Two state prison officials retire amid ongoing probes at Avoyelles Correctional Center _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Entrance to Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport.

Two top officials at a state prison in Cottonport have retired in the wake of ongoing investigations, while three other employees remain on leave pending the outcome of the probes.

Tonia Cain, the wife of Avoyelles Correctional Center warden Nate Cain, retired Friday, said Natalie LaBorde, a representative of the office of state corrections Secretary Jimmy Leblanc. Tonia Cain had been the prison’s business manager.

Paul Gaspard, a deputy warden at the prison, retired on May 18, while Nate Cain, along with Avoyelles Prison employees Beau Milligan and Randon Harrington, remain on leave, LaBorde said.

Officials haven’t disclosed the subject of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections internal investigation, but it comes amid The Advocate’s requests for credit card and inmate concession records at the state lockup, as well as documents related to an internal probe regarding prison rape. Inspector General Stephen Street also is investigating alleged misconduct at the prison.

The departures also were announced after The Advocate revealed Nate Cain, one of two sons of Burl Cain, the former warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, spent at least $76,000 in state money on a “Ranch House” at the prison he oversees without obtaining required approval. The project was shut down once officials from corrections headquarters discovered the house was being built.

Burl Cain, who ran Angola for two decades, retired last year, not long after The Advocate published stories about his business ties to relatives of inmates.

The state corrections agency also announced on Monday that Pam Laborde, the agency’s spokeswoman, is stepping down after 12 years in the role.

“I greatly appreciate the opportunity to serve, especially to be a part of the success over the last several years to reduce Louisiana’s prison population and make our communities safer,” Laborde wrote in an emailed statement. “I am proud to work with so many dedicated and under-appreciated individuals in Corrections and Probation and Parole who put their lives at risk every single day to protect the citizens of this state and who work to change lives in meaningful ways.”

LeBlanc said Pam Laborde will no longer handle day-to-day media inquiries for the department but will remain at the organization for a few weeks to finish projects.

“I sincerely appreciate her service and hope that she will consider opportunities to serve the Department in a different capacity,” he said, in the statement.