Redcliffe Pier

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

TWO MILES LONG AND TWO YARDS WIDE

The post title is how the Mississippi River town of St Francisville is described. The little town is perched on a very narrow ridge. with steep drops on either side. We had to climb a very steep path from the American Queen steamboat up to the free Hop on Hop off buses. The bus climbed higher up the bluff to the little town of St Francisville. It didn't take us long to visit the few attractions. There were more beautiful antebellum houses, a nice church, a historic museum, bric brac shops and a market hall.

 I surprised myself by being up early enough to see the morning mist and sunrise from our cabin door.

 We visited the church which was engulfed by these huge oak trees draped with  Spanish Moss.

 We walked the neat streets with lovely houses, we visited museums and yes Bill found a coffee shop before we hopped on the bus back to the boat for lunch.

After lunch we went on another"Premium Excursion"(at an extra cost). This was to 'Angola', the Louisiana State Penitentiary. It is the biggest prison in US covering an area of 18,000 acres which used to be plantations, one being "Angola" supposedly named after the country where the Afro Americans came from. It is bordered on three sides by the Mississippi river and the other side faces a mountain range and so the prison 's nickname is 'Alcatraz of the South'
Angola used to be the most violent prison in the country but in 1972 Elayn Hunt was appointed director and massive reforms took place. Today the prison, under Warden Burl Cain, has become the most successful correctional centre in the country. The emphasis is on moral rehabilitation. There are a huge range of programs operating, ranging from farming to religious studies, including educational studies, dog training, running TV and radio stations and holding the world famous Angola Prison Rodeo.
There are over 6000 offenders and 1800 staff. 90% of offenders are in for life until they die. Angola is like a town, it has its own Post Office. It is self sufficient, growing crops and cattle.

 Our bus drove into the prison and stopped at The Red Hat block (1933) which is now heritage listed. It was where the most dangerous offenders were held and executed. They had red paint splashed onto their straw hat for when they worked in the fields. We walked through this eerie building, which reeked of bad memories.

 When we emerged from the old cell block we were met by a rehabilitated offender driving the Rodeo Cart. He talked to us about the rodeo held every weekend in October for the privileged offenders and the general public.

 The prison is designed with a main complex and a  series of camps like mini prisons. We were taken to the chapel where two 'lifers' who were now mentors for other offenders, gave us a talk about the programs offered. We were most impressed with these two men who knew they would never leave this place but they had a zest for life, learning and helping others.

 One of the most sort after jobs is one of dog training.

At the end of the tour we visited the jail museum. Angola sure has a gruesome history but an amazing story of becoming a model prison, that is visited by other directors of correctional institutions from all over the country and the world.

Ooops we nearly left Bill behind.

28 comments:

  1. Poor Bill:) Wow it is amazing the history. Hug B

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  2. All looks good except Bill in there :)

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  3. glad they did not keep bill in that cell.. these photos of the cemetery and the house could have been taken in Savannah, i would guess that is where they were. next time you need a trip to Savannah GA.. great idea on the red hats.. that morning mist is gorgeous.

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  4. Very interesting Diane and that last shot made me laugh out loud.. I must admit I'm a little like Bill, I can sniff out a good coffee at a hundred paces :)

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  5. the light and the mist is beautiful! what a sobering experience visiting the prison would be...

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  6. Love that last shot! LOL So interesting hearing the history and the turnaround there!

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  7. Very interesting report, Diane.
    "Angola Prison" looks much better than that final photo of a very "dangerous and distraught" prisoner.
    I hope his language was not too offensive???
    Maybe the prison authorities should give him a little coffee making machine and that may soothe his obvious bad behaviour????
    He does look a bit like "TOH", maybe a twin, eh????
    Cheers
    Colin

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  8. I would love to be able to tour a working prison and not just old ones no longer in use it sounds like a bloody awesome little town

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  9. That's harsh punishment just because he left the Stanton Hall tour early, don't you think? ;)). Interesting tour and post, well worth the extra money!

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  10. Beautiful shots at the beginning. Didn't it seem a little strange visiting a prison that is still in operation or were you just looking for a retirement home for Bill?

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  11. Interesting to know that you can visit a working prison. I'm surprised they still have their own farms. I think most prisons have done away with them.

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  12. You didn't really lock Bill in, did you?

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  13. You were right near my back yard in St. Francisville! It's only about 25 miles north of me. Such a beautiful place. I did not know all that about Angola. So interesting! I'm really glad to hear they have religious studies and stuff for the inmates.

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  14. I'm glad you didn't leave Bill behind in the prison. This sounds like a fascinating stop on your cruise, with the beautiful homes and cemetery followed by the prison. I also like your morning photos of the river.

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  15. Good Morning, Diane! looks like another great tour..Thank God for all coffee shops everywhere, lol.. I did not know the history of Angola, I am surprised you could visit a working prison.. The last shot is fun and I love the sunrise and early morning mist.. Great post..

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  16. The Spanish Moss is so special to see. To visit a prison is not on my wish list I am afraid.

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  17. The Red Hat Prison sounds like an awful place but the rest of the tour sounds fascinating. I'm glad they finally released Bill from the jail. ;)

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  18. Goodness Diane, that must have been quite a tour! Great photos and I am so glad you didn't leave Bill behind.

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  19. The landscape photos are so beautiful ! I can imagine how this prison must have been. Angola ? Most of the slaves came from Senegal I once have seen on pictures the place where they were checked, chained and put on ships ! Awful ! The only prison we visited in the States was Alcatraz that was bad enough !

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  20. Hi Diane! My friend I told you about who lives in Natchez also has a home (they call it their 'camp') on the river in St. Francisville! We've spent time there for her daughter's wedding a few years ago. A beautiful place! Long before I had a blog or ever met you. Isn't it a small world. I sometimes wonder how often people's paths cross, people who know each other, or will know each other, like that.

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  21. What an interesting little place with so much history. The prison sounds like an unusual place--good on them for their programs to change prisoners instead of just house them until they die. I love blogging because I hear of places I'll never see for myself. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  22. It was worth rising early Diane to capture the lovely Misty Mississippi ... Oh! and Bill nearly left behind at the prison - that would have been funny.

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  23. Excellent photo to start and amazing post! I'd love to make such a trip. thanks



    ALOHA from Honolulu
    ComfortSpiral
    <3

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  24. Hi Diane, another great post ... chock full of information too.
    I particularly liked your photo of the morning mist. Quite stunning.
    You seem to be getting your money's worth from the tours :D)

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  25. So interesting! I'm not sure I would want to visit Angola prison but it would be interesting. Cute shot of Bill behind bars! :-)

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  26. Encouraging to read of the positive educational programs operating and the difference these have made to the lives of the prisoners. Love your early morning misty shots!

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