Louisiana’s Angola Prison is full of some of the state’s most violent criminals, many of whom are serving life sentences for the crime or crimes they have committed. But the prison offers its inmates something that others don’t, and that is the opportunity to participate in the annual rodeo and to be a member of one of its many sports teams.
The Associated Press reported that for more than 50 years, the Angola Prison has been putting on an annual rodeo for its most well-behaved inmates. What started off as a small, “fun” event for the prisoners has turned into a big audience draw. Proceeds go toward the Louisiana State Penitentiary Inmate Welfare Fund, which helps pay for recreational supplies and inmate education.
Along with good behavior, the Angola Prison inmates do have to be in good, physical shape in order to compete in the rodeo, said Gary Frank, who serves as the prison’s athletic director.
“They sometimes get hurt, but they know the dangers,” Frank said.
And there are others who create and sell crafts at the annual event, which is the biggest attraction for the Angola Prison – since it is open to the public and is held on prison grounds in a stadium that can seat 10,000 people.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that some of the events that took place during the Angola Prison Rodeo included bareback horse riding, bull riding, and wild horse roping. There was also “convict poker,” in which participants sat at a table, and a bull gets released into the arena. Whoever was the last person sitting at the table is declared the winner.
Joseph Ward, an inmate at Angola Prison, said the rodeo offers the chance to not feel like a prisoner, and to show the world that you are human.
“I’m a prisoner, but I’m not a bad person,” Ward added. “I made a mistake.”
But the Angola Prison offers its prisoners to participate in more sports. Other than the rodeo, Frank said the prison has an annual tennis tournament, and there are many different sports teams of which inmates can be a member – including 18 basketball teams, 18 volleyball teams, 44 softball teams, and roughly a dozen tackle and flag football teams.
Frank said the sports programs give the inmates “a sense of pride and accomplishment,” and it makes Angola Prison a safer place to live and work.
“It keeps them occupied, keeps their minds occupied,” he said.
And just like the rodeo, the Angola Prison only offers the option to play in the sports to those who have good behavior, Frank said.
“If they get into a fight, they don’t get to play,” he said. “It helps take out the nonsense.”