Inside Angola - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

Inside Angola

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ANGOLA, La. (KALB News Channel 5) - In West Feliciana Parish lies the Louisiana State Penitentiary, once considered the bloodiest prison in America. News Channel 5's Matt Jordan takes us behind the fences for a look Inside Angola.

 

In West Feliciana Parish lies the Louisiana State Penitentiary - a sprawling prison that employs, houses and detains thousands of convicts from all over the state. 

Known as the wildest show in the south, the Angola Rodeo draws crowds from all over the country. 

Glancing beyond the fried food and expertly crafted goods, a backdrop of razor wires fences serves as a constant reminder-- Angola is a maximum security prison. 

"Mostly maximum security inmates, about 4,000 lifers,  1,800 acres."

Now the inmates of Angola, once known as the bloodiest prison in the United States, walk among the public, an experiment in rehabilitation. 

 "The rodeo is a lab where we see what we've learned, let's teach them about commerce, let's teach them to be moral, let's teach them to co-mingle with the public and not hurt anybody, and don't steal from anybody," said Warden Burl Cain.

The Louisiana State Penitentiary is more than just the Angola Rodeo, with a new warden came a new philosophy, correcting deviant behavior through moral rehabilitation.  And for the 6,300 inmates behind Angola's fences a new focus on corrections is giving them opportunities not found at other prisons.

"I still have a long way to go but I'm far from where I was in the beginning," said Sean Vaughn. 

Convicted of second degree murder, Vaughn serves technical director for LSP-TV a television channel programmed for those at Angola.

"We provide entertainment for the population, we cover sporting events."

Now 16 years into a life sentence, Vaughn has found his opportunity for redemption.

"When a person's in prison it doesn't mean that your life stops, there's lots of talk out there about rehabilitation, but if you don't provide any rehabilitative tools how can you expect that to happen," said Vaughn.

For Vaughn and those like him, the standards set by Warden Burl Cain are a chance to learn valuable skills. 
 
"We have welders, we have inmate councils who are paralegals, we have lots of people developing skills in here, in the prison," said Vaughn. 

For others Angola is a livelihood. Johnny Dixon is the 3rd generation of his family to work at Angola. Like his father and grandfather before him, he trains bloodhounds.

"I actually started on chases when I was 6 or 7 years old," said Dixon.

Bordered on three sides by the Mississippi river, Angola has no exterior fences, so the bloodhound team is called on to find runaway inmates as it has been since 1901. 

"The bloodhound, it's just in his genetics to track a man," said Dixon. 

It isn't just inmates that the K-9 unit at Angola tracks. In July Dixon and his bloodhounds helped save the life of an Alzheimer's patient who had gotten lost.

"It's probably in the 90's that day, he was going through there looking for him and he saw a little sign and saw him moan down in a ditch there, they got him out of there and took him out by ambulance and he lived but he was on the verge of dying that day," said Dixon.

Back at the Angola Rodeo lies a lesson for the public as well.

"The public gets to come out and bring their kids and the inmates can't leave and it's the greatest lesson of all, if you break the law if you don't follow the rules, you could be up here, and you couldn't come home with me, so little kids say, why can't they leave, well they didn't follow the law, so that's a great thing," said Cain. 

 

 

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