Hair Balls attended this past weekend's Angola Prison Rodeo and all we got to say is that the event is super weird.
The longest continuous prison rodeo, which began in 1964 at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, happens during one weekend every April as well as each Sunday in October. Located about an hour's drive from Baton Rouge, the sold-out shindig, which included fringe events such as prison pinball, featured some of the country's most dangerous criminals riding on top of pissed off bulls and horses.
Along with traditional bareback riding that saw many of the untrained cowboys gasping for medical attention, the two-hour spectacle also showcased prison pinball, a game that featured six inmates, each wearing black-and-white striped shirts and blue jeans, crouched down in their own pink hula hoop that lay flush with the arena dirt. The goal was to stay in said hoop while a bull, charging at full speed and ready to impale human guts, was unleashed upon them.
Perhaps a stranger happening occurred outside of the arena, where mass murderers and rapists, who apparently weren't in the mood to deal with complex fractures and concussions, peddled their artwork during the all-day arts and crafts fair. The art show not only granted folks a chance to buy prisoner-made oil paintings and jewelry on the cheap, but it also allowed Hair Balls unimpeded access to the prisoners.
We spoke with Angola inmate John Kinsel, the subject of this week's cover story by Mandy Oaklander. Kinsel says that he competed in the prison rodeo from 2001 to 2006, but has since ditched the event to focus on the handcrafted items that he sells under the Garbage Can Jewelers moniker.
During our one-hour chat, which will be expounded upon in Hair Balls this week, not one prison guard stopped us from interviewing Kinsel and numerous other inmates. The incident was a far cry from the outright blockade doled out by the Louisiana State Penitentiary during Oaklander's reporting.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.