Burl Cain, the man who is now running Mississippi’s prisons, spoke to our Rotary Club last week. Wow! Was he impressive.
In his off-the-cuff remarks, he laid out a plan that could turn around our state prison system disaster. If successful, Cain could have more impact on the quality of life in Mississippi than any other single person.
The first step is to take back control of our prisons from the Gangster Disciples and the Vice Lords.
When we privatized our prisons, the private companies cut staffing and got the gangs to run the prisons. The gangs were happy. Contraband flowed. The private prison companies made money.
This allowed gangs to operate freely both inside the prisons and in the free world. Whether inside the prison or back in your neighborhood, the gangs were in charge. There was no escape. This greatly increased the power of the gangs leading to more crime both inside the prisons and on the streets.
In federal court testimony, guards and inmates testified that the gangs freely roamed the prisons and managed jail cell assignments. The private prison companies were operating at half staff, yet the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) officials never levied a single fine against the private prison companies. It was a horrible mess that everyone kept sweeping under the rug.
As prison deaths rose and gang control increased on our streets, the feds sued the state of Mississippi for failing to provide basic human rights inside the prisons.
The feds lost in district court because the case went before a conservative judge. In Alabama the feds won and now that state is having to spend hundreds of millions of dollars revamping their entire prison system.
If Burl Cain can succeed, it will not only make our prisons and streets safer, it will save taxpayers a huge amount of money.
I really can’t do Cain justice with my words. I encourage everyone to listen to his entire speech at northsidesun.com. Just search for Burl Cain.
Cain has three steps to break the gangs. First, is a gang exchange program with other states. We send our gang leaders to Colorado. They send us their gang leaders. Their gang leaders are nobodies in our prison and vice versa. It completely disrupts the gang chain of command and their power structure.
Second, hard core gang members will be isolated in the former Walnut Grove facility. Cain got the state legislature to give back control of that facility to MDOC where he will staff it with extra security.
Third, Cain is going to build churches in all the state prisons and train the gang leaders to be preachers. Instead of preaching violence, they will preach the gospel. The gang leaders will earn bachelor’s degrees in religion. Then when they get out, they take that moral code back to their neighborhoods, transforming them as well.
This may all sound crazy except for one thing: Cain is a proven miracle performer. He turned Louisiana’s Angola prison from a den of violence and hate into a model prison. He is on a mission from God to do the same for Mississippi, powered by the Holy Spirit. Hallelujah!
Cain’s non-profit Prison Seminaries Foundation (prisonseminaries.org) is building churches and founding prison seminary programs all over the county. They’re already in over 20 states.
Northsider David McNair is busy raising money for Cain’s Mississippi prisons. David got to know Cain from his prison ministry work at Angola. David was crucial to bringing Cain to MDOC. I commend Gov. Tate Reeves and the search committee for having the foresight to make that happen.
One of the first things Cain did as MDOC head was to restore smoking privileges. This makes perfect sense when you think about it. You have to have some reward system to exert control. Same with parole. If there is no chance of parole, it’s hard to motivate a prisoner to enroll in a program and perhaps change.
As Cain put it, criminals don’t have a moral system. To rehabilitate them, you need to teach them a moral code so that they know.
Cain is very careful to include other religions in his effort. He’s constantly having to maintain a separation of church and state. So far, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has worked with Cain. It’s a delicate balancing act, but the need for moral education is huge in the prisons and accepted religions are the perfect vehicle for doing this.
It’s clear Cain is on a mission and powered by the spirit. Early in his career, he supervised executions. After one execution, Cain’s mother asked Cain what he did to teach the fated convict about the Lord. Cain had no answer, to which Cain’s mother warned him that God was going to hold him accountable if he did not do more.
The next execution, Cain talked to the death row prisoner about God. The prisoner asked Cain if he would hold his hand while being lethally injected. Right before he died, the prisoner looked up at Cain and said, “Bless you.” Those two words transformed Cain forever and he’s been on a prison crusade ever since.
Cain is quite a character. He looks like the quintessential Boss Hog prison warden. He talks with a thick Louisiana drawl. He lays it all out there and doesn’t mince words. Please listen to his talk. My column really doesn’t do justice.
Mississippi is a spiritual state, yet we have sinned in the way we have run our prisons. We have focused on punishment and ignored rehabilitation and redemption. As always, sin has its consequences and we are witnessing that on the violent streets of many neighborhoods. Sin begets sin. Violence begets violence.
Mississippi has a chance at redemption not only of prisoners but of our state as well. We should rally behind David McNair and Burl Cain and support their noble efforts.