Posts Tagged ‘Cathy Fontenot’
What would it be like for you to oversee an execution?
It would be challenging on a number of levels. This is difficult to answer.
I’ve had a great teacher in Warden Cain. He is professional and
compassionate. I’d like think I’d be that way. Its a strange process and
event. Staff are pulled in so many directions and we have so many people to
consider and assist during this time. I’d talk a lot to those around me.
I’d make it as transparent as possible and I’d remain as calm and helpful
as I could be. I don’t think I’d approach them all the same – outside of
course the official, legal requirements.
What are the next steps you see for corrections in America?
How to stop the growing numbers of those incarcerated without the chance of release. We have almost 3 million in prisons and jails and we live in “the land of the free?” We cannot afford to keep this up. We need to repair communities – especially health care and education opportunities and build less jails and prisons. I propose that prison officials work with communities and victims to assist in re-entry efforts. I’m proud of the efforts being made by my superiors in Louisiana on re-entry. We are heading in the right direction! Of course we should know this business as we lock up more people per capita than any other state!!
Louisiana State Penitentiary inmate Henry Smith escaped on Thursday. More than 200 law enforcement officials have been searching for Smith, a convicted murderer, since his escape. Assistant Warden Cathy Fontenot said Smith escaped a day before the anniversary of his mother’s death and that he may have also been upset over the recent heart attack of his only friend at prison Clifford “Smurf” Bowman.
What are your thoughts about morality and religion as tools for corrections…
They work. I believe that what works depends on the pulse and needs of the people who spent their lives in any environment or community. A good warden is like a good mayor, coach, leader – he/she listens to the those who follow and finds places to use them according to their talents. I think that diversity works – offering something for everyone in a safe and secure way even in restrictive environments causes unbelievable creativity. Morality is important because everyone needs to feel good about themselves and their actions. When release into society stops being an option many find comfort in the ultimate release is upon death and most people in our neck of the woods find that hope in religion and morality. Redemption and forgiveness also are strong themes here and among those who have committed violent crimes like murder and rape.
Can you share a funny anecdote from your time at Angola?
Actually, humor keeps us sane!! I always say that Angola has even made me “a better man.” The men seem to appreciate it when “light” comments are made. I did have an offender tell me once when I lost a couple of quarters in a vending machine that “its like a bunch of people here at Angola – its a thief.”. Also I had a Death Row inmate ask a reporter if she was scared to come to Death Row at Angola. She answered no quickly and he replied even faster that she was braver than him because when he heard he was coming he was petrified!!
Is Angola different from other prisons?
There is no other prison or place or community like it on Earth. it is the best place to learn about every issue of corrections. The whole place is inspiring – from the natural beauty to the thoughtfulness of inmates and staff. The ability to go there and to see what for many years was a huge secret and mystery makes the place an odd destination but a true life changing experience for many. Over 6,000 people – most in for life – many, many stories here!!
How has media exposure affected Angola?
Positively! It has educated people on serious issues and concerns. It has raised awareness and corrected false information on emergency and routine issues. Its brought attention to what works and what doesn’t. Its given a voice and face to those impacted by crime including victims and their families. We have established great international, national and state and local relationships with media and other agencies and these experiences have led to positive programs that make bad situations better.
Do you believe some people at Angola are innocent? What does that
mean for you?
My job is clear. I am to provide care and custody for those sentenced by the courts – by a jury of their peers. I don’t decide guilt or innocence. I do provide access to legal serves for those who appeal. I do feel that people are capable and do know many that can release with skills and attitudes far better than what they arrived with.
What is the hardest decision you’ve faced?
How to write a press release fitting enough to honor a Captain (DCKnapps) who was killed in a hostage situation while saving countless others.
What is it like to be a woman in an all male prison?
I love it. 5200 men that call me ma’am. Not a bad gig for a gal. Seriously, its really rewarding and I feel that I’ve learned a great deal from the time I’ve shared with the inmates and staff.
What is it like to be a mother while working at this job? Do you feel a specific duty to your family and community?
Our first mission is public safety. I feel that I’m a better corrections pro after becoming a mother. I seem to be more patient and tend to have a better understanding of how precious and short life can be and is. I have a wonderful husband who is a better mother than I most days as I’m not an expert on doing it all!! I struggle daily with being at work when I need to be at home but feel that I’m better for my family doing the right things to make my community, state and even world safer.
How did you get involved in corrections?
I tried to be Cagney and Lacey and Charlie’s Angeles all rolled up in one but couldn’t get hired on as a police woman. I was told I was too small and that I’d probably just leave since I had a college degree. Little did they know I would have stayed. I have always been intrigued about choices people make and how they deal with the consequences of their decisions. My passion
What is your attraction to the field of corrections?
People – knowing them better thru understanding every aspect of what a person may be capable of doing on their best and worst days. The ability to adapt and to forgive. Seeing how life and death experiences interact in the whole human relations picture. People are our resources in this world and working in an environment where corrections are possible benefits us all in the long run.