Burl Cain

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Burl Cain
Warden Burl Cain St Francisville.jpg
Born Nathan Burl Cain
(1942-07-02) July 2, 1942 (age 73)
Alma mater Louisiana State University, Alexandria
Grambling State University
Political party Republican
Religion Christianity
Spouse(s) Jonalyn Miceli
Louisiana State Penitentiary, the prison which Cain manages

Nathan Burl Cain (born July 2, 1942)[1] has been since January 1995 the Warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, located at Angola in West Feliciana Parish. He was named warden by Richard Stalder, then the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections.

On December 9, 2015, Cain announced that he will resign as warden, effective January 1, 2016.


Cain was reared in Pitkin in Vernon Parish in western Louisiana. He is the brother of James David Cain, a Republican former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and the Louisiana State Senate,[2] and Alton Cain.[citation needed] Warden Cain holds a degree from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Grambling State University in Lincoln Parish.[3]

He began his career with the Louisiana branch of the American Farm Bureau Federation and subsequently became the assistant secretary of agribusiness for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. In 1981, he became the warden of the Dixon Correctional Institute. After fourteen years there, he was elevated to warden of the state penitentiary.[2] After accepting the job at Angola, he continued to live on the grounds of Dixon.[4] Until 2011, Cain served as the vice chairperson of the Louisiana Civil Service Commission.[2]

Tenure at Angola[edit]

LSP is the largest prison in the United States; many of the inmates will never be released. He is a devout Christian and believes the only way to give his inmates hope is in the form of eternal life, and to this end encourages a spiritual atmosphere in the prison.[5]

He is the longest-standing warden in the history of LSP. Under his leadership, the inmate population of 5,000 has seen a decrease in violent incidents. The changes which he brought about at the prison are detailed in the 2005 book Cain's Redemption: A Story of Hope and Transformation in America's Bloodiest Prison by Dennis Shere.[6]

In 1991, Cain was one of the organizers of Louisiana Wardens and Superintendents (LAWS), a group which pursued the appointment of Richard Stalder of Zachary as the corrections secretary, a post which Stalder filled from 1992 to 2008,[7] when he was succeeded by a former understudy, James Myles "Jimmy" LeBlanc.

In 2010, Cain was among the speakers in a series at Calvin College in Grand Rapids Michigan.[8] In 2008, he became the longest-serving warden in the history of Angola,[9] which in 2015, when he stepped down, had 3,600 inmates on 18,000 acres.[10]

As warden, Cain promoted a Christian-based message consistent with belief that religion can turn around the lives of inmates. He established a branch of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary at Angola, which has eight churches, and worked as well to create chapels in other state prisons.[10] In August 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit accusing Warden Cain and the Louisiana state prison system of hindering a Mormon inmate's access to religious texts.[11] Cain supports continuing to hold the Angola 3 in solitary confinement because the trio ascribes to "Black Pantherism."[12]

In December 2013, a federal judge ruled that death row at Angola is so hot during part of the year that the temperatures undermine the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which forbids "cruel and unusual punishment". The judge demanded a plan to cool death row. Prison officials have appealed the order.[10]

Personal life[edit]

A Cain biography states "to escape the pressures of running the nation's largest adult male maximum security prison, Cain enjoys hunting and traveling around the country on his motorcycle."[2]

A Republican,[1] Cain is a 2002 inductee of the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield. The next year Richard Stalder was also inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Early in 2015, Cain announced that he was considering running for governor in a bid to succeed the term-limited Republican Bobby Jindal, but he never sought the office. Victory instead went to the Democrat John Bel Edwards of Tangipahoa Parish, who defeated the Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter.

Cain's resignation as warden comes amid allegations about his private real estate dealings raised by The Baton Rouge Advocate. The capital city newspaper claims that he sold interest in land that he owned in West Feliciana Parish to two developers who are reportedly either family or friends of two Angola inmates incarcerated for conviction of murder. The state legislative auditor and the state Department of Public Safety & Corrections have begun investigations into the issue.[10]

In film[edit]

Year Title Portrayal Notes
2011 Serving Life Himself The film documents LSP's hospice care of inmates.


  1. ^ a b "Click Nathan Cain, July 1942". voterportal.sos.la.gov. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Ridgeway, James. Mother Jones. July/August 2011 Issue. p. "God's Own Warden". Retrieved on March 23, 2013.
  3. ^ Annual Report (PDF) 2006. (Archive) Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. p. 3. Retrieved on March 23, 2013.
  4. ^ "Auditor says state paying too much by letting Angola warden live at DCI." The Advocate. February 7, 1997. Retrieved on February 3, 2011. "The state legislative auditor is questioning corrections officials for allowing two prison wardens to live off their prison grounds at extra cost to the state. But a top corrections official said the arrangement is fine. Warden Burl Cain of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola continues to live in the same house on the grounds of Dixon Correctional Institute where he lived while in his previous job as DCI warden."
  5. ^ Burl Cain on Charlie Rose
  6. ^ Dennis Shere, Cain's Redemption: A Story of Hope and Transformation in America's Bloodiest Prison. Northfield Publishing Company. 2005. ISBN 978-1-881273-24-0. Retrieved December 16, 2013. 
  7. ^ Cain Redemption, p. 44
  8. ^ "Inner Compass NATIONAL SEASON 3." Calvin College. Retrieved on August 29, 2010.
  9. ^ Churcher, Kalen Mary Ann. Self-governance, Normalcy and Control: Inmate-produced Media at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Pennsylvania State University. ProQuest, 2008. p. 74. ISBN 0549921737, 9780549921738
  10. ^ a b c d "Longtime Warden of Angola Prison in Louisiana to Resign". The Shreveport Times. Retrieved December 10, 2105.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  11. ^ The New York Times. April 12, 2006. Spinning Hope on Incarceration Station. Retrieved on August 25, 2010.
  12. ^ Ridgeway, James (21 March 2013). "Louisiana Attorney General Says Angola 3 'Have Never Been Held in Solitary Confinement'". Solitary Watch. Retrieved 28 August 2013. "In a 2008 deposition, attorneys for Woodfox asked Cain, 'Let’s just for the sake of argument assume, if you can, that he is not guilty of the murder of Brent Miller.' Cain responded, 'Okay, I would still keep him in CCR…I still know that he is still trying to practice Black Pantherism, and I still would not want him walking around my prison because he would organize the young new inmates. I would have me all kind of problems, more than I could stand, and I would have the blacks chasing after them.'"

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