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Black warden named at Louisiana prison amid diversity push

June 29, 2021 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana Department of Corrections has named a Black warden at one of its largest state prisons amid calls to increase diversity among the highest levels of leadership.

Kirt Guerin will supervise Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, The Advocate reported on Monday. He started his career with the department 30 years ago when he was hired as a corrections cadet at the facility.

Guerin is the fifth Black person in Louisiana’s history to be appointed to the highest-ranking position at one of the eight state prisons, a department spokesperson told the newspaper.

“I prayed a long time for this job, for the dedicated employees that work here, and for the future of Elayn Hunt Correctional Center,” Guerin said in a statement. “I believe that with God all things are possible … and that the best is yet to come.”

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Guerin has been overlooked for promotions multiple times in recent years. Joe Buttross, who didn’t have direct experience working in a prison, was chosen over him for an assistant warden opening at Hunt in 2019.

A group of Black retired corrections executives formed a committee last year to evaluate hiring and promotions. They found that the department was diverse overall, but Black people were underrepresented in high-ranking positions.

“While there remains much work to be done regarding the elevation of Black employees to executive levels at the Louisiana Department of Corrections, this is certainly a step in the right direction,” committee chair Larry Smith said in a statement regarding Guerin’s new role.

The department also announced Monday that Tim Hooper, the previous warden at the center in St. Gabriel, was transferred to oversee the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

“These two prisons are in good hands with individuals who have longstanding records and history with the Department,” department secretary Jimmy LeBlanc said in a statement. “Both are visionaries who will continue the critical work to reform, rehabilitate and prepare people to return to our communities.”