Angola inmate argues that three decades in solitary is unconstitutional punishment _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING --Burl Cain, warden of Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola

Louisiana won’t be seeing another gubernatorial candidate in Burl Cain, he said Wednesday, but the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola warden offered his opinions on a range of controversial topics during a lunch at the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge.

“I wouldn’t have the money to do it,” Cain said, quelling rumors that surfaced last year of a possible run for governor. But the impulse toward ambiguity proved irresistible to Cain, who added, “I looked at it. I’m still looking at it. … I’d have to resign my job.”

And it’s a job he loves, he said, working to rehabilitate the 6,325 inmates at Angola through vocational programs, church, rodeos, teaching and other activities.

He showed the audience pictures of workshops, lakes and farm fields at the men’s prison, and of him standing next to the gargantuan alligators strung up after they were caught at Angola. One of the alligators gave its skin for a belt Cain wears, he said.

Cain, who’s faced allegations he beat an inmate and engaged in kickback schemes as warden, said he’s innocent and has been accused simply because he takes action.

“When you’re doing something good and working outside the box … If you want to never get criticized, don’t do anything,” he said. “I wouldn’t be that smart to keep getting away with it all this time, everything I get accused of. So that doesn’t bother me.”

Louisiana, which has the highest incarceration rate in the nation, has seen its inmate population drop consistently since 2012, from 40,170 at the end of that year to a projected 38,438 at the end of 2015, according to statistics from the Louisiana Department of Corrections.

Cain takes pride in that decrease, saying it’s due to the re-entry programs he and some sheriffs have instituted in correctional facilities.

“We’re the model for the whole United States,” he said.

Cain also spoke out in favor of the death penalty and expressed sympathy toward patients who might need medical marijuana prescribed by doctors, but said he wouldn’t want to have it cultivated at Angola’s farm.

He said Angola 3 prisoner Albert Woodfox — who’s made strides in his lawsuit against Cain and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to be freed — is a potential danger because of Woodfox’s willingness to organize young inmates in the tradition of the Black Panther party. Nick Trenticosta, one of Woodfox’s attorneys, declined to comment on Cain’s statement, and another of Woodfox’s lawyers, George Kendall, didn’t respond to queries.

Cain also offered a solution to Baton Rouge’s traffic problem — building a highway loop.

Having served as warden for two decades, Cain said he would be surprised if he were knocked off his post under a new governor. His position is appointed by the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, a job currently held by Jimmy LeBlanc.

“If any governor is smart, he’ll reappoint Secretary LeBlanc,” Cain said. “Otherwise it’ll show he’s an idiot.”

Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.