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Angola inmates making old-fashioned cane syrup

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ANGOLA - There's something sweet in the works at the Louisiana State Penitentiary for the second time in nearly 40 years.

Angola inmates are making homemade cane syrup the old-fashioned way. The Angola sugar mill shut down in the 1970s, but the tradition started back up last year.

In its second year, inmates say the cane syrup is sweeter than ever. Inmate Pete Clement is serving a life sentence at Angola and says he's blessed to be one of 15 inmates to make the syrup.

"I've been able to do stuff that I love doing working with horses and mules seven days a week. I figure I don't want to lose my good privileges because they're mighty good to me up here," he said. "I don't know how some of those guys do their time in a cell. I don't know how they do that."

Angola Warden Burl Cain says it's important to do things the old-fashioned way to keep Angola's rich history alive.

"It's just a good thing for all of us, because we don't want to give up our past. We don't want to forget our history, because our history was colorful but bleak and we don't want to go back where we were," said Cain.

A mule walks in circles to squeezing the juices out of sugar cane. Then inmates boil it down using an authentic sugar kettle to make the sweet syrup. Inmates will end up with 100 gallons of syrup filling around 700 bottles.

Clement says his sister recently visited him at Angola. On her way out she couldn't pass up a chance to taste the fruits of Clement's hard work.

"She could've gotten it a lot cheaper back home, but it wasn't that. She wanted some that was made from Angola, and I had a hand in making it," said Clement. "That really makes me feel good that even though I'm incarcerated people still think the world of me."

A pint of the cane syrup goes for $6 at the Angola Museum. That money will go to adding Angola's old death row cell block to the museum.


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