Weathering Natural Disasters at Angola Prison
By: Betty Chu
Get an exclusive look inside Angola Prison in the all-new series Louisiana Lockdown, where Warden Burl Cain’s "Land of New Beginnings" offers inmates "eight seconds of freedom" in a unique Animal Correctional Program. Cathy Fontenot, Assistant Warden, explains how Angola prepares for natural disasters such as flooding and hurricanes.
Having the Mississippi River surround us on three sides, while a perfect cost-effective perimeter, causes us to be ever vigilant to the rising tides of the Father of Waters. We prepare for a major flood fight each Spring. In 1997, we almost lost the prison to a historic rise in the water. Half of the population was moved, in the middle of the night when it appeared that the levee would breach, to tent cities temporarily built on high prison grounds until the danger subsided. Former Governor Mike Foster would later say that the rebuilding of Angola’s levees was the most important accomplishment of his tenure. In the first episode of Louisiana Lockdown, we evacuate our invalid and active disciplinary offenders to other institutions as the river reaches an unprecedented height, threatening to destroy the only maximum-security prison for males in Louisiana, which would in effect cost the state billions and cause the overpopulation of all secure prisons and jails in a state that incarcerates more of its people than any other.