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What is Angola Prison?

By Nicholas K.
Updated Feb 21, 2024
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Angola Prison is an American penitentiary located along the Mississippi River in eastern Louisiana. The prison’s location along the river has made it nearly impossible for prisoners to escape. This maximum-security prison is known for a history of harsh prisoner treatment followed by reform. Angola Prison has facilities like KLSP Radio and the Angola Museum that provide enrichment opportunities for prisoners. The prison has also hosted the all-inmate Angola Rodeo since 1965 with proceeds benefiting prisoner education programs.

Angola Prison is also known as the Louisiana State Penitentiary, which is operated by the Louisiana Department of Corrections. The facility is located in the West Feliciana Parish near the parish seat of Francisville. The prison is surrounded on three sides by the Mississippi River, which means that transportation to the main gate is nearly impossible. The Louisiana Department of Corrections operates a ferry service for guards and other personnel from an undisclosed location. Prison buses delivering new inmates and supplies use circuitous routes around the river.

The history of Angola Prison goes back to the property’s origins as a plantation in the 1830s. The end of the American Civil War in 1865 saw the transformation of the plantation into a farm that used convict labor. The farm’s reputation for brutal treatment of sharecroppers and convicts carried over into the creation of Angola Prison in the late 19th century. The environment within Angola Prison was exposed to the rest of the world by prisoner William Sadler in 1940. Sadler’s "Hell on Angola" articles led to gradual reforms including the elimination of hard labor in the 1970s.

The notoriety of Angola Prison has led to great public interest in the facility. The penitentiary holds the only Federal Communications Commission (FCC) broadcasting license issued to a prison in the United States. Angola Prison’s KLSP Radio features programs by inmates and guards transmitted in areas surrounding the facility. The Louisiana State Penitentiary Museum Foundation hosts exhibits about the prison at the Angola Museum. The museum also features the Justice Hall of Fame to honor guards, judges, and police officers connected to the facility.

Inmates from Angola Prison also take part in the annual Angola Rodeo. This event features several contests where prisoners test their riding skills on horses and bulls. The Angola Rodeo takes place in a 10,000-seat stadium on the 18,000-acre prison campus. This yearly event features concession stands run by inmates and guards with profits used for the Inmate Welfare Fund. These stands sell fruits, vegetables, and prepared foods using ingredients from the prison garden.

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Discussion Comments
By Belted — On Oct 12, 2012

I would be interested in learning more about the "hard labor" aspect of the prison. I thought that this was something that only existed in movies. Can someone tell me more about this infamous event?

By BAU79 — On Oct 12, 2012

When we think of national historic sites we tend to think of monuments and battlefields and places of great national beauty. But I think there is an argument to be made for Angola Prison being considered a spot of national historic importance.

It has housed a number of famous prisoners, spanned generations of criminals and undergone multiple renovations to reflect the Chainging views about criminal justice. It has something to teach us in both the present and the future. It may not be the cheeriest place, but I hope that when they close it down they do not also destroy it.

By jonrss — On Oct 11, 2012

Do they really have a rodeo at the Angola Orison? A friend of mine used to have a shirt that he wore all the time that advertised the rodeo but I never knew if it was just a joke or if it was something from the past.

And if they do have one, why are they the only jail to do something like this?

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