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“At one time Angola was well known as the bloodiest penitentiary in America. And now you don’t have nearly as much as the violence as you woulda had.”

Troy West, Angola Inmate

Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate per capita of all US states. over 1,100 per 100,000 – that’s more than 1 in a 100. Angola (Louisiana State Penitentiary) is the mother of all prisons, carrying a weighty reputation and weightier history.

Only Georgia has a rate above 1 in a 100, as Louisiana does. The other Southern states make up the top five (Texas, Alabama and Mississippi).

These stats are due in most the more frequent sentencing of men to life without parole. The disproportionately high rate of prisoners who die within Southern prisons as compared to other state institutions makes for a very different culture.

Many photographers including Damon Winter and Lori Waselchuk have focused on the unique aspects of Angola culture. The rodeo is well known, the hospice less so, but least well known may be the football league.

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I have noted before the value of sports in prison, and Angola Prison Football a film-short by Charlie Gruet supports my position.

In it, Angola warden Burl Cain states his philosophy, “Good food, good medicine, good play and good pray. Lose any of those elements and you’ll have violence in your prison, but you would in your home. You think about it.”

The inmates back up the third point. It’s a well done documentary and to think that over 70% of the men in the film won’t ever get out just blows my mind. (Source: 2008 LSP Report).

Watch closely from 4.03 onward.

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