September 28, 2011
Introduction to Corrections
New Mexico Penitentiary Riot
Santé Fe, New Mexico
The New Mexico penitentiary in south Santa Fe, New Mexico was no stranger to violence. This penitentiary has seen two riots in its past one July 19, 1922 and the other June 15, 1953, these however were nothing in comparison to the events to come. In the early morning hours of February 2, 1980 two prisoners began what would be recorded as one of the most violent prison riots in the history of the American correctional system. 33 prisoners died, over 200 inmates were injured and 12 correction officers were taken hostage of those 12, seven were badly beaten and raped.
The causes of this riot were made perfectly clear by these inmates. The condition of the prison was unbearable and Author R. Morris wrote that "the riot was a predictable incident based on an assessment of prison conditions". Prison overcrowding and inferior prison services, common problems in many correctional facilities, were major causes of the riot. On the evening of the riot there were 1,136 inmates in the facility which only had capacity for 900. Many of the prisoners were not separated as they should have been and were housed in communal dormitories with unsanitary conditions. Prisoners were fed minimum amounts of poor quality food and were denied educational, recreational and other rehabilitative programs. These programs had run successfully from 1970 to 1975, during that time the prison was reported to be relatively calm. Due to the cancellation of these programs the prisoners were forced to spend long periods of time locked down. During this time communication between inmates and officers dramatically declined. Officers then initiated the “Snitch Game” this was a way for officers to manipulate and control unruly inmates. The officers would take an unruly inmate, name them as an informant and then wait for the other inmates to begin tormenting...