July 28, 2011
by James Ridgeway
[SolitaryWatch] Editor’s Note: The latest issue of Mother Jones magazine includes James Ridgeway’s long article on Burl Cain, warden of the nation’s largest prison, and possibly its most notorious. The former slave plantation is known for the fact that 90 percent of its more than 5,000 prisoners will die behind bars, and also for holding two members of the “Angola 3″ in solitary confinement for nearly 40 years. More recently, it has also become known for the “miracle” wrought by its controversial warden, who is said to have transformed the prison with the help of Christianity.
It took the threat of an ACLU lawsuit for James Ridgeway to gain access to Angola. The resulting article offers an alternative narrative on the miracle at Angola. The opening section of the article follows; the full article can be read on MotherJones.com.
It was a chilly December morning when I got to the gates of Angola prison, and I was nervous as I waited to be admitted. To begin with, nothing looked the way it ought to have looked. The entrance, with its little yellow gatehouse and red brick sign, could have marked the gates of one of the smaller national parks. There was a museum with a gift shop, where I perused miniature handcuffs, jars of inmate-made jelly, and mugs that read “Angola: A Gated Community” before moving on to the exhibits, which include Gruesome Gertie, the only electric chair in which a prisoner was executed twice. (It didn’t take the first time, possibly because the executioners were visibly drunk.)
Read the rest here…