Started in 1964/1965. the Angola Prison Rodeo at the Louisiana State Penitentiary is the longest running rodeo in the US. 73% of the incarcerated men are serving life sentences and otherwise the average sentence is 90 years. The men live in poor conditions in sweltering cells and many are held in solitary for horrifying lengths of time.
The rodeo reflects some of the poor conditions. As a big fan of rodeos — see bull riding in Abingdon — the unusual events were disturbing. In one event, the competing man puts an egg in his mouth and holds a pitcher of water while being pulled in a sled by a mustang. To stay qualified, the man cannot break the egg, and the man with the most water left wins. The prison guards expressed glee in coming up with “wilder and wilder” events each year.
The nice part of the rodeo seems to be the men selling crafts. They get to see family, talk to people, and raise money for their own education and programming. The prison cut funding for educational programming. For the rodeo portion, for the standard rodeo fare, the men can feel free for a moment.
For the grand majority of the incarcerated population, I hope that criminal justice reform comes soon so they can go home.