Descent Into Madness Essay

1750 Words Mar 13th, 2015 7 Pages
Descent into Madness
Mark Colvin

This piece is written by Mark Colvin, a professor of Sociology in the Department of Justice Studies at Kent State University, as the introduction to the book “Descent into Madness” by Mike Rolland. On February 2nd & 3rd, 1980 one of the maximum security prisons in New Mexico experienced one of the most violent riots in the history of American Correctional System. This is often referred to as The New Mexico State Penitentiary Riot. The riot lasted for 36 hours, and in those 36 hours there were 33 deaths. There was one other inmate who dies a couple of months later due to the injuries incurred in that riot. It is estimated that about 200 inmates were severely injured or raped in the riot. It is no surprise
…show more content…
Gangs were fighting gangs, and a group of rioters led by some of the most dangerous inmates (who by now had been released from solitary confinement) decided to break into cell block 4, which housed the protective-custody unit. This held the snitches and those labelled as informers. But it also housed inmates who were vulnerable, mentally ill or convicted of sex crimes. Initially, the plan was to take revenge on the snitches, but the violence soon became indiscriminate.

When the group reached cellblock 4, they found that they did not have keys to enter these cells. In response the rioters found blowtorches that had been brought into the prison as part of an ongoing construction project. They used these to cut through the bars over the next five hours. Locked in their cells, the segregated prisoners called to the State Police pleading for them to save them, but to no avail. Waiting officers did nothing despite there being a back door to cellblock 4, which would have offered a way to free them. The inmates were not freed because State Police agreed to not enter the prison as long as Officers held hostage were kept alive. Meanwhile the rioters began taunting prison officials over the radio about what they were going to do to the men in cell block 4. But no action was taken. One official was heard to remark about the men in the segregation facility, "it's their ass". As dawn broke, an 'execution squad' finally cut through the grille and entered

Related Documents