June 3, 2020 10:51:07 AM
I support the appointment of Burl Cain as the new head of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
I know Cain comes with some baggage.
His transgressions in Louisiana, and his advanced age of 77, are offset by his tremendous experience, his fervent belief in his mission and his amazing accomplishments at the Angola maximum security prison in Louisiana.
Numerous articles, videos, programs and even books have been written about how Cain turned Angola into a prison based on redemption and corrections rather than condemnation and punishment. A simple Google search will give you ample opportunity to educate yourself on this if you have the time and energy.
Yes, he got caught up with some self-dealing, as others have described in sufficient detail. But the charges never stuck, and he was never found guilty of a crime. Further investigation exonerated Cain. I believe we should accept the official findings.
I was introduced to Cain through Northsider David McNair, who I met when he was a donor to Clean Water for Malawi. McNair's support over the years helped us drill hundreds of water wells bringing clean water to half a million impoverished Africans.
David has been spending the weekends at Angola every other month where he teaches a prison course on starting a business. As a result, David has been an eyewitness to the transformation of Angola from what was a hellhole. "The guards don't carry guns. It's more like a college campus," he told me.
Angola has a prison magazine, a radio and TV station, there are real jobs, training, education and rehabilitation. There are six chapels and a vibrant prison ministry. No doubt, it's not perfect, but they are moving in the right direction. That's what we need at Parchman, where prison ministry has been turned away because of security concerns.
Jesus also had an opinion about how we should treat prisoners. Matthew 25:36: "I was in prison and you came to visit me ... I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
There is a profound disconnect in our state between our religious beliefs and our incarceration system. On Sunday, we believe in redemption but then on Monday, we run our prisons like punitive hellholes.
It has not worked. Costs have skyrocketed. Gangs are rampant. Mentally ill prisoners are abused. And our incarceration rate is one of the highest in the world.
It's wrong, and it needs to stop. These people have sinned. They have done wrong, but they are still precious in the eyes of the Lord.
The selection committee consisted of a mayor, a parole board member, a county sheriff, a DA, an appellate judge and a prison reform advocate. That's a broad spectrum.
For over an hour, I interviewed Cain in my office. He was full of energy, fervor and passion to reform Parchman. Indeed, his prison ministry foundation is bringing change through the world.
It's a huge task. An impossible task without tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit.
Wyatt Emmerich is the editor and publisher of The Northside Sun, a weekly newspaper in Jackson. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]
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