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RODEO LIFERS

Posted: Apr 28 2018

In southern rural Louisiana an inmate is about to be released from the pen. He is dressed in prison stripes, vest, and a helmet with a guard to protect his face. He's nervous, this will be his first time getting out. The gate opens and the Brahma bull under him starts to buck and jump every which way to try and knock the amateur off of its back. The inmate manages to hold on for just a couple of seconds before hurdling down into the dirt and springing up to run back to safety. A crowd of 10,000 or so roars in the stands. The Angola Prison Rodeo is a mix of bulls, armed guards, prison bands and families and has been dubbed "The Wildest Show in the South."

The Angola Prison Rodeo was first held in 1965 for the entertainment of inmates and staff only. In the past 53 years it has grown into a million dollar grossing spectacle of bull riding, art, and barbecue that is open to the public twice a year. In the months of October and April the prisoners participate in the amateur rodeo for prizes of up to $500. The inmates also get the chance to sell art or goods that they have crafted while behind bars for their prison accounts. Everything from paintings to leather goods to the unexpected wooden match stick sculpture are up for grabs and people get a chance to wheel and deal with the inmates that made them. While the art fair is happening, different inmate bands are playing music for the crowd. Once 2 p.m. rolls around its time for the most popular part of the day: the rodeo.

 

Prisoners compete in the traditional rodeo events with professionals present to judge their performances, though they have also thrown in some wilder ones as well. Convict Poker has 4 inmates sitting around a poker table in the middle of the arena. A bull is then let out and the last man to stay in his chair wins the event. Another popular one, and probably the most dangerous, is when they tie a poker chip to the forehead of a bull. The prisoners scramble to try and remove the chip in the event they have aptly named "Guts and Glory".
The Prison Rodeo has something that most traditional ones do not have: amateur competitors that have nothing to lose (75% of the 6,000 inmates are serving life sentences at Angola). Some will say they only do it for the money, others have said they like being treated like regular people for a change. When a crowd of 10,000 is cheering you on in an arena, they're getting more than just money or humanity. The inmates are in it for some glory.

All credit to the Photographers / Owners

 

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