JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Burl Cain was appointed the new commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections on Wednesday. He served 20 years as warden of Louisiana’s Angola Prison before he resigned.
“He was, I would say pretty popular. He was kind of a celebrity,” said Gordon Russell, who is with The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge. Russel said Cain is known to many as charismatic and entrepreneurial.
“Started a lot of businesses that involved either dealing with contractors or using inmate labor to do things for vendors, and sometimes he had some side arrangements with those vendors,” said Russell.
The Advocate reported several times on these side arrangements. Russell said none of the arrangements were criminal, but they were violations. Cain reportedly invested more than $2 million into a real estate deal that involved an inmate’s family.
“The inmate was a double murderer who was hoping to get clemency from the governor, and his step-father went into business with Burl Cain. And the inmate wound up being moved into a trusty position at the governor’s mansion, which was often seen as kind of an on-ramp to getting a pardon.”
The inmate never got a pardon, and soon afterwards, Cain resigned as warden of Angola Prison. Cain said the allegations against him were unfounded.
Russell said in Cain’s tenure, he prided himself on seeing inmates as humans and pointing them towards religious practices.
As for what made him come out of retirement and take the MDOC commissioner position, Russell believes Cain wasn’t happy about how things ended in Louisiana.
“This is an opportunity to turn around a troubled prison system, and who wouldn’t want to do that if they bad the opportunity.”
WJTV 12 News reached out to Cain’s office for an interview, and we’re waiting to hear back.