10 Shocking Facts About Angola Prison and Its Violent Past

The Louisiana State Penitentiary, higher often known as Angola jail, has earned nicknames similar to “The Bloodiest Prison in America” and “Alcatraz of the South.” Angola is the biggest maximum-security jail in the USA, and it was as soon as recognized for its harsh working environments and brutal violence.

The jail has since calmed down, however it’s nonetheless dwelling to 1000’s of inmates who won’t ever get pleasure from life outdoors its partitions once more. And regardless of enhancements through the years, authorized battles regarding its circumstances are hardly a factor of the previous. Listed here are ten surprising information about Angola and its historical past.

10 America’s Largest Most-Safety Prison

In 1880, former Accomplice main Samuel James bought an 8,000-acre plantation in West Feliciana Parish referred to as Angola. It was named after the realm the place former slaves got here from in Africa. He saved some inmates there on the Previous Slave Quarters. The Louisiana Board of Management bought Angola within the early twentieth century, however the 8,000 acres and 10,000 surrounding acres had been later offered to Henry Fuqua. He held the place of warden on the jail till he turned governor.

As we speak, the Louisiana State Penitentiary is America’s largest maximum-security jail and sits on greater than 18,000 acres. Angola Prison is positioned on the finish of Louisiana Freeway 66 and is bordered on three sides by the Mississippi River.[1] The positioning is dwelling to about 6,300 inmates and employs round 1,800 staff. There’s additionally a museum positioned at Angola, and greater than 120,000 individuals go to it yearly.

9 Violent Historical past

A few of the most harmful criminals in Louisiana are grouped collectively at Angola, and it has been recognized to be one of the vital violent prisons in the USA. Simply in 1992, the jail skilled 1,346 assaults, together with each inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff assaults. That quantity has decreased to just some hundred per 12 months as of late. These numbers shouldn’t be shocking, although, since, as talked about, Angola is the biggest maximum-security jail within the US and principally homes inmates serving life sentences for violent crimes.

One of many jail’s nicknames was “The Bloodiest Prison in America.”[2] The ability’s onsite museum is dwelling to a number of selfmade weapons usual by these behind bars at Angola. The weapons embody a number of knives created from numerous gadgets and a shotgun crafted from steel pipes. Guests will even discover a spiked ball on a series, two medieval axes (how these acquired in is anybody’s guess), and a meat cleaver that had been answerable for a number of inmate deaths. There isn’t a denying the very violent previous of Angola jail.

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8 Self-Sustainable


Earlier than the Civil Struggle, Angola was as soon as a plantation full of crops, and it has now earned the nickname “The Farm” because of the huge farmland that sits on the jail grounds.

The jail grounds are full of an abundance of greens and fruits which can be grown by prisoners. These crops are then used to feed the lads who name Angola dwelling. The meals produced on the farm is nearly sufficient to produce many of the prisons in Louisiana.[3]

7 Inmates Work

The inmates at Angola are taught to work as quickly as they arrive. Former jail warden Burl Cain stated that many of those males didn’t know how one can work, and making them study to work can be an enormous a part of their rehabilitation. Whether or not they prefer it or not, prisoners are given a job quickly after arriving. As soon as a jail physician clears an inmate, he’s instantly put to work.[4]

Cain stated that the work assigned to every inmate provides them a day-to-day goal by fostering expertise and achievement. Working the fields positioned on jail grounds is among the extra well-liked jobs, however prisoners are additionally inspired to study trades. Many commerce jobs, similar to automotive, culinary arts, and plumbing, are provided to inmates. Prisoners serving life sentences educate these expertise to different inmates, and those that will likely be launched can use their trades towards rehabilitation after their sentences are over.

6 Angola Prison Rodeo

The longest-running jail rodeo within the nation is held on the Angola jail. In 1965, the sector was constructed by inmates. What began as leisure for less than inmates and jail workers has now became a spectacular occasion for everybody to get pleasure from. The rodeo opened to the general public in 1967, and it has continued to develop in dimension and recognition every year.[5]

Each Sunday in October and one weekend in April, inmates from Angola entertain 1000’s of tourists with rodeo performances. Bull-riding, barrel-racing, bull-dogging, cow-milking, and convict poker are just some of the occasions that may be seen on the rodeo. For those who’re not into rodeo video games, a craft present options arts and crafts created by the inmates. A few of the handmade gadgets on the market embody rocking chairs, tables, birdhouses, indicators, bowls, and youngsters’s toys.

