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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 05-02-2008, 06:18 AM Thread Starter
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Death Row Rodeo: the Louisiana prison miracle
Through rodeos and rehabilitation, Burl Cain has transformed America's most violent maximum security prison into its safest.
Martin Fletcher

It is rodeo day at Louisiana's state penitentiary, home to 5,200 murderers, rapists and armed robbers, and thousands of spectators are having a grand old time. They have seen prisoners hurled from bucking broncos, and others competing to hold a wild cow long enough to extract a cup of milk. They revelled in “Convicts' Poker” - a perennial favourite that involves four prisoners playing cards at a table as they are charged by a bull: the last one sitting wins.

Three men have already been taken to hospital, but the convicts don't mind. They are volunteers, and the rodeo offers them a rare chance to win money, have fun and, for once in their wretched lives, stand tall.

Now it is time for the finale - “Guts and Glory”. About 50 inmates will vie to pluck a $600 (£305) poker chip from between the horns of a rampaging 2,000lb bull. The huge beast erupts from its pen. It charges at the nearest men, who scatter. It catches a man on one horn and tosses him into the air. Another inmate is trampled. Nobody dares to get near the raging animal.

Then one prisoner - tall, black and strongly built - finds himself alone in the centre of the ring, facing the bull. He stands his ground. The animal hesitates and lowers its head menacingly. The man darts forward and vaults over the flailing horns, snatching the chip as he does so.

Alan “Foots” Pharr, 43, has served 21 years for shooting a shopkeeper in a robbery. As the crowd stands and applauds, he approaches the VIP box. There he throws the chip to Burl Cain, the prison warden.

It was a gesture of gratitude, Pharr explains afterwards. Winning “Guts and Glory” was the greatest achievement of his troubled existence. “Warden Cain gave me the chance to make something of my life, and I wanted to show him that I'd done that.” That is a remarkable thing for a convict to say about his jailer, but it is a sentiment heard often in this extraordinary prison, commonly known as Angola.

“He's the best warden we've ever had,” says Jerry Williams, 51, one of hundreds of convicts selling food and handicrafts outside the stadium while an inmate band serenades the visiting public. Williams has served 31 years for murder.

Death Row Rodeo: the Louisiana prison miracle - Times Online

The biggest problems we are facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all and thats what I intend to reverse.

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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 05-02-2008, 07:05 AM
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