Louisiana State Penitentiary

Louisiana State Penitentiary
—  Unincorporated community  —
Louisiana State Penitentiary
The entrance to the Louisiana State Penitentiary has a guard house that controls entry into the compound - The placard says "Louisiana State Penitentiary" and "Burl Cain, Warden"
Angola is located in Louisiana
Location within the state of Louisiana
Coordinates: 30°57′22″N 91°35′39″W / 30.95611°N 91.59417°W / 30.95611; -91.59417Coordinates: 30°57′22″N 91°35′39″W / 30.95611°N 91.59417°W / 30.95611; -91.59417
Country United States
State Louisiana
Parish West Feliciana
Angola Landing is 43 ft
49 ft (15 m)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 – Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 70712
Area code(s) 225
FIPS code
GNIS feature ID 553304[1]
Angola Landing: 542930[2]
Website doc.louisiana.gov/lsp/

The Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP, also known as Angola, and nicknamed the "Alcatraz of the South" and "The Farm"[3]) is a prison farm in Louisiana operated by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections. It is the largest maximum security prison in the United States[4] with 5,000 offenders and 1,800 staff. It is located on an 18,000 acre (73 km²) property that was previously the Angola and other plantations owned by Isaac Franklin in unincorporated West Feliciana Parish, close to the Mississippi border. The prison is located at the end of Louisiana Highway 66, and is about 22 miles (35 km) northwest of St. Francisville. Angola is bordered on three sides by the Mississippi River. As of 2010 Burl Cain is the warden. The State of Louisiana's death row for men and the state execution chamber are there. In the State of Louisiana the names "Louisiana State Penitentiary" and "Angola," the name of the post office that serves the prison, are used interchangeably.[5]



Old Camp A

Before 1835, state inmates lived in a jail in New Orleans. The first Louisiana State Penitentiary, located at the intersection of 6th Street and Laurel Street in Baton Rouge, was modeled off of a prison in Wethersfield, Connecticut. In 1844 the state leased the prison and its prisoners to McHatton Pratt and Company, a private company. Union soldiers occupied the prison during the American Civil War. In 1869 Samuel Lawrence James, a former confederate major, received the lease to the prison.[6]

The land that has become Angola Penitentiary was purchased by Isaac Franklin from Francis Routh during the 1830s with the profits from his slave trading firm, Franklin and Armfield, of Alexandria, Virginia and Natchez, Mississippi as four contiguous plantations. These plantations, Panola, Belle View, Killarney and Angola, were joined during their sale by Franklin's widow, Adelicia Cheatham, to James in 1880. The plantation, named after the area in Africa where the former slaves came from, contained a building called the Old Slave Quarters.[7] Major Samuel James ran the plantation using convicts leased from the state, which led to a great deal of abuse.[8] James died in 1894. The Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections states that the facility opened as a prison in 1901.[9]

The former LSP execution chamber at the Red Hat Cell Block. The electric chair is a replica of the original "Gruesome Gertie".

Charles Wolfe and Kip Lornell, authors of The Life and Legend of Leadbelly, said that Angola was "probably as close to slavery as any person could come in 1930." Hardened criminals broke down upon being notified that they were being sent to Angola. Around that year, white-black racial tensions existed and one of every ten inmates received stab wounds per year. Wolfe and Lornell said that the staff, consisting of 90 people, "ran the prison like it was a private fiefdom."[10] The two authors said that prisoners were viewed as ""niggers" of the lowest order."[11] The state did not appropriate very much funds into the operation of Angola, as the state decreased costs to try to save money. Much of the remaining money ended up in the operations of other state projects; Wolfe and Lornell said that the re-appropriation of funds occurred "mysteriously."[10]

In 1935 remains of a Native American individual were taken from Angola. They were donated to the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science.[12] In 1948 Governor of Louisiana Earl Long converted the position of warden of Louisiana State Penitentiary into a political patronage position. Long appointed distant relatives as wardens of the prison.[13] In the institution's history, the electric chair, Gruesome Gertie, was stored at Angola; the state transported the chair to the parish of conviction of a condemned prisoner before executing him or her.[14]

A former Angola prisoner, William Sadler (also called "Wooden Ear" because of hearing loss he suffered after a prison attack), wrote a series of articles about Angola entitled "Hell on Angola" in the 1940s which helped cause prison reform.[15]

John Whitley, who served as a warden at LSP

In 1952, 31 inmates cut their Achilles' tendons (referred to as the Heel String Gang.)[16] This caused national news agencies to write stories about Angola.[17] In its November 22, 1952 issue,[17] Collier's Magazine referred to Angola as "the worst prison in America."[18]

In 1961 female inmates were moved to the newly-opened Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women.[19]

In 1971 the American Bar Association criticized the state of Angola. Linda Ashton of the Associated Press said that the bar association described Angola's conditions as "medieval, squalid and horrifying."[20] In 1972, Elayne Hunt, a reforming director of corrections, was appointed by Governor Edwin Edwards, and the U.S. courts in Gates v. Collier ordered Louisiana to clean up Angola once and for all, ending the Trustee-guard and Trusty systems.[21] In 1975 U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola of Baton Rouge, Louisiana declared conditions at Angola to be in a state of emergency. The state installed Ross Maggio as the warden; prisoners nicknamed Maggio "the gangster" because he strictly adhered to rules. Ashton said that by most accounts Maggio successfully improved conditions.[20] Maggio retired in 1984.[22]

