Jamie Brooks remembers the feeling of excitement mixed with fear the first time she was taken outside prison walls to practice for the rodeo.
"I just wanted to get outside the fence, you know, the legal way, because I’d been locked up for so long,” she said.
Brooks is one of several former inmates at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft who will step out of the shadows of prison life and into the limelight of national television Thursday during the Cinemax premier of "Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo.”
The documentary, directed by Bradley Beesley and produced by James Payne and Amy Dotson, follows the women of the Eddie Warrior rodeo team through their training and competing in the country’s only behind-the-walls prison rodeo.
The film captures not only the harrowing moments inside the rodeo arena with wildly bucking broncos or bulls but also the raw emotion, disappointment and determination behind the eyes of some of the all-women correctional center’s inmates. For these women, the rodeo is a way to prove themselves as strong as the men, to compete and have fun, and to legally escape the walls that confine them despite the danger they face in the arena.
"I think they feel that it’s an opportunity to be involved with this extremely stimulating event where their normal life is not stimulating at all,” Payne said. "Their daily lives are regimented, repetitious and restricted. To them, the disparity in this adrenaline-charged event is attractive.”
Underlying the action of the rodeo, the documentary plays an advocacy role for Oklahoma’s incarcerated women. The state has the highest rate of women behind bars in the country. According to The Associated Press, Oklahoma’s incarceration rate for women is 131 per 100,000 residents. The national average is 69 per 100,000.
The film crew was allowed unprecedented access to several of Oklahoma’s maximum security prisons to film the documentary.
"I think people are going to be attracted to the film because of the strangeness of the environment and the privilege of the viewpoint.
View the trailer