Inside The Rodeo For Supermax Prisoners At Angola Penitentiary

The injuries are real, the rewards are tiny, but the convicts will stare down a charging bull just for the thrill of competition.

The Louisiana State Penitentiary is a “supermax” facility that houses some 5,000 violent criminals. Its nickname: “The Alcatraz of the South.”


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Every April and October, a select few inmates get to participate in the Angola Prison Rodeo, which offers cash prizes and a little competition for individuals who are mostly isolated.

Sean Gardner/Los Angeles Times / MCT

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Sisters Kristy and Katie Barry made a mini-documentary about the Angola rodeo — we’ve briefly summarized it below, but when you have the time, watch the doc full-screen.

Video available at:

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This is Angola prison warden Burl Cain, by the way. Perfect.

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One event at the Cain-supervised institution’s rodeo is Convict Poker, in which inmates sit at a table and the last one not to get unseated by a rampaging bull “wins.” Losing involves being launched three feet off the ground by a bull horn in the ass.

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Yup, just normal rodeo stuff here.

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Then there’s Pinball, where convicts stand inside hula hoops and try to be the last man standing. (Not getting gored in the ass is considered “good form.”)

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This might be a good time to remind everyone that the top winners get about, oh, $47 each and this kickin’ belt buckle. (Optional parting gift: A bull’s horn in the ass.)

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There are also traditional rodeo events, like straight-up bareback riding, where you have to hold on the longest in order to win.

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And, of course, classic bull-riding, where you need to hold on for eight seconds in style.

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Another event involves three-man teams trying to milk a wild cow. It looks insane.

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The first team to bring milk to the judges “wins.” This is not easy to do.

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But don’t forget about bulldogging, where you have to try and flip a bull. It mostly ends up with the convict putting a bull in a headlock (and then most likely getting gored in the ass).

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But the craziest event at the Angola Prison Rodeo? That would be Guts and Glory. It’s completely bonkers and many asses get gored.

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The conceit could not be simpler: All the convicts have to do is grab a $500 poker chip affixed to the back of a bull. Sounds super-easy, right?

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Well, only one person gets the dough, while everyone else gets gored in the ass. Fun for fans, not so much for the convicts.

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More than 7,500 fans attend every year, and proceeds go toward the Louisiana State Penitentiary Inmate Welfare Fund.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

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Which, presumably, is then spent on rehabilitating inmates who’ve been run over by angry cows.

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h/t Kristy Barry

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