In the 1980s Kirksey McCord Nix Jr. perpetrated the "Angola Lonely Hearts" scam from within the prison.[23]

On June 21, 1989, Polozola declared a new state of emergency at LSP.[22]

In 1993 LSP guards fatally shot 29-year old escapee Tyrone Brown.[24]

In 1999 six inmates who were serving life sentences for murder took three prison guards hostage in Camp D. The hostage takers bludgeoned and stabbed one guard, 29-year old Captain David Knapps, to death. Armed guards ended the rebellion by shooting the inmates, killing one, 26-year old Joel Durham, and seriously wounding another.[25]

In Stephen King's book The Green Mile and the adapted movie The Green Mile, the fictional setting of the Louisiana Cold Mountain Penitentiary was loosely based on life on death row at Angola in the 1930s.[citation needed]

In 2004 Paul Harris of The Guardian said "Unsurprisingly, Angola has always been famed for brutality, riots, escape and murder."[26]

On August 31, 2008, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin stated in a press conference that any New Orleans residents found looting during the evacuation of the city due to Hurricane Gustav would be arrested and immediately transported to Angola prison.[27]

In 2009, the prison reduced its budget by $12 million by "double bunking" (placing bunk beds to increase capacities of dormitories), reducing overtime, and replacing prison guards with security cameras.[28]


Louisiana Department of Corrections patch with Angola Tab

LSP was designed to be as self-sufficient as possible; it functioned as a miniature community with a canning factory, a dairy, a mail system, a small ranch, repair shops, and a sugar mill. Prisoners raised food staples and cash crops. The self sufficiency was enacted so taxpayers would spend less money and so politicians such as Governor of Louisiana Huey P. Long would have an improved public image. In the 1930s prisoners worked from dawn until dusk.[11]

As of 2009 there are three levels of solitary confinement. "Extended lockdown" is colloquially known as "Closed Cell Restricted" or "CCR." Until a period before 2009, death row inmates had more privileges than "extended lockdown" inmates, including the privilege to watch television. "Extended lockdown" was originally intended as a temporary punishment. The next most restrictive level is "Camp J," referring to an inmate housing unit that houses the style of solitary confinement. The most restrictive level is "administrative segregation," colloquially referred to by inmates as the "dungeon" or the "hole."[29]


The sign indicating the Angola Ferry

Louisiana State Penitentiary is in unincorporated West Feliciana Parish, in east central Louisiana.[30] It is located at the base of the Tunica Hills, in a region described by Jenny Lee Rice of Paste as "breathtakingly beautiful."[31]

The prison is about 22 miles (35 km) northwest of St. Francisville,[32] about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Baton Rouge,[10] and 135 miles (217 km) northwest of New Orleans.[33] LSP is about a one hour driving distance from Baton Rouge,[34] and it is about a two hour driving distance from New Orleans.[35] The Mississippi River borders the facility on three sides.[11] The prison is in close proximity to the Louisiana-Mississippi border.[30] LSP is located about 34 miles (55 km) from the Dixon Correctional Institute.[36]

Charles Wolfe and Kip Lornell, authors of The Life and Legend of Leadbelly, said that in the 1990s the prison remained "far away from public awareness."[11] The prison officials sometimes provide meals for official guests because of what the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections refers to as the "extreme remote location" of LSP; the nearest non-prison dining facility is, as of 1999, 30 miles (48 km) away.[37] The prison property is adjacent to the Angola Tract of the Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area; due to security reasons regarding LSP, the Tunica Hills WMA's Angola Tract is closed to the general public from March 1 through August 31 every year.[38]

The main entrance is at the terminus of Louisiana Highway 66, a road described by Wolfe and Lornell as "a winding, often muddy state road."[10] From St. Francisville one would travel about 2 miles (3.2 km) north along U.S. Highway 61, turn left at Louisiana 66, and travel on that road for 20 miles (32 km) until it dead ends at LSP's front gate.[39] The Angola Ferry provides a ferry service between Angola and a point in unincorporated Pointe Coupee Parish. The ferry is only open to employees except during special events, when members of the general public may use the ferry.[40]


Climate data for Angola
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 59
Average low °F (°C) 40
Precipitation inches (mm) 6.42
Source: Weather.com[41]


Aerial view of Louisiana State Penitentiary, January 10, 1998, U.S. Geological Survey

The 18,000-acre (7,300 ha) prison property occupies a 28-square-mile (73 km2) area.[42] The size of the prison property is larger than the size of Manhattan.[43] Charles Wolfe and Kip Lornell, authors of The Life and Legend of Leadbelly, said that LSP of the 1990s looks "more like a large working plantation than one of the most notorious prisons in the United States." Guards patrol the complex on horseback, as many of the prison acres are devoted to cultivation of crops. By 1999 the prison's primary roads had been paved.[10] The prison property is hemmed in by the Tunica Hills and by the Mississippi River. The perimeter of the property is not fenced, while the individual prisoner dormitory and recreational camps are fenced.[31] Most of the prison buildings are yellow with a red trim.[34]

