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Death Row Rodeo

Louisiana's Angola state penitentiary, once described as 'the bloodiest prison in America' by Time magazine, is an unlikely setting for a rodeo. Home to 5,200 murderers, rapists and other violent criminals, it gained notoriety when 40 prisoners were killed in gang violence between 1972 and 1975. 71% of the prisoners are lifers, and in Louisiana life means life - even first offenders are ineligible for parole. The men on death row are not the only ones who will die there. Twice a year, thousands of locals willingly enter the prison to join the rodeo day crowd enjoying a series of bizarre games. In Convict Poker, four inmate cowboys sit at a table in the middle of the arena playing a friendly game of poker. Suddenly, a wild bull is released with the sole purpose of unseating the poker players. The last man remaining seated is the winner. In Guts and Glory, the inmates vie to pluck a poker chip from between the bull's horns.The rodeo was introduced by Burl Cain, a charismatic warden who is credited with bringing about a sharp reduction in violence within the prison. In stark contrast to the bloody past, there have been no killings in Angola in the last three years. Much of Cain's success has been attributed to the influence of his faith-based programming. In the face of death, and having found God, a rampaging 2000lb bull is, perhaps, just another challenge.
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