What was once one of the most violent prisons is now one of the most religious thanks to warden Burl Cain and the assistance of Crossroad Bible Institute.
Today, although about 85 percent of the inmates are either on death row or serving life sentences, Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola, is known for its religious programs and for the relative freedom that prisoners can earn.
Under the tenure of warden Burl Cain, several new programs promoting moral transformation have been initiated at Angola, including a Bible college and a hospice program staffed by inmates. In the book Cain’s Redemption, Warden Cain summarizes his correctional philosophy: “I could teach [prisoners] to read and write and help them learn skills and a trade, but without moral rehabilitation I would only be creating a smarter criminal.”
The decline in violence at Angola is a testimony to the value of Christian teaching in transforming both prisoners and prison conditions.
Over the years, more than six hundred Angola inmates seeking to make a change for the better have participated in Crossroad Bible Institute’s discipleship program. Donald, a CBI student at Angola, explained how the program has impacted his life: “Nobody has ever taken the time or opportunity to encourage and show me love. This means the world to me.”
CBI is active in thousands of other prisons around the world, many with a much lower percentage of lifers. When prisoners face the opportunity to return to their communities, discipleship and religious education become even more important.
Nearly 700,000 people are released from prison each year, returning to their communities to either start afresh or resume a life of crime. Without solid biblical principles and practical strategies for living out those truths, it can become all too easy to succumb to old patterns of living.
But Crossroad knows that a changed heart can lead to a changed life. “CBI has changed completely how I act toward others. Now I show everyone how special they are to me as Christ Jesus shows love to us,” says Federico, a CBI student in Florida who was released on February 17 of this year.
For thirty years, Crossroad has provided discipleship curriculum and mentorship for people in prison who want to turn their lives around. Where dark prison cells, loneliness and violence fail to reform, God’s grace shines all the brighter.