Robert Tanner, warden of Elayn Hunt Correctional Facility for Men in St. Gabriel, talked Feb. 24 about his career in corrections during the Gonzales Rotary Club meeting in Gonzales.
Tanner has worked in corrections in various capacities since 1967. Tanner described himself as a “prison brat.”
“I have worked with the Department of Corrections my entire career, and I’ve spent many summers at Angola when I was a young boy,” he said. “My grandfather was employed at Angola working for the prison gardens. He used to take me and my siblings to work with him.”
Growing up in and around prisons and working for the system his entire life, Tanner said he has seen a big shift in the philosophy of corrections.
“In the past, the idea was to ‘lock ’em (offenders) up and throw them away,’ ” he said.
Tanner said the prison system has come a long way in moving toward rehabilitation.
Louisiana prisons, he said, offer rehabilitation through education and religion. Offenders take classes toward degrees or learn trade skills, he said.
“We are just beginning to reduce the number of incarcerations in the state, but Louisiana still leads the nation, and the United States leads the world,” he said. “The state Department of Corrections has a number of programs to help offenders to be productive citizens when they are released, including programs to deal with alcoholism, programs to assist with transportation needs and others.”
He said many of the programs have become models for other systems across the country, and all of the state’s correctional facilities are accredited by the American Corrections Association.