Back in October of 2011, Cristina and I went to prison. Voluntarily. Actually, we paid to get in.
Every October, the Angola State Prison opens its doors to the public. What the public get is basically two things: a rodeo and an arts and crafts fair. All participants are prisoners serving time for various, but in most cases, violent crimes. That’s what really makes this event special.
First let’s talk about the rodeo. Late in the afternoon, you find your seats and get ready for a show. And a show you will get. The afternoon we were there, we got to see the normal rodeo stuff: bull riding, calf wrestling and the like. Like a rodeo, it can get violent in a second. Quickly, you forget these men are prisoners and start worrying about them. There are other events such as bull in the ring with real bulls. There are rodeo clowns for the kids. My favorite part was when the monkey’s were riding the dog’s herding sheep into the back of the truck. Since you can’t take cameras into the prison, you will just have to trust me, it happened.
I know people who go to the rodeo every weekend in October. But not to see the rodeo. You see the rodeo is what pulls you in. The crafts are what keeps you coming back.
The first thing that Cristina and I talked about on the way home was how we needed a truck. Some of the items you can buy: swings, smokers, patio furniture, armoires, paintings in custom-made frames, custom-made belts and wallets, and entire bedroom sets. The level of craftsmanship is extremely high. These guys truly have nothing else to do. Most of the prisoners will be behind a fence barking at you to try to buy their wares. Others, who have earned the right with their good behavior, will be next to their products acting as salesmen. When they have sold you on an item, they write you a ticket that you take to the point of sale booth. There you will receive your receipt and the go pick it up from its creator.
The only downside of the day was that when everyone decides to leave, there is only one road out. Make sure you have a full tank.
Even though the Angola Rodeo is every weekend in October, they do open their doors every spring for one weekend, and that weekend is this weekend.
- Darryl Richardson at Angola Prison Rodeo (prisonphotography.wordpress.com)