Lake Killarney, a geographic feature of LSP

Inmate quarters

The state of Louisiana considers LSP to be a multi-security institution; 29% of the prison's beds are designated for maximum security inmates.[44] The inmates live in several housing units scattered across the LSP grounds. By the 1990s air conditioning and heating units have been installed in the inmate housing units.[10] Most inmates live in dormitories instead of cell blocks. The prison administration states that this is because having "inmates of all ages and with long sentences to live this way encourages cooperation and healthy peer relationships."[9]

Main Prison Complex

The Main Prison Complex consists of the East Yard and the West Yard. The East Yard has 16 minimum and medium custody prisoner dormitories and one maximum custody extended lockdown cellblock; the cellblock has long term extended lockdown prisoners, in-transit administrative segregation prisoners, inmates who need mental health attention, and protective custody inmates. The West Yard has 16 minimum and medium custody prisoner dormitories, two administrative segregation cellblocks, and the prison treatment center. The treatment center has geriatric, hospice, and in-transit ill prisoners.[45] As of 1999 the main prison complex houses half of LSP's prisoners.[46]


LSP also has several outcamps. Camp C includes eight minimum and medium custody dormitories, one cellblock with administrative segregation and working cellblock prisoners, and one extended lockdown cellblock. Camp D has the same features as Camp C, except that it has one working cellblock instead of an extended lockdown cellblock, and its other cellblock does not have working prisoners.[45] Camp J has four extended lockdown cellblocks, which contain prisoners with disciplinary problems, and one dormitory with minimum and medium custody inmates who provide housekeeping functions for Camp J.[45]

Camp F has four minimum custody dormitories and the "Dog Pen," which houses 11 minimum custody inmates.[45] All of the prisoners housed in Camp F are trustees who mop floors, deliver food to fellow prisoners, and perform other support tasks.[47] Camp F also houses LSP's execution chamber.[48] Camp F has a lake where trustees fish.[47]

The Reception Center, the closest prison housing building to the main entrance, acts as reception center for arriving prisoners. It is located to the right of the main highway, inside the main gate.[34] In addition it contains the death row, with 101 extended lockdown cells housing condemned inmates.[45] Death row includes eight tiers, lettered A to G. Seven tiers have 15 cells each, while one tier has 11 cells. Each hallway has a cell that is used for showering.[49] The death row houses exercise areas with basketball posts.[50] In addition the Reception Center has one minimum custody dormitory with inmates who provide housekeeping for the facility.[45]

The Close Cell Restricted (CCR) unit, an isolation unit located near the Angola main entrance, has 101 isolation cells and 40 trustee beds. Jimmy LeBlanc, the corrections secretary, said in October 2010 that the State of Louisiana could save about $1.8 million during the remaining nine months of the 2010–2011 fiscal year if it closed CCR and moved prisoners to unused death row cells and possibly some Camp D double bunks. LeBlanc said that the prisoners in isolation would remain isolated.[51]


The facility includes a group of houses, called the "B-Line,"[52] which function as the residences of the prison staff members and their families; inmates perform services for the staff members and their households. The employee housing includes recreational centers, pools, and parks.[53] The LSP B-Line Chapel was dedicated at on Friday, July 17, 2009 at 4:00 PM.[54]

Residents on the prison grounds are zoned to West Feliciana Parish Public Schools. Elementary school children attend Tunica Elementary School in Tunica,[55] located in proximity to Angola;[56] The school is several miles from LSP's main entrance, and many of its students live on the LSP grounds.[55] Secondary schools serving the LSP grounds are West Feliciana Middle School and West Feliciana High School in Bains.[57] The West Feliciana Parish Library is located in St. Francisville.[58] The library, previously a part of the Audubon Regional Library System, became independent in January 2004.[59]

Fire station

The fire station houses the LSP Emergency Medical Services Department staff, who provide fire and emergency services to LSP.[45] The LSP Fire Department is registered as department number 63001 with the Louisiana Fire Marshal's Office. The department's equipment includes one engine, one tanker, and one rescue truck. Within LSP the department protects 500 buildings, including employee and prisoner housing quarters. The department has mutual aid agreements with West Feliciana Parish and with Wilkinson County, Mississippi.[60]

Religious sites

St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church

St. Augustine Church, built in the early 1950s, is staffed by the Roman Catholic Church. The New Life Interfaith Chapel was dedicated in 1982.[45] In the 2000s the main prison church, the churches for Camps C and D, and a grounds chapel were constructed as part of an effort to build chapels for every state run prison facility. A staff and family of staff chapel was also under construction. Outside donations and prison rodeo ticket sales funded the churches.[52] The Camp C Chapel was dedicated on Friday July 17, 2009 at 2:00 PM, and the B-Line Chapel was dedicated at 4:00 PM on that day.[54] The main entrance to LSP has an etched monument that gives tribute to Epistle to the Philippians 3:15.[61]

Recreational facilities

Butler Park

Prison staff members have access to recreational facilities on the LSP property. LSP has ball fields, the Prison View Golf Course, a swimming pool, a tennis court, and a walking track.[62] Lake Killarney, an oxbow lake of the Mississippi River located on the prison grounds, has large crappie fish. The LSP administration controls access to Lake Killarney, and only a few people fish there. Therefore the crappie fish grow very large.[3] Butler Park is a recreational facility on the edge of the LSP property that houses gazebos, picnic tables, and barbecue pits. A prisoner who has no major disciplinary issues for at least a year may use the property.[63]

