Hunt’s Warden Tanner addresses Gonzales Rotary

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Pictured from left to right are: Rotary Club of Gonzales President, Tim Pujol, Rotarian, Sally Diez; Warden Robert Tanner; and Deputy Warden, Tim Hooper.

Robert Tanner, Warden of Elayn Hunt Correctional Facility for Men in St. Gabriel, addressed the members of the Gonzales Rotary on Feb. 24.  Accompanying Tanner was Deputy Warden, Tim Hooper.

Tanner has worked for the state department of corrections in various capacities since 1967.  Tanner described himself as a “prison brat.  I have worked with the department of corrections my entire career, and I’ve spent many summers at Angola when I was a young boy.  My grandfather was employed at Angola working for the prison gardens.  He used to take me and my siblings to work with him,” he said.

Growing up in and around prisons and working for the system his entire life, Tanner said he has seen a big shift in the philosophy of corrections.  “In the past, the idea was to ‘lock ‘em (offenders) up and throw them away.’” Tanner worked for Angola at a time when it was known as the bloodiest prison in the nation.  He noted that the prison system has come a long way in moving toward rehabilitation.  We now attempt to offer rehabilitation through education and religion.  Offenders take classes toward degrees or learn trade skills.  They are encouraged to improve themselves through active participation in religion or spirituality. 

Tanner posited this question:  “When offenders leave prison, will they be better fathers, husbands, and citizens, or will they continue to be a strain on society?  In spite of what many think, prison is no picnic.  We are just beginning to reduce the number of incarcerations in the state, but Louisiana still leads the nation, and the United States leads the world.   The state Department of Corrections has a number of programs to help offenders to be productive citizens when they are released including programs to deal with alcoholism, programs to assist with transportation needs, and others.”

Many of these programs have become models for other systems across the country, and all of the state’s correctional facilities are now accredited by the American Corrections Association.  “Today,” he said, “We’re recognized as one of the best in the nation.”