One-on-one with MDOC Commissioner Burl Cain

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Burl Cain, worked in Louisiana for four decades. He came out of retirement to lead MDOC. Cain said he didn’t come to the sate for money, but to help restore order and help inmates through a religious program.

“It’s about correcting deviate behavior. That’s what corrections is. It is not lock and feed, torture and torment. It’s changing people and less victims of violent crimes,” explained Cain.

Four years after he retired as warden of Louisiana’s Angola Prison, Cain is bringing his strategy to Mississippi’s prisons. He calls it “Moral Rehabilitation.”

“We’re not going to have the gang problem after a period of time. We’re going to have all that gone and worked out. We have some plans for that. Some are going to rebel and resist change.”

Cain said he knows about the violent history of prisons in Mississippi, especially Parchman. He said Angola was the same way at first.

“Angola was wild and wooley, it was about every night someone was getting stabbed. A lock in the sock was a favorite weapon,” stated Cain.

He chose to fight the violence with faith. Cain implemented the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS). He claimed it turned Angola around in just two years, and it ultimately helped create a climate where he says 1,200 inmates would get a GED each year.

Even though he had some successes, reports of side dealings started circulating. One included a real-estate deal worth more than $2 million. 12 News asked him about it, and he said he never did anything wrong.

“Here I am. I didn’t get arrested. I didn’t do anything wrong. I have no ethics violations. No wrongdoing was found.”

Cain said the investigation took about three months. He explained shortly after, he decided his time at Angola was up and was looking forward to starting a non-profit.

Since starting as MDOC commissioner, Cain already has an idea of moving the department forward. He said Mississippi has a NOBTS program, which he helped start years ago but was never continued, he wants to re-visit a statewide prison GED program, and offer vocational training for inmates.

12 News Lanaya Lewis asked Cain if there were any plans to shut Unit 29 in Parchman down or Parchman altogether due to unsanitary conditions, he said not at this time.

Cain said he’s also dedicated to filling more correctional officer positions. Right now correctional officers make around $27,000 a year. A new initiative by the department is to allow qualified applicants to start receiving pay the day after interviewing with hiring managers.

“We can say, we like you and you’re going to be on the payroll tomorrow. So you can start making time the next day. People have to pay rent. They can’t wait two or three weeks for a job.”

At this time, there’s no plans to raise the $27,000 salary for correctional officers, but instead fill understaffed facilities.

Cain is planning to visit Parchman for the first time on Friday, June 5. He said he wants to get feedback from inmates and staff on the conditions that many deem inhumane.

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