Prison View Golf Course

Prison View Golf Course, a 6,000-yard (5,500 m2), 9 hole, 72 par golf course, is located on the grounds of Angola.[39] Prison View, the only golf course on the property of an American prison,[64] is between the Tunica Hills and Camp J, at the intersection of B-Line Road and Camp J Road.[65] All individuals playing are required to provide personal information 48 hours before their arrival so the prison authorities can conduct background checks. Convicted felons and individuals on LSP visitation lists are not permitted to play in the golf course.[39] Current prisoners at LSP are not permitted to play in the golf course.[64]

The golf course, constructed on the site of a former bull pasture, opened in June 2004. Prisoners performed most of the labor that was used to construct the golf course. Prisoners that the LSP administration considers to be the most trustworthy are permitted to work at the golf course. Warden Burl Cain stated that he wants employees to stay at Angola during weekends, because employees at Angola would help support the prison in case of an emergency; he built the course so employees would be enticed to stay at Angola over weekends.[66]

Guest house

Angola also has the "Ranch House," a facility for guests to the prison. Originally constructed to serve as a conference center that supplemented the meeting room in the Angola administration building, the "Ranch House" received its name after Burl Cain became the warden of Angola. Cain renovated the building so guests could stay overnight at Angola. The renovations, which included the conversion of one room into a bedroom and the additions of a fireplace and a shower, had an approximate cost of $7,346.[36]


The original Point Lookout Cemetery, one of the prison cemeteries on the Angola property

Point Lookout Cemetery is the prison cemetery, located on the north side of the Angola property, at the base of the Tunica Hills;[45] dead prisoners who cannot be transported out of the prison grounds by family members are buried at Point Lookout.[67] A white rail fence surrounds the cemetery. The current Point Lookout was formed after a 1927 flood destroyed the previous cemetery, which was located between the current Camps C and D. In September 2001 a memorial was dedicated to the unknown prisoners. The original Point Lookout plot, with 331 grave markers and an unknown number of bodies, is full.[45]

Point Lookout II

Point Lookout II, a cemetery annex 100 yards (91 m) to the east of the original Point Lookout, opened in the mid-1990s; it has a capacity of 700 grave sites. As of 2010, 90 prisoners are buried at Point Lookout II. Before January 2002, all state prisoners unclaimed by families were buried at Point Lookout; during that month a cemetery opened at the Hunt Correctional Center, providing another place for burial.[45]

Angola Museum

The Angola Museum, operated by the nonprofit Louisiana State Penitentiary Museum Foundation, is the on-site prison museum. No admission charges are levied against visitors; visitors may donate to the museum if they wish.[68] The museum is located outside of the prison's main gate.[62]

Angola Airstrip

The prison includes the Angola Airstrip (FAA LID: LA67).[69] The airstrip is used by state-owned aircraft to transport prisoners to and from LSP and for transporting officials on state business to and from LSP. The airport is used during daylight and visual flight rules times.[70]

Other prison facilities and features

The guard house at the LSP Main Entrance

The facility's main entrance has a metal roof guard house where traffic to and from the prison passes through. Michael L. Varnado and Daniel P. Smith of Victims of Dead Man Walking said that the guard house "looks like a large carport over the road." The guard house has long poles, with stop signs on the ends, to keep automobiles from entering and leaving the compound without the permission of the prison guards. To allow a vehicle access or egress, the guards manually raise the poles.[34]

The Front Gate Visiting Processing Center, with a rated capacity of 272 persons, is the processing and security screening point for visitors to the prison.[45] The United States Postal Service operates the Angola Post Office on the prison grounds.[71] It was established on October 2, 1887.[72] David C. Knapps Correctional Officer Training Academy,[6] the state training center for prison guards is located on the northwest corner of LSP. Near the training center, Angola prisoners maintain the only nature preserve located on the grounds of a penal institution.[10] R. E. Barrow, Jr., Treatment Center is located on the Angola premises.[6] The K-9 Training Center is the area where dogs are trained.[73] The C.C. Dixon K-9 Training Center received its name in 2002, after Connie Conrad Dixon, a dog trainer who died at age 89 in 1997.[74] The Louisiana State Penitentiary Wastewater Treatment Plant serves as the wastewater plant of the complex.[75] The prison also houses an all-purpose arena.[76]

History of composition

Topographical map, July 1, 1994, U.S. Geological Survey

The first building where inmates were housed, the former slave quarters, became Camp A; currently Camp A does not house any prisoners.[6]

Charles Wolfe and Kip Lornell, authors of The Life and Legend of Leadbelly, said that in the 1930s Angola was "even further removed from decent civilization" than it was in the 1990s. The two added "that's the way the state of Louisiana wanted it, for Angola held some of the meanest inmates."[11]

Camp H, a prisoner housing facility that is no longer in service

In 1930 about 130 women, most of them African-American, were imprisoned in Camp D. In 1930 Camp A, which held around 700 African American inmates, was close to the center of the Angola institution. Inmates worked on levee control, as the springtime high water posed a threat to Angola. The river was almost 1 mile (1.6 km) wide, and many inmates who tried to swim across drowned; many of their bodies were never recovered.[11]

