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Artists of Angola
June 20, 2012 11:56 PM   Subscribe

'At Angola Prison in Louisiana, model inmates or "trustees" are encouraged to participate in "hobby craft" as a part of their rehabilitation. Hobby craft is an arts program that involves painting, wood & leather working, taxidermy, furniture building, and many other disciplines.In many cases, they are given special workshops, tools and even private studios to work in.The goods are sold to the public at the prison’s annual rodeo and art fair. The money raised is then split mainly between inmates' families and prison administration, with the inmates themselves receiving only a small amount to buy more materials for the next fair. A sad irony is that this rehabilitation will rarely benefit the prisoners in the outside world because 90% of them have life sentences, and will end up being laid to rest at "The Farm."' A photographic essay.
posted by I love to count (34 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for posting this. It's pretty neat.

I suppose the aim might be as much "keeping them occupied so they don't shank each other in the showers" as rehab.

There's some really good art in there too.

Nice coffin too.

The money raised is then split mainly between inmates' families and prison administration,

I imagine some people would have a problem with this. Or will do, if they find out.
posted by Mezentian at 12:08 AM on June 21, 2012


I imagine some people would have a problem with this. Or will do, if they find out.

Which part? Supporting their family - or the prison taking a cut?
posted by Hobo at 12:32 AM on June 21, 2012


The money raised is then split mainly between inmates' families and prison administration,

I think the money should go to the Louisiana Division of the Arts.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:44 AM on June 21, 2012


The victims of any crimes they may have committed, or the families thereof.
I assume there are murderers and the like in there (the life sentences and all).

Rightly or wrongly there are always people who feel aggrieved that they are not chained up in windowless cells 24/7, so logically there must be people who feel annoyed that they're in the pokey, earnin' money, livin' the high life.

I googled, and got depressed.

Incidentally, I found some more info on the rodeo here.
posted by Mezentian at 12:46 AM on June 21, 2012


I was just doing a little research about the history of Angola Prison because of this song by Dr. John. (warning: long + harrowing)

Good to that things have become somewhat more humane.
posted by philip-random at 12:51 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


The ninth photo down. What are those? Are they for making laughing clowns games or something? I expect to see them beside the laughing clowns in my nightmares.
posted by gingerest at 1:09 AM on June 21, 2012


Many people say the prison are for developing the mind skills of the prisoner. Here they teach them to work, so they can learn and contribute to society.
posted by makshi99 at 1:35 AM on June 21, 2012


They also have a magazine and a radio station, and classes in things like culinary arts, welding, graphic communication, and a pretty long list of inmate organizations. Because it's a working farm, they also have businesses. There's a golf course for the employees, because it's pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
posted by Houstonian at 1:46 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember stopping by the "craft shop" at Jackson State Prison back in the '50's. Where the prisoners sold small, hand made items. It was always a bit creepy to stop there.
posted by HuronBob at 3:03 AM on June 21, 2012


So turns out if you google that prison, the wikipedia article that comes up has a subsection titled 'Sexual Slavery'. (right after 'Musical Culture' and before 'Inmate Organizations')
posted by delmoi at 3:46 AM on June 21, 2012


Many people say the prison are for developing the mind skills of the prisoner. Here they teach them to work, so they can learn and contribute to society.


Which alternate timeline are you writing from? Do they still have black licorice? If they do, memail me directions on how to get there.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 4:45 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, this made me incredibly sad, for no obviously discernible reason.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 4:46 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, this made me incredibly sad, for no obviously discernible reason.

Life in prison without parole is the definition of despair.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:59 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was able to visit the Angola prison in 2006. Because I was in the company of a federal judge, we were able to see a huge number of things that aren't normally open to the public (death row and the execution chamber, for example). It really is a quite remarkable place, almost otherworldly. The entire place is palpably marked by the fact that almost 100% of the inmates will never walk free again.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 5:20 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wish I could get a closer look at this man's paintings.
posted by cilantro at 5:26 AM on June 21, 2012


I suppose the aim might be as much "keeping them occupied so they don't shank each other in the showers" as rehab.

A major aim of this sort of program, and other perks including personal access to televisions and the like, is so that the administration has benefits to withdraw if a prisoner needs punishing. If one has nothing to take away from a prisoner they aren't likely to be interested in civil discourse, or its equivalent.
posted by mr. digits at 5:30 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Many people say the prison are for developing the mind skills of the prisoner. Here they teach them to work, so they can learn and contribute to society.

And thus the great irony of the American prison system. The lifers are given training in trades and life skills so they can "contribute to society", but they won't because they're never getting out. Meanwhile, the low-level drug offenders are given jack shit in terms of rehab or job training, and when their term is over, they're booted out on the street with bus fare. All they learn in prison is how to become better criminals. Your tax dollars at work.
posted by fungible at 5:37 AM on June 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


Solitary Confinement: "The Soul Cries and the Brain Shrinks"
Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King make up the “Angola 3,” prisoners who were targeted for punishment and placed in solitary confinement at the Angola Prison in Louisiana because they were members of the Black Panther Party. King was released from Angola in February 2001, but Wallace and Woodfox are still in prison. April 17 marks 40 years that they have been in solitary confinement. (previously).
I really cannot express my disgust enough at American "Justice".
posted by adamvasco at 5:37 AM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Do they still have black licorice? If they do, memail me directions on how to get there.

