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Director: John Goheen
Louisiana State Penitentiary Prison, known as 'Angola', houses thousands of violent criminals and has witnessed numerous murders within its walls. The prison received international attention when "Dead Man Walking", a Hollywood movie based on two of Angola's former death row inmates, was made. But these days, it is receiving attention for a much more positive reason.
With the rise of lengthy, mandatory sentences and a nationwide "get tough" attitude toward crime, the number of people in prison in America has jumped to more than 2 million today. Consequently, the number of inmates with terminal illnesses has risen as well.
Pastor Sydney Deloch has been an inmate in Angola for more than 45 years. He says he found God in prison, and after studying correspondence courses he became an ordained minister. His mission was to spread his faith to his fellow prisoners.
Pastor Sydney visits the prison's dying inmates everyday to give them comfort and a caring ear. And when prisoners die in Angola, their fellow inmates make sure they are laid to rest with respect.
Richard Leggett has been in Angola more than 35 years. He provides the prison with a valuable service – he builds coffins for the inmates who pass away. He takes his craft seriously, since normally, prisoners would have only been put in makeshift packaged caskets.
Instead, they are now given proper funerals. Their caskets are pulled by horse and carriage, followed by a line of prisoners singing hymns, to the cemetery. Pastor Sydney leads a prayer service in a chapel, and then they are laid to rest.
Burl Cain, Angola's governor, has been criticised by victim's right groups for allowing the funeral services, arguing that their loved ones were killed and did not receive such nice send-offs. But Cain's response has been this: once a man has died, he has served his sentence and earned the right to a dignified goodbye.
Source: Al Jazeera