The prison hospital opened in 1940s; at the time the campus did not have a permanent doctor, and had only one permanent nurse.[13]

As of the 1980s the main road through Angola was still a dirt road, but is now black topped.[20]

As of 1993 the outcamp buildings were constructed in 1939 and received renovations in the 1970s. During May of that year, fire safety violations were reported in the buildings. In June of that year, Richard Stalder, the Secretary of Corrections, said that LSP would close the buildings if LDPS&C could not find millions of dollars to use to improve the buildings.[77]

Red Hat Cell Block

Red Hat Cell Block

In previous eras, the most restrictive inmate housing unit was colloquially referred to as "Red Hat Cell Block,"[78] after the red paint-coated straw hats that its occupants wore when they worked in the fields.[29] "Red Hat," a one-story, 30 cell building at Camp E, was built in 1933.[79] Brooke Shelby Biggs of Mother Jones said that men who had lived in "Red Hat" "told of a dungeon crawling with rats, where dinner was served in stinking buckets splashed onto the floors."[29] Warden C. Murray Henderson phased out "Red Hat,"[80] and in 1972 Elayn Hunt had "Red Hat" officially closed.[81] In 1977 Camp J took "Red Hat"'s role as the most restrictive housing unit in Angola.[29] On February 20, 2003, the National Park Service listed the Red Hat Cell Block on the National Register of Historic Places as #03000041.[78]


Louisiana State Penitentiary is, in population, the largest correctional facility in the United States.[82] The prison has 5,100 inmates and 1,700 employees.[83] In 2010, the racial composition of the inmates was 76% black, 24% white, with 71% of inmates serving a life sentence and 1.6% sentenced to death.[84] Over 600 "free people" live on the property of LSP; the residents are LSP's emergency response personnel and their dependents.[62] In 1986 around 200 families of employees lived within the Angola property. Hilton Butler, who was then the warden of Angola, estimated that 250 children lived on the Angola property.[85] Many prison employees are from families that have lived and worked on Angola for generations. Laura Sullivan of National Public Radio said "In a place so remote, it's hard to know what's nepotism. There's simply no one else to hire."[53]


Burl Cain, the warden of LSP

Angola is still operated as a working farm; Warden Burl Cain once said that the key to running a peaceful maximum security prison was that "you've got to keep the inmates working all day so they're tired at night."[86] In 2009 James Ridgeway of Mother Jones said Angola was "An 18,000-acre complex that still resembles the slave plantation it once was."[87]

Of all American prisons, Angola has the largest number of inmates on life sentences in the United States. As of 2009 Angola had 3,712 inmates on life sentences, making up 74% of the population. Per year, 32 inmates die, while 4 are paroled during the same span of time.[88] Louisiana's tough sentencing laws result in long sentences for the inmate population, which mostly consists of armed robbers, murderers, and rapists. In 1998 Peter Applebome of The New York Times said "It's impossible to visit the place and not feel that a prisoner could disappear off the face of the earth and no one would ever know or care."[43]

Most new prisoners begin working in cotton fields; a prisoner may spend years working his way to a better job.[18]

In Angola parlance a "freeman" is a prison guard.[89] Around 2000, the prison guards were among the lowest-paid in the United States, and few of them had graduated from high school.[18] As of 2009 about half of the prison guards are female.[90]

LSP prisoners do cleaning and general maintenance services for the West Feliciana Parish School Board and other government agencies and nonprofit groups within the West Feliciana Parish.[91]

Warden Burl Cain maintains an open-door policy with the media, which led to the production of the award winning documentary The Farm.[7] Films such as Dead Man Walking[92] and Monster's Ball[93] were partly filmed in Angola.

The prison hosts a rodeo every April and October, and its inmates produce the award-winning magazine The Angolite, available to the general public and relatively uncensored.[94] There is a museum which features among its exhibits Louisiana's old electric chair, "Gruesome Gertie", last used for the execution of Andrew Lee Jones on 22 July 1991.[citation needed] Angola Prison is also home to the country's only inmate-operated radio station.[95]


Crops produced at LSP include cabbage, corn, cotton, okra, onions, peppers, soybeans, squash, tomatoes, and wheat. Hundreds of cattle are kept on the Angola premises.[96]

Inmate education

LSP offers literacy classes for prisoners with no high school diploma and no General Equivalency Diploma (GED) from Monday through Friday in the main prison and in camps C-D and F. LSP also offers GED classes in the main prison and in camps C-D and F. The prison also offers ABE (Adult Basic Education) classes for prisoners who have high school diplomas or GEDs but who do not have high enough Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) test scores to get into vocational school. SSD (Special School District #1) provides services for special education students.[97]

Prisoners with sufficient TABE scores may get into vocational classes. Classes include automotive technology, carpentry, culinary arts, graphic communications, horticulture, and welding.[97] In the 1990s, Angola partnered with the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to offer prisoners the chance to earn accredited bachelor's degrees in ministry. Dr. Bruce M. Sabin wrote his doctoral dissertation evaluating moral development among those college students.[98] As of Spring 2008 95 prisoners are students in the program. LSP also offers the PREP Pre-Release Exit Program and Re-Entry Progams for prisoners who are about to be released into the free world.[97]

The inmate library services are provided by the Main Prison Library and four outcamp libraries. The prison is a part of an inter-library loan program with the State Library of Louisiana.[52]


