Descent Into Madness

Topics: Prison, Corrections, Violence Pages: 4 (1760 words) Published: March 23, 2015
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 that considering the gravity of the violence in the riot, the number of deaths was very less and that credit goes to the paramedics at the prison who left no stone unturned and gave in their best to save as many human lives as possible. In order to understand why and how the riot took place, Mark Colvin conducted more than 300 in depth interviews with the former and the current prisoners, as well as the correctional officers in order to recreate the events that led to the riot in 1980 and therefore understand the effects of the riot and how to tackle them.

During the riot, 12 correctional officers were taken hostages, 7 of which were beaten up or sodomized. The number could have been way worse than that had there not been inmates who helped save hundreds of lives. Yes, there were inmates who despite the chaotic situation in the prison, were determined to help save human lives, and they did! It would be a great understatement to say that they helped save a couple of lives, in fact those few inmates saved hundreds of lives and ignoring them would be ignoring the essence of humanity in each one of us. We take no time to tag the inmates as ‘animals’ but it should not be forgotten that they were one of those inmates who...
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