This past Valentine’s Day, prisoners at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana gave the gift of access to more than 200 people experiencing a different kind of immobility.
The inmates refurbished wheelchairs and walking equipment and sent them to Cuba through the non-profit organization Joni and Friends Wheels for the World. Joni and Friends has collected more than 34,000 wheelchairs throughout the nation, sending them into third world countries all across the globe.
The prison in Angola is only one of 17 prisons participating in this program seeking to give prisoners an outlet to do something impactful. Aaron Lampton, convicted of armed robbery with 54 years still left to his sentence, said “it felt so good being able to give to people after he spent so much of his life taking from them.”
The group of inmates even includes a man convicted of murder who most likely won’t get to experience freedom in his lifetime.
The culture of the prison and the mentality of the prisoners is reported to have changed drastically over the last several years. Much of this is due to the prison’s warden, Burl Cain. He has sought to bring meaning to the prisoners’ sentences, working to restore their compassion, work ethic, and involvement in meaningful causes rather than having them simply do basic tasks during their time in the penitentiary.
He commented about the need for the wheelchairs saying, “A lot of people are dragged on blankets or they’re carried, because they don’t have wheelchairs in third world countries. [The inmates] are giving freedom to someone, which is what they don’t have here.”