Achilles Tendon & Angola Prison

I hate movie scenes in which someone’s Achilles tendon gets sliced. The first time I saw this scene in Kill Bill resulted in red wine all over my sofa. I loved that sofa. I believe it still resides with an ex in Los Angeles.

The most disturbing case of real-life Achilles tendon cutting occurred in 1951 at Angola Prison in Louisiana. At the time, the 18,000 acre penitentiary had been dubbed “The Worst Prison in America”. In an effort to protest the brutal conditions, 31 prisoners sliced their Achilles tendons with razor blades so they couldn’t be sent to work.

The graphic incident was difficult to ignore. A committee was appointed by the governor to investigate the conditions at Angola. What they found was the result of decades of neglect by the Louisiana State Government. Prisoners lived crowded together by the hundreds into wooden, rundown barracks. Four toilets without seats and four showers were shared among 250 men. Beatings were common. Prisoners were loaned as manual laborers to outside businesses. They were offered little medical treatment and no rehabilitation.

Currently, The Angola Prison Museum lies just outside of the penitentiries’ gates. It features “Old Sparky,” a solid oak electric chair, last used at Angola in 1991 (when the state converted to the lethal injection death method). Arranged to look as it did in its final electrocution, the exhibit includes leather straps used to restrain prisoners’ feet and arms, a hood to cover the face, and sponges that, when moistened with a saline solution, help to conduct electricity. Photographs of Old Sparky’s victims surround the display.

Other exhibits include the inmate weapon cabinet, containing weapons, tattoo machines, and drug paraphernalia fashioned by prisoners out of a wide array of unlikely materials. These materials include the carriage return of a typewriter, the metal from the bottom of a boot, and a shotgun made from pipes that were part of a construction project. There is a compressor tank from the back of a truck which two prisoners cut open and hid in to escape. The museum even displays gory photos of prison murders.

In addition to the museum, Angola hosts an inmate rodeo within its gates every Sunday in October. Events include convict poker, where four inmates sit around a card table in the middle of the ring holding cards while an angry bull is released. The last one to get up wins. There’s also Guts & Glory, where a poker chip is placed on the forehead of a bull. Approximately 20 inmates are in the ring, and whichever one retrieves the poker chip wins. Surrounding this event is a huge arts and crafts festival, complete with entertainment and food. Some inmate-made items for sale include jewelry, leather craft, painting, and woodwork. Occasionally inmate bands perform, and starting at 2 p.m. and during the entire rodeo the Angola Prison Rodeo Band plays.

I do hope to go one October.

3 Responses to “Achilles Tendon & Angola Prison”

  1. Achilles Tendon & Angola Prison | Keep My Words | Angola Today Says:

    [...] Originally posted here: Achilles Tendon & Angola Prison | Keep My Words [...]

  2. Adam Says:

    IT does sound like fun. I didn’t know it was in October — I’d heard about it, in jail actually, ha! They need to have a tattoo booth set up. I would want a tattoo from a prisoner more than anything else. I’d bring my own food though — prison food is shit, even the good stuff is still bad.

  3. The Myrtles Plantation & Oleander Poisoning (Angola Prison Reprise) | Keep My Words Says:

    [...] finally made it to the Angola Prison Rodeo this past October.  It was absolutely [...]

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