There's a portal in Liberty Island.
But don't let on I told.
posted by Mezentian at 6:20 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorta-related but maybe not really: Bruce Jackson's photos of the Cummins prison farm in the early 70s [NYT].
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:26 AM on June 21, 2012


We have some prison art hanging on the walls here. I'm not sure when it was purchased, but I think it was from somewhere in New York state, and probably is from the 1970s, but could also be the 1980s. It's interesting enough to be on the wall and be looked at regularly. I've often wondered if there was any way to research who did it and such. I should ask mr. hippybear for some more information about it sometime and see if I can do that.
posted by hippybear at 7:26 AM on June 21, 2012


This was an excellent link. Thanks so much for posting it.
posted by skye.dancer at 7:41 AM on June 21, 2012


I have a snakeskin belt that I bought from a prisoner at the Angola Rodeo. He caught the snake on the grounds and made into a belt -- you can tell that the snake wasn't quite big enough, because the scales at one end of the belt are much smaller than on the rest of it. It's also not fully tanned so I don't wear it often for fear of cracking the leather. It's one of my prized posessions -- as an artifact, it is intensely emotionally charged and tells me stories every time I look at it. The rodeo itself was quite something also; I don't think I'll go back, but I'm glad I went.

Also, at the cigar store where I work one of our regulars is an ex-inmate. He's not a customer, never buys anything, he's more like a family member. He's an older man who goes by Shadow, and he always comes in to do his art at our tables. I can't seem to find any examples online but it's quite striking, mostly straight lines and circles traced from a menagerie of objects that he carries in his suitcase, color used sparingly and always in solid blocks of black, red, yellow. His art has a lot of repetitive elements lots of clocks and dragons. I've never bought anything from him as I rarely have enough spare cash, but I'd like to. Everyone says that his work is in the Smithsonian. I'm sure it is, too.

Shadow had a stroke a few months ago. He's still doing fine, albeit one part of his face doesn't quite follow the other parts anymore. I hope we can hang onto him for a while, as he's a very interesting person the likes of which one rarely has the opportunity to meet.

None of this is any kind of judgement one way or another about the rodeo, or Angola, or anything -- though of course I have strong opinions. The rodeo and the hand-craft program is a strange thing, it takes a little while to wrap one's mind around, and it's neither all good nor all bad, in context. It's a very weird cultural artifact, though.
posted by Scientist at 7:47 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wish I could get a closer look at this man's paintings.

Me too. He's got some kind of Thomas Hart Benton thing going on.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:01 AM on June 21, 2012


Louisiana Incarcerated: How we built the world's prison capital. An 8 part series from the soon-to-be-disappearing Times-Picayune.
posted by Nelson at 8:01 AM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, Louisiana. How about pouring some sincere money into k-12 education, to raise these artists outside of bondage?
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:09 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wish I could get a closer look at this man's paintings.

Me too. He's got some kind of Thomas Hart Benton thing going on.


My friend has a couple of his pieces. They're not really Benton-esque closer up, but they're great nonetheless. I'm emailing her to see if she remembers his name.
posted by CheeseLouise at 8:13 AM on June 21, 2012


Also, at the cigar store where I work one of our regulars is an ex-inmate. He's not a customer, never buys anything, he's more like a family member. He's an older man who goes by Shadow,

Wow, I just had an American Gods moment there.

Anyhoo, I am all for handcraft stories involving prisoners. They're always heartwarming, to see people learn new skills and find a new purpose or at least entertainment.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:37 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Inmates also make and sell crafts in other Louisiana prisons. The money is deposited into their commissary accounts. One bro, who goes by "Ghost," made himself a hand-stamped and painted leather belt that says "Cogito Ergo Sum."
posted by liketitanic at 8:42 AM on June 21, 2012


I loved The Farm. There was also a documentary shown on cable in the US, about the hospice at Angola or a similar place, which I can't quite locate online right now-- there are references to a couple and I'm not sure which is the right one. (Although, similar? Angola seems somewhat unusual.)
posted by BibiRose at 8:47 AM on June 21, 2012


Oh, I think that documentary about the hospice program is Serving Life.
posted by BibiRose at 8:50 AM on June 21, 2012


Angola Prison, previouly on MeFi: "Being in a cage for such an extended period of time, it has its downfalls."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:51 AM on June 21, 2012


I wish I could get a closer look at this man's paintings.

Me too. He's got some kind of Thomas Hart Benton thing going on
.

Ok his name is Marlowe Parker. Here is a short youtube about him.
posted by CheeseLouise at 9:09 AM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I came here to say, like toddleydoodley did, that these men might never have ended up in prison had the state invested more in school art and trade programs when they were small.
posted by gusandrews at 9:49 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


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