Louisiana Lockdown demonstrates how a system of incentive programs, including the annual rodeo, helps inmates take a new life path behind bars.
Louisiana Lockdown may seem like an odd show for Animal Planet. But, after watching the show for a few episodes, viewers realize how much of life at Angola revolves around animals, specifically around horses and the annual Angola Prison Rodeo.
There are supporters and critics alike for the system at Angola, and for the annual rodeo. Warden Burl Cain believes that the system he has in place at Angola, which works on a series of incentives rather than brutality and despair, is a system that can allow for true reform of prisoners behind bars. But, some criticize the warden and his system and the rodeo, feeling that it is too lenient—rewarding the prisoners for their crimes on the outside—or that it takes advantage of the prisoners’ incarceration and exploits them. The warden addressed both in this week’s episode.
Life iniside prison walls is something most people on the outside simply do not understand and, hopefully, will never have to understand. But, Warden Cain explained, prison can be a place to simply punish, or it can be an opportunity to teach, and for inmates to change their lives.
“If you have programs that people can belong and be part of, you won’t be so prone for them to create programs, which would be gangs. I would like the public to understand that prisons are to correct deviant behavior, not to torture and torment and to get even for what they did in the past, but to prevent them from doing it again in the future.” In response to a newspaper article, suggesting that the Angola rodeo exploits inmates, Warden Cain said, “This day right here [rodeo day], does so much to encourage and inspire the inmates that are here, to be remorseful for the horrible thing they’ve done, and then maybe if they ever get out, they won’t ever do it again, and we won’t have a future victim; it’s worth everything we do.”
Some Will Change, Some Won't
Not everyone agrees with Warden Cain, of course, and many of the inmates will never change. But, some of them appreciate the opportunity to try, like inmate Danny Richardson, who is at Angola with a lifetime sentence for second-degree murder, after shooting a man in broad daylight. Richardson, who has only been serving about four years, is still working through his crime and accepting what he did, which is obvious when he describes what happened: “Put in this situation where I was forced to do what I had to do.” But, he’s also staying out of trouble in Angola and taking advantage of the programs Warden Cain mentions, including the rodeo.
“You know, some people, their lifestyle is based on a coward’s level; they stay into trouble,” Richardson says. “They don’t want to change. You know, if you put your mind to it, you can do whatever you want. You can change if you want to change.”
Lip service? Some may think so. Only time will tell with a young inmate like Richardson. But, the chance to change is there for him, if he wishes to take it.
The narrator of the episode, discussing the inmate Cracker’s disappointment that, because of a health issue, he would not be allowed to participate in the rodeo, said, “Cracker may be willing to risk his life for the rodeo, but a man in prison doesn’t get to decide things for himself.” That is true. But, in fact, at Angola, the inmates have the tools they need to decide the one thing that only the inmate—or anyone, for that matter—can decide for himself: the decision to change. For the victims of their crimes, or their families, this may be small, if any, consolation. But, perhaps it is the best hope for a bad situation.
Louisiana Lockdown airs on Animal Planet on Friday nights at 10 p.m. E/P.
Image: Animal Planet
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