LSP has several manufacturing facilities. The Farm Warehouse (914) is the point of distribution of agricultural supplies. The Mattress/Broom/Mop shop makes mattresses and cleaning tools. The printing shop prints documents, forms, and other printed materials. The range herd managed 1,600 head of cattle. The row crops group harvests crops. The silk screen produces plates, badges, road and highway signs, and textiles; it also manages sales of sign hardware. The tag plant produces license plates for Louisiana and for overseas customers. The tractor repair shop repairs agricultural equipment. The transportation division delivers the good manufactured by the prison enterprises division.[99]


Angola is the only penitentiary in the U.S. to be issued an FCC license to operate a radio station. KLSP (Louisiana State Penitentiary) is a 100-watt radio station that operates at 91.7 on the FM dial from inside the prison to approximately 6,000 potential listeners including inmates and penitentiary staff. The station is operated by inmates and carries some satellite programming. Inside the walls of Angola, KLSP is called the "Incarceration Station" and "The Station that Kicks Behind the Bricks."[citation needed] The station has 20 hours of daily airtime, and all of the music aired by the station is donated.[61] Music from His Radio and the Moody Ministry Broadcasting Network (MBN) airs during several hours of the day. Prisoners make the majority of broadcasting decisions.[31]

A station was originally established in 1986 as a means of communication. Jenny Lee Rice of Paste said "the need to disseminate information rapidly is critical" because Angola is the largest prison in the United States.[82] The non-emergency uses of the station began in 1987 when Jimmy Swaggart, an evangelist, gave the prison old equipment from his radio network.[100] In 2001 Chuck Colson invited radio veteran Ken Mayfield and executives from a South Carolina radio network to visit Angola and conduct an on-radio fundraiser to buy new radio equipment.[61] The fundraiser exceeded its $80,000 goal, with over $120,000 within several hours. Warden Burl Cain used the funds to update the radio equipment and train prisoner DJs in using the new electronic systems.[31] The new radio equipment allowed KLSP to broadcast in stereo, expand its daily airtime to 20 hours and to upgrade its programming.[61] As of 2006 LSP has 100 watts of power. If one travels 7 miles (11 km) away from LSP on Louisiana Highway 61, the signal begins to fade. When one is 10 miles (16 km) away, one can hear white noise. Paul von Zielbauer of The New York Times said that "Still, 100 watts does not push the station's signal far beyond the prison gate."[61] All 24 hours are devoted to religious programming.[62]


Wilbert Rideau was an editor of The Angolite

The Angolite is the inmate published and edited magazine of the institution, which began in 1976.[101] Each year, six issues are published.[62] Louisiana prison officials believed that an independently-edited publication would help the prison. The Angolite gained a national reputation as a quality magazine and won international awards under two prisoner editors, Wilbert Rideau and Billy Sinclair,[102] who became co-editors in 1978.[103]

Burial of deceased

Coffins for deceased prisoners are manufactured by inmates on the LSP grounds. Previously, dead prisoners were buried in cardboard boxes. After a body fell through the bottom of a box, warden Burl Cain changed a policy, allowing for the manufacture of coffins for the deceased.[31]

Death row

Prisoners on death row are confined to their cells for 23 hours per day. For one hour per day,[50] a prisoner may take a shower and/or move up and down the halls under guard. For three times per week, a prisoner is permitted to use the exercise yard. Death row prisoners are allowed to have a certain number of books at a time, and each prisoner may have one five minute personal telephone call per month. Death row inmates receive unlimited visitor access.[104]


Male death row inmates are moved from the Reception Center to a cell near the execution chamber in Camp F on the day of the execution. The only person informed of the exact time when a prisoner will be transferred is the warden; this is done due to security reasons and so the order of the prison is not disrupted. On a scheduled execution date, an execution can occur between 6 PM and Midnight. Michael L. Varnado and Daniel P. Smith of Victims of Dead Man Walking said that, on many occasions, the rest of LSP is not aware of the execution being carried out. In 2003 a man with the family name Lee, the assistant warden of the Reception Center, said that once death row inmates learn of the execution, they "get a little quieter" and "[i]t suddenly becomes more real to them."[47]

When the State of Louisiana used electrocution as its method of capital punishment, it formally referred to the anonymous executioner as the "electrician." When the State of Louisiana referred to the executioner by name, he or she was called "Sam Jones," after Sam H. Jones, the Governor of Louisiana in power when electrocution was introduced as the capital punishment.[105]

Inmate life

Musical culture

As of 2011 several Angola inmates practice musical skills. The prison administration encourages prisoners to practice music and uses music as a reward for inmates who behave.[106]

In the 1930s John Lomax, a folklorist, and Alan Lomax, his son, traveled throughout the U.S. South to document African-American musical culture. Since prison farms, including Angola, were isolated from general society, the Lomaxes believed that prisons had the purest African-American song culture, as it was not influenced by popular trends. The Lomaxes recorded several songs, which were plantation-era songs that originated during the slavery era. The Lomaxes met Leadbelly, a famous musician, in Angola.[106]

