There are several in West Feliciana Parish, especially along the Angola Road corridor, who appreciate efforts that have turned what was once the most horrible hellhole of a prison into a model penal system.
With continuous budget cuts, and reductions of staff, and removal of tower guards, Angola only gets better, as solutions to the problems are met with human understanding.
Some criticize the system as a “country club” environment, and believe that the inmates stay within the confines of flimsy fences due to the ease of living, in a world with no one watching. That is totally fictitious.
What they fail to see is that the controlling factor has gone from towers with armed guards pointing rifles, to the furtherance of dignity and self-esteem. A person is a person, even within the boundaries of Angola.
It is not the punishment that keeps the population within the fences, but the mindset in the majority that there is some good in every person, and the person is no longer a thief, a murderer, or criminal, but a person who has made a mistake, and they accept that there is a penalty for that mistake. That has come through the fellowship of ministry, along with education and training that give hope to some who are confined.
Although critics cannot accept this hybrid system within Angola, they need to wake up to the fact that camaraderie and interaction of brotherhood and support provided by that environment works better than a spoon-fed, canned preplanned government program for keeping the inmates on the farm.
All one has to do is to ride through the gates, see the church steeples that have risen, built by the inmates, with money raised from within, and talk to some of the inmates, see the programs in which they participate, hear about those in other state prison systems who prefer to transfer into Angola, and it becomes quite obvious that this system is working much better than walls and guns.
There are still bad people in Angola, who need walls and fences, but it is those who participate in the reform efforts who keep the peace and keep even those bad persons contained.
Those of us who live outside the gates recognize that our community is much more secure and comfortable in knowing we do not have to leave our keys in the car with a $100 bill and a change of clothes, ready for those preferring not to stay within the “country club.”
We know this system did not exist before Burl Cain. We appreciate him, and hope for continuity under any future leadership at Angola. Or triple the budget and hire lots of guards.
Z. David DeLoach