Angola prison, the maximum security state penitentiary of Louisiana is the biggest prison in America. Built on the site of a former slave plantation, the 1,800-acre penal complex is home to more than 5,000 prisoners, 85 percent of whom will die there. Also known as the Farm, Angola took its name from the homeland of the slaves who used to work its fields, and in many ways still resembles a slave plantation today. Eighty per cent of the prisoners are African-Americans and under the surveillance of armed guards on horseback, they still work fields of sugar cane, cotton and corn, for up to 16 hours a day.
Prisons get iconic names. Leavenworth. Sing Sing. And perhaps the most infamous in America, Louisiana State Penitentiary, otherwise known as Angola, or simply The Farm. Bordered on three sides by the Mississippi river , Angola has a particularly harsh reputation for corruption, from early 20th century accounts of using prison labor for personal gain, to a description of “medieval” by the American Bar Association in the early ’70s. Today, due to Louisiana’s strict sentencing, Angola houses more lifers than any prison in America and the oldest population on average.
Angola Penitentiary is also home to 1,800 employees who live in town, descried as the “safest in America,” located in the middle of the penitentiary. The prison is considered one of the most accessible prisons in the country. It has its own radio station, newspaper, and acclaimed magazine –The Angolite–produced by prisoners. The penitentiary runs regular tours that include The Angola Prison museum with such exhibits as “Old Sparky,” an electric chair last used in Angola in 1991. Angola also holds annual events for the public such as the Angola Prison Rodeo in the fall and the Arts and Crafts Festival in the spring.