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Former warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary and current commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections Burl Cain’s career has drawn national attention for his supposed heraldry of penal reform. Having declared himself to be fulfilling a divinely mandated mission, Cain has frequently cited his criteria of a “good prison: good playing, good praying, good food and good medicine.”1 This article seeks to critically examine these criteria as they relate to Cain’s tenures in both Louisiana and Mississippi while answering the following question: what is the human impact of Burl Cain’s approach to wardency? Despite his focus on the provision of what is “good,” the penitentiaries he has managed have been plagued by records of malnutrition, medical discrimination, relentless proselytization, and settler colonialism; therefore, this article argues that the framework necessary to understand the figure of Burl Cain is the national institution of slavery and the advancement of the prison-industrial complex.



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