Infamous cell block back in working order

Infamous cell block back in working order

POSTED: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 5:40pm

UPDATED: Saturday, June 16, 2012 - 3:45pm

The ‘Red Hat' block, reserved for decades for the most violent criminals in the Louisiana justice system, is once again unlocking its doors.

"The inmates that were sentenced to this block wore red hats so everyone could see them in the field. And so they took their straw hats and painted them red because those were the worst and the meanest," Burl Cain, warden at the Angola prison, explained.

The ‘Red Hat’ block was built in the early 1930's after a particularly violent prison escape lead by Charles Frazier.

"Charlie Frazier aka Eldridge Roy Johnson, in 1933, somewhere in there was the ring leader behind the huge escape, and as a consequence of that the authorities decided they needed a severe lock down cell block," Judge Hal Ware, judge in the 20th Judicial District, stated.

The cells at the 'Red Hat' block have been restored to their former state, a reminder the warden said, of the penitentiary’s long history.

“Everyone in Louisiana loves preservation of our heritage, all of our valuable old buildings and this is magnificent," said Ware.

The block was finally shut down in the 1970's on the heels of sweeping prison living condition reforms. Cain said the goal was to return the block to it’s former operating order, along the way he was also able to involve current inmates in the restoration of the cell block.

"All the inmates were able to learn and use the machines to build all the infrastructure of this little building so the cells would work like they did originally," Cain said.

The 'Red Hat' block is now open for all visitors to the Angola state penitentiary to see.

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