Sexual slavery

A 2010 memoir by Wilbert Rideau, an inmate at Angola from 1961 through 2001, states that "slavery was commonplace in Angola with perhaps a quarter of the population in bondage" throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.[107] The New York Times states that weak inmates served as slaves who were raped, gang-raped, and traded and sold like cattle. Rideau stated that "The slave's only way out was to commit suicide, escape or kill his master."[107] Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, members of the Angola 3, arrived at Angola in the late 1960s and became active members of the prison's chapter of the Black Panther Party, where they organized petitions and hunger strikes to protest conditions at the prison and helped new inmates protect themselves from rape and enslavement.[108] C. Murray Henderson, one of the wardens brought in to clean up the prison, states in one of his memoirs that the systemic sexual slavery was sanctioned and facilitated by the prison guards.[109][page needed]

Inmate organizations

Angola has several inmate organizations. They include the Angola Men of Integrity, the Lifers Organization, the Angola Drama Club, the Wonders of Joy, the Camp C Concept Club, and the Latin American Cultural Brotherhood.[89]

Angola Rodeo

On one weekend in April and on every Sunday in October, Angola holds the Angola Prison Rodeo. On each occasion, thousands of visitors enter the prison complex.[62] The idea of the rodeo began in 1964.[89] The rodeo, a collaboration between prisoners and employees, began in 1965.[96] Cathy Fontenot, the assistant warden, said that originally prisoners and staff backed pickup trucks into a field and "and would go out there and play around on horses."[89] In 1967 LSP opened the rodeo to outside spectators. As time passed, LSP erected bleachers and adopted the rules of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. In addition the administration added an arts and crafts festival, and added stock animals and rodeo clowns. The current 10,000-person stadium opened in 2000.[96] Various prisoner organizations sell food at concession stands. Many of the prisoners use family recipes to craft the concession stand food. The prison guards conduct the financial transactions at the rodeo.[89]

Programs for fathers

Angola has two programs for fathers who are incarcerated at Angola. Returning Hearts is an event where prisoners may spend up to eight hours with their children in a Carnival-like celebration. Returning began in 2005; by 2010 a total of 2,500 prisoners had participated in the program. Malachi Dads is a year-long program that uses the Christian Bible as the basis of teaching how to improve a prisoner's parenting skills. Malachi began in 2007; as of 2010 it had 119 men participating.[110] It is based on Malachi 4:6, "He will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers..."

Notable inmates

Death row and non-death row

Death row

Non-death row

Notable employees

Cultural references

Musical references

The prison has held many musicians and been the subject of a number of songs. Folk singer Leadbelly served over four years of his attempted murder sentence and was released early from Angola for good behavior. Tex-Mex artist Freddy Fender was pardoned from there.

The song "Grown So Ugly" by American blues musician and ex-convict Robert Pete Williams references Angola. The song's lyrics have some basis in fact, as Williams was imprisoned there and was officially pardoned (from a murder charge) in 1964, the year the song says that he left the prison.

The classic New Orleans song "Junco Partner" includes the lines:

Six months ain't no sentence, and a year ain't no time
They got boys down in Angola doin' one year to ninety-nine

Aaron and Charles Neville wrote "Angola Bound":

I got lucky last summer when I got my time, Angola bound
Well my partner got a hundred, I got ninety-nine, Angola bound

Angola also features in the Neville Brothers song "Sons and Daughters" on the album Brother's Keeper.

Folklorist Harry Oster recorded "Angola Prison Worksongs" for his Folklyric Records in 1959, now re-released on Arhoolie Records. According to Oster, between 1929 and 1940, 10,000 floggings were carried out in Angola.

Singer Gil Scott-Heron wrote and recorded the song "Angola, Louisiana" on his 1978 album with Brian Jackson, Secrets. The song deals with the imprisonment of inmate Gary Tyler.

Canadian blues and roots musician Rita Chiarelli filmed the documentary "Music From the Big House" at Angola in 2010. The film, directed by Bruce McDonald, focuses on a concert at the prison, organized by Chiarelli, that featured four bands comprising musicians incarcerated in Angola.

Comprising the entire B-Side of his album Remedies, New Orleans musician Dr. John features an extended 17:35 song titled "Angola Anthem".

Singer-songwriter Myshkin recorded "Angola" in 1998 for her album Blue Gold. The song refers to the case of former Angola warden C. Murray Henderson, who was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the attempted murder of his wife, writer Anne Butler:

Release me from this life I will seek my punishment
On the other side but the judge said
"Warden in cold blood you shot your poor poor wife
You're going back to Angola, there your hell to find"

New Orleans rap artist Juvenile has part of a verse in the Hot Boys song "Dirty World" that says:

They'll plant dope on ya, go to court on ya
Give ya 99 years and slam the door on ya
Angola, the free man bout it, he don't play
Nigga get outta line, ship 'em to Camp J

New Orleans pianist James Booker mentions Angola prison in his cover of "Goodnight, Irene" ; where he was sent for heroin possession:

Lead Belly and little Booker both, had the pleasure of partying,
on the pon de rosa, *laughs* you know what I mean, you dig?
Yeah, on the pon de rosa, you know, down in Angola
where they have boys doing from one year to ninety nine

(As Booker was less than 10 years old when Leadbelly died, they would not have been there at the same time.)

Ray Davies has recorded a song entitled "Angola (Wrong Side of the Law)", which was released as a bonus track on the expanded release of Working Man's Café in February 2008.

