The warden of America’s largest prison said that he was considering letting a Louisiana inmate out of solitary confinement for the first time in decades so that he could participate in religion-based rehabilitation programs.
Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore has spent 35 years in what officials call closed cell restriction since being sentenced to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for second-degree murder in 1977. Whitmore, who has been in solitary for the last 28 consecutive years, reportedly attributes his vision damage, hypertension and other problems to the confinement.
Angola Warden Burl Cain, who has been running the prison for the past two decades, told students at The Medill Justice Project that he was thinking about allowing Whitmore to return to the general population.
But Cain argued that Whitmore’s relationship with the Black Panther Party could continue to make him a threat to prison security.
“The Black Panther Party advocates violence and racism—I’m not going to let anybody walk around advocating violence and racism,” he said.
“We will get him out,” Cain predicted. “We’d rather him out. I need his cell. I’ve got some young people, predators, that need to be in that cell. When I can conclude he’s not going to cause me the blues, then he can come out of the cell.”
In 2005, Cain explained to the Shreveport Times that his faith-based rehabilitation program worked because it gave the prisoners a sense of morality.
“The only way to make a prison safer is the Lord Almighty,” Cain insisted.
A Bible verse on a tablet outside the prison quotes Philippians 3:13, and a wall inside Camp D reads, “Jesus is Lord.”
“In what other prison would you see that?” the Warden asked.
“If I can get the population to become moral, then we’re all safer, and then we then have an environment of rehabilitation,” he told The Medill Justice Project. “It’s real simple that moral people don’t rape, pilfer and steal. It’s the immoral people who commit the crime.”
For his part, Whitmore has maintained that he was being held in solitary confinement as a “political prisoner” because of his ties to the Black Panther Party.
And Whitmore’s attorney, Emily Posner, pointed out that the Warden’s statement to The Medill Justice Project confirmed that her client was being punished for his beliefs.
“It is not surprising that Warden Cain has now affirmed that the torture that Zulu has endured for the last 28 years is a direct result of the BPP’s legacy,” she noted.
Watch the video below from the The Medill Justice Project, broadcast July 20, 2014.