Inmates at Angola making sugarcane syrup for first time since 1970's

ANGOLA, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana's State Penitentiary, more commonly known as Angola, was also known by another name - "The Farm." The prison was given that name because of all the crops grown there and now they are adding to the soil. This week, inmates and staff harvested their first crop of sugarcane since 1973.

"It was such a big product that was done here at the prison. Inmates do remember stories about it," said Assistant Warden Cathy Fontenot.

Angola shutdown its sugar mill in 1975. But recently decided to start the process back up. Monday was the first day they cooked the product, and put the syrup on top of biscuits. Pete Clement, an inmate who's serving a life sentence, says the syrup was delicious.

Part of the reason is they are continuing to do things the old-fashioned way. Using a mule to help squeeze the cane. Clement helped teach the mule how to walk, in order to turn the crank. As she walks, other inmates feed the cane through the gears and out comes the juice. They're also using the same kettle to cook the syrup in that they used years ago.

The prison is starting with once acre of sugarcane. Half is Blue Ribbon, the other half is Plaquemine cane. Once it is all juiced, prison staff say they'll end up with 100 gallons of sugarcane syrup.

"We have a museum and hope to sell some to the public, like we do our hot sauce product," said Fontenot.

Clement says being involved in the process is like a trip down memory lane, to when he was a free man, standing by the kettle and watching friends make cane syrup.

"This is a lot better than being in a cell or being in the dormitory, looking at one another all day," Clement said.

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