Descent Into Madness By Mike Rolland

2433 Words 10 Pages
The structure of a society is essential in distinguishing the norms and values that will undergo in that environment. Mike Rolland’s book, “Descent into Madness: An Inmate’s Experience of the New Mexico State Prison Riot,” includes the account of inmates and correctional officers that were involved in the 1980 riot at the New Mexico Penitentiary (PNM) and the events that led to such violence. Mark Colvin, a sociology professor in the Department of Justice Studies at Kent State University, was hired as a part of a team who investigated witnesses about the event.

Prison riots often involve violence taken against the officers and sheriffs; however, the incident of 1980 at the PNM had a significant amount of deaths, all of which were between inmates and not officers. Colvin’s investigated the history and social
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No matter the status, an inmate was either labeled as “weak” or “strong.” Prisoners who succumbed to the exploitations of their peers were dubbed “punks” or “homosexuals”; those desired protection from the officials were “snitches”; others fought to prove themselves as “good people,” often earning a belligerent notoriety. If an individual capitulated to the injuries taken against him, he would be seen as “weak;” snitches, however, were considered the weakest among the masses. Challenging another man was testing whether he was weak or strong by the prisoners’ standards. Therefore, the only positive reputation was a contentious one.

Although inmate leadership was no longer prevalent throughout the prison, the development of cliques became quite prominent. The cliques, however, are not parallel to the close-knit gang structures that is witnessed in other prisons. In fact, the purpose of the cliques was self-protection. Cliques were disconcerted and only offered temporary protection, unlike faithful obligations present in gangs. Some of the most bellicose cliques became especially

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