5 Guarded by Wolf Canines

In 2012, the jail was compelled to put off guards and shut guard towers attributable to state price range cuts. Warden Burl Cain determined to make use of wolf-dog hybrids to make up for the misplaced guards. The particular kind of canine bred with a wolf was used to patrol fences at evening to make sure that inmates didn’t get any brilliant concepts.[6]

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There have been 105 guards laid off, and 35 of the 42 guard towers stood empty. Cain stated the typical guard made about $34,000 per 12 months, whereas the whole 80-dog canine program value the jail solely $60,000 per 12 months. The canine hybrids guarded three of the seven complexes on the jail grounds and labored nicely as a powerful deterrent. A wolf-dog that was sentenced to euthanasia was as soon as saved by the jail to assist guard the grounds. The terrifying hybrid as soon as horrified its neighbors, however the canine is now used to scare the inmates on the maximum-security jail.

4 The Inmates Make Coffins

Roughly half of the prisoners who die at Angola are buried on jail grounds as a result of they’ve nobody to gather their stays. Funerals at Angola include handmade coffins and horse-drawn carriages and are principally carried out by different inmates. These handmade coffins are made by the inmates working as carpenters. It takes roughly every week to provide the birch and pine coffins, and they all the time maintain just a few of their stock.[7]

Billy Graham, an American Christian evangelist, died on February 21, 2018, and was buried in a hand-crafted casket from Angola. Franklin Graham, Billy’s son, as soon as visited Angola and seen the caskets made by the inmates. Franklin informed the warden that his dad would like to be buried in a type of coffins as a result of it was so plain and constructed by prisoners. The Grahams ordered six coffins in all. Billy’s spouse Ruth was buried in her coffin in 2007, and Billy Graham was laid to relaxation in his handmade coffin on March 2, 2018.

3 31 Inmates Lower Their Achilles Tendons in Protest


Angola is understood for its violent previous and harsh working circumstances. Within the Nineteen Fifties, 31 jail inmates reduce their Achilles tendons in protest to the arduous work and brutality at Angola.[8] Think about work being so robust that you’d relatively reduce your Achilles tendon.

After listening to concerning the loopy protest, Choose Robert Kennon established a marketing campaign for governor that promised to scrub up Angola and cast off the cruel working circumstances. Governor Kennon made good on his promise, and this era at Angola was remembered for large reform.

2 The Angola Three

The Angola Three are former jail inmates who had been positioned in solitary confinement after being convicted of the homicide of a jail guard. Robert King (left above), Herman Wallace (not pictured), and Albert Woodfox (center above) proclaimed their innocence and believed they had been focused for the homicide due to their membership with the Black Panther occasion.(*10*)

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Robert King spent 29 years in solitary confinement earlier than his launch in 2001. Since his launch, Robert King has labored as a speaker on jail reform and the justice system. He has been featured in quite a few print, media, and movie articles and interviews worldwide.

Herman Wallace spent 41 years in jail earlier than being launched in 2013 attributable to his liver most cancers. Wallace died simply days later.

Albert Woodfox was the longest-standing solitary confinement prisoner in the USA. He spent virtually 43 years caught in solitary earlier than being launched after his conviction was overturned in 2016. A dedicated activist in jail, he stays so as we speak, chatting with a big selection of audiences, together with the Innocence Challenge, Harvard, Yale, and different universities, the Nationwide Attorneys Guild, in addition to at Amnesty Worldwide occasions in London, Paris, Denmark, Sweden, and Belgium. He lives in New Orleans.

1 Dwelling to Grotesque Gertie

Electrocution was conceived as a type of execution in 1881 by Alfred Southwick, who developed the electrical chair. Grotesque Gertie, the electrical chair at Angola, was constructed and nicknamed by the prisoners. Gertie (duplicate pictured above) claimed the lives of 87 inmates earlier than its finish in 1991. Gertie was most recognized for the execution of Elmo Patrick Sonnier, who was the topic of the film and guide Useless Man Strolling.[10]

The wood electrical chair with leather-based straps is not used on prisoners, however it may nonetheless be seen on the Angola Museum. The chair sits in a nook with a clock above with the time frozen at 12:01. The Angola Museum is the one jail museum within the nation operated from inside an energetic jail and is dwelling to a number of different historic gadgets from Angola’s previous.

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