The American folk singer David Dondero in the song "20 years" describes the experiences of a prisoner released from Angola prison:

All I got on me, is my Angola prison I.D.
Ain't a place in this whole damn city willing to hire me
It's been twenty years

Jazz trumpeter Christian Scott has a track on his 2010 album Yesterday You Said Tomorrow called "Angola, LA & the 13th Amendment"

Books about Angola

  • In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance by Wilbert Rideau (Knopf, 2010)
  • Cain's Redemption by Dennis Shere
  • Dead Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean
  • God of the Rodeo - Daniel Bergner
  • The Search for Hope, Faith, and a Six-Second Ride in Louisiana's Angola Prison - Daniel Bergner - Crown Publishers
  • Life Sentences, edited by Wilbert Rideau and Ron Wikberg (Random House, 1992)
  • A Life in the Balance: The Billy Wayne Sinclair Story by Billy Wayne Sinclair.
  • The prison is referred to in A Confederacy of Dunces by Jones when describing the racial inequality in the New Orleans judicial system.
  • The main character of Poppy Z. Brite's novel The Lazarus Heart is sent to Angola for the murder of his lover.
  • The House That Herman Built by Herman Wallace of the Angola 3, co-written with Artist Jackie Sumell.

Butler, Anne and C. Murray Henderson. 1992. Angola.Eduardo Vasconcelos. 2011 Dying to Tell. Lafayette, La.: The Center for Louisiana Studies

Butler, Anne and C. Murray Henderson 1990 Angola. Louisiana State Penitentiary A Half-Century of Rage and Reform. Lafayette, La.: The Center for Louisiana Studies.

Carleton, Mark T. 1971 Politics and Punishment: The History of Louisiana State Penal system. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

Foster, Burk, Wilbert Rideau and Douglas Dennis (Editors). 1995. The Wall is Strong: Corrections in Louisiana. Lafayette, La.: The Center for Louisiana Studies

Howard, Robert. 2006 The other side of the coin. The spiritual life of a black man held captive in Angola prison 40 years. Austin TX: 78764.

King, Robert Hillarry King. 2009 From the bottom of the heap: The autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King. Oakland, Ca: PM Press.

Mouledous, Joseph Clarence. 1962. Sociological Perspectives on a Prison Social System. Unpublished Master's Thesis, Department of Sociology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

Articles about Angola

Other references

Actor William Hurt prepared for his role in the 2008 remake of The Yellow Handkerchief by spending four days at the Penitentiary, including an overnight, rare for a volunteer, in a maximum-security cell. In a 2010 interview, he spoke of having a three-hour sight-unseen (around the corner of the dividing wall) talk with his next-door neighbor that night. He also said "the bed has about an inch-and-a-half-thick mattress on sheer steel. The toilet has no soft seat. The floor is marbleized concrete. It's horrible. It's unthinkable," and that he felt mostly sorrow for the inmates he got to know, "85 percent of the people in there are going to die there." In the film, he played an ex-con out after serving a six-year sentence in a Louisiana prison for "an accidental bit of trouble." In the interview, Hurt also said he had done, earlier in his life, what "[y]ou'd call ... charitable work ... periodically visit[ing] the prisons in Rockland County in New York State to take a program of hope and self-rehabilitation to" the prisoners. As well, he discussed his Oscar-winning role in Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), which was set in a Brazilian prison.[118] In season 6, episode 15 of the TV series Bones, an inmate is threatened with a transfer to Angola should he not cooperate with an investigation.

Prejean's book inspired numerous works, including adaptations as a film, an opera and a play .

See also

References and footnotes

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  • Louisiana State Penitentiary — Área no incorporada de los Estados Unidos La entrada del LSP …   Wikipedia Español

  • Louisiana State Penitentiary — 30° 57′ 02″ N 91° 34′ 09″ W / 30.9506, 91.5692 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Louisiana State Penitentiary — Einfahrt des Louisiana State Penitentiary Das Louisiana State Penitentiary (auch bekannt als „The Farm“ oder „Angola“) ist ein Gefängnis im US Bundesstaat Louisiana. Es ist mit mehr als 5000 Insassen und über 1800 Angestellten das größte… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • List of Louisiana state prisons — This is a list of state prisons in Louisiana. It does not include federal prisons or parish jails located in the state of Louisiana.* [http://www.doc.louisiana.gov/view.php?cat=7 id=37 Allen Correctional Center] *… …   Wikipedia

  • Old Idaho State Penitentiary — Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site U.S. National Register of Historic Places …   Wikipedia

  • Río Piedras State Penitentiary — Puerto Rico Island Penitentiary U.S. National Register of Historic Places …   Wikipedia

  • Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections — Common name Louisiana Department of Corrections Abbreviation DPS C …   Wikipedia

  • Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections — The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DOC) is responsible for the custody of adult inmates across Louisiana. Just over half of Louisiana‘s approximately 37,000 prisoners are assigned to the state’s thirteen correctional… …   Wikipedia

  • Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women — 30°15′47″N 91°04′23″O / 30.26306, 91.07306 Le Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women ( …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Louisiana gubernatorial election, 1924 — The Louisiana gubernatorial election of 1924 was held in two rounds on January 15 and February 19, 1924. Like most Southern states between Reconstruction and the civil rights era, Louisiana s Republican Party was virtually nonexistent in terms of …   Wikipedia

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