Essay Descent Into Madness

1752 Words Apr 7th, 2015 8 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
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This gave birth to great confusion on all administrative levels and consequently the administration began to pass vague judgments. The whole haphazard scenario of the administrational structure gave birth to a mid-level clique of administrators who were virtually unaccountable to anyone in authority for their actions.

Following the change in prison leadership in the mid-1970s, the prison experienced a shortage of trained correctional staff. A subsequent investigation by the state attorney general's office found that prison officials began coercing prisoners to become informants in a strategy known as "the snitch game". The state's report said that retribution for snitching led to an increased incidence of violence at the prison in the late 1970s. By the end of 1978, this clique of administrators were left to do whatever they wanted to the prison which caused great unrest amongst the inmates and eventually forced them towards mutiny. Another major cause of the riot was the cancellation of educational, recreational and other rehabilitative programs that had run from 1970 to 1975. In that five-year period, the prison had been described as relatively calm. When the educational and recreational programs were stopped in 1975, prisoners had to be locked down for long periods. These conditions created strong feelings of deprivation and discontent in the inmate population that would later