Home  /  News  /  Newsroom

OSP Outlaw Rodeo "rides on" through exclusive photos and stories

OSP Outlaw Rodeo "rides on" through exclusive photos and stories

McALESTER, Okla – This southeast Oklahoma community is synonymous with prisons and rodeos. McAlester was once home to the only “behind the walls” event of its kind in the country. According to OSP Sgt. Davis Spears, “They weren’t professional bull riders but they sure did enjoy it.”

For 70 years, the OSP Outlaw Rodeo allowed Oklahoma inmates a chance to compete in a variety of contests.

Today, the only cowboys here are painted on the weathered bricks. Sgt. Spears said, “It’s a ghost town out here. Feral cats and raccoons and a skunk or two.”

But this 12-thousand seat, patriotic Colosseum still thrills with retrospect. “Fans everywhere. Convicts over here, hoopin’ and hollerin’,” said Spears.

Mark McManus treasured those days with his dad, a correctional officer at Oklahoma State Penitentiary. He recalled, “Right down here a bull almost getting up on the fence. It was pretty exciting. It made a lot of people move out of the way. It’s one of the things I enjoyed doing because I followed in my dad’s footsteps and ended up coming to work out here.”

Almost every Labor Day weekend since 1940, inmates put it all on the line -- man versus bull for glory and a hundred dollar bill. Captain Chad Morgan said, “You see people getting tossed left and right. Inmates running around until someone would snatch it off his head. If you had a good bull, it’s pretty entertaining. Money the hard way.”

The old rodeo jerseys disguised the broken bones and blood stains. Sgt. Spears remembered, “I worked the medical gate and the guy got stomped by the bull. I went out there and pulled him out through the mud and stuff. Probably the most exciting thing I was part of out here.”

It was entertainment for a throng of spectators and a reprieve for the men and women convicts. Morgan said, “It gives them something to look forward to. Behave, you get to go to the rodeo. If not, maybe next year.”

There will likely never be a “next year” for the outlaw rodeo -- with budget cuts, insurance premiums, and skyrocketing repair costs.

But no one can ever lock down decades of unbridled memories of the greatest show on dirt.

Contact DOC

Main Location
3400 North Martin Luther King Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK 73111-4298

PO Box 11400
Oklahoma City, OK  73136-0400

Phone: (405) 425-2500
Fax: (405) 425-2578

Contact ODOC

In compliance with the reporting requirements of 74 O.S. 3106.4[C], this agency is making known that it stores name, birth date, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, biometric records, Social Security number, official state or government issued driver license or identification number, alien registration number, government passport number, and employer or taxpayer identification numbers.   The personally identifiable data is stored both electronically and in confidential paper files.  The data is shared in compliance with court orders and agreements with other government bodies.

Subscribe to DOC Updates!

 Email Updates 
To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your contact information below.

Top Resources

Closed Records

Employment Verification (405) 425-2644

Sex and Violent Offender Registration

Victim Services

Community Outreach

Visitation Policy

Volunteer Opportunities

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call Onelife at 800-559-9544 or the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Click here for more suicide awareness information.