:
“The philosophy of Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) is to provide services in a professional manner so as to protect the safety of the public, staff, and inmate population. Consistent with this, it is LSP's responsibility to provide meaningful opportunities to enhance, through a variety of education, work, social service and medical programs, the individual's desire to become a productive member of society, while providing a safe, stable work environment for employees. The Warden formulates goals for the institution at least annually and translates these goals into measurable objectives.”
According to Louisiana Lockdown, one way Angola’s inmates achieve this rehabilitation is through opportunities to obtain greater freedom via work programs, whether it be picking vegetables in fields, training horses or herding cattle. Inmates who have achieved the greatest level of freedom behind the walls are referred to as “trustees.” Giving inmates this opportunity to find a life behind bars, Warden Cain believes, is beneficial for not only the control of the inmate population, but for the community, as many of the programs within the population benefit the community at large, including the popular Angola Prison Rodeo.
Held every Sunday during October, the most trusted inmates of Angola are selected to participate in the “Wildest Show in the South.” The public is invited, and they, as well as the inmates, look forward to the event each year. Spectators are also able to purchase refreshments, meals, and hobby crafts made by inmates. Additional entertainment is provided by the Angola Rodeo inmate band.
Louisiana Lockdown Inmates: Someone's Dad, Brother or Son
Some on the “outside” may feel that prisoners should be tossed in prison and given no privileges, especially violent offenders such as rapists and murderers, of which Angola has many. But, through Louisiana Lockdown, Warden Cain and others are attempting to demonstrate how their system of rehabilitation, even for those who will never set foot in open society again, is a positive one in ways that most viewers would never consider, in addition to general control of the Angola population. "Good food, good medicine, good playin', good prayin', good prison," says Warden Cain. But, will the attempt to humanize an anonymous group that many would rather just lock up and forget ever existed be accepted by viewers? Will viewers be able to see murderers and rapists as fathers, sons and brothers rather than prisoners who earned their lifetime behind bars?
Image: Wikimedia Commons
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