Magazine article Corrections Today

An Innovative Leader

Magazine article Corrections Today

An Innovative Leader

Article excerpt

The key to my success as a warden is three-fold," says Burl Cain, warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP). "I don't lie; I don't tell someone I'll do something if I can't do it; and I try to say 'yes' more than I say 'no.'"

Cain began his corrections career in 1976 as a manager of prison industries and farms for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. Five years later, he was named warden of the Dixon Correctional Institute (DCI). In January 1995, Cain assumed responsibility for LSP, the state's largest maximum security facility.

At both facilities, Cain instituted a Unit Management system. In August 1993, he led DCI toward American Correctional Association accreditation, and in November 1996, LSP achieved reaccreditation. "Accreditation is everything," says Cain. "If you're accredited you are going to be safe, sound and have good quality policies and procedures in place."

Cain's management philosophy is based on accountability. He assigns jobs to his subordinates and then does not micromanage. "The people who are self-motivated really do well in this environment," he says, adding, "The sky is the limit, therefore, they are more successful."

A firm believer in the possibility of change, Cain has always tried to inspire moral rehabilitation. "I've found that bringing religion into a prison helps to reduce violence," Cain says. This, of course, makes his job easier. "If they mess up, I remind them that their religion, whatever it might be, doesn't teach them to be bad. It teaches them to be good and I challenge them to be as good as they're supposed to be."

Cain also gives much credit to his staff. "It's the wonderful staff that I have who make me successful. I deserve nothing, really, because I'd be nothing without them," Cain says. "I'm also proud of my inmates for helping to show the public that they are people and not monsters. …

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