Mississippi lawmakers are one step closer to confirming the nomination of a new corrections commissioner with a controversial past.
Burl Cain tells the Senate Corrections Committee he wants to be commissioner of the state’s prison system because it’s a challenge. The 77-year old gained notoriety for turning around the troubled Angola Prison in Louisiana where he was warden for 21 years. Cain left under allegations of ethics violations including side deals involving inmate labor.
“The allegations were totally unfounded that’s why I stand before you today. And that’s really what the situation is. So I’ve been thoroughly investigated and I’ve come out clean,” said Cain.
Mississippi’s department of corrections has been rocked by violence and killings from December 2019 through February of this year. Protestors called for Parchman Penitentiary to be closed due to poor facility conditions and low staffing. Democratic Minority Leader, Senator Derrick Simmons of Greenville, is on the committee and says people have questioned him about the governor’s pick for the job.
“Why are we even considering naming someone who has a shady business deal type past as Burl Cain. My response to a lot of those constituents is simply that he made the determination who he wants to work with in running an agency and I want to support his nomination,” said Simmons.
Cain says he wouldn’t close Parchman because that’s admitting failure. His prescription for revamping the prison system includes creating churches at facilities and
“Good food, good medicine, good playing, they’ll have recreation. We’ve got to get them out of the cells, let them have some time, breathe some fresh air and have some sunshine. But they have to behave and earn it,” said Cain.
Cain says he founded a global prison seminary program he's in talks with Mississippi College to bring to the state. He says he won't be active as the CEO of the program, but will serve as a consultant. Also, Cain says he's already changing the hiring system at MDOC, which is too cumbersome and requires applicants to pay for their doctor's physical. Senators asked if he supports an ex-offender's right to vote. The nominee said yes.
The committee approved Cain’s nomination which goes to the full Senate for a vote.