New Mexico Prison Riot Case Study

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Background The 1980 New Mexico Prison Riot is identified to be the most brutal riot in U.S. Penitentiary history. Thirty-three inmates died and more than two hundred inmates were treated for injuries And with many opinions and theoretical approaches attempting to understand how and why the riot occurred, many aspects are left buried. This case study attempts to recognize the dynamics that led to the emergence of the New Mexico Prison Riot as well as explain how this particular case can be explained through contemporary breakdown theory. The New Mexico Prison Riot As the state's only maximum security prison, the Penitentiary of New Mexico housed the highest security classification of offenders in the state of New Mexico. During the early …show more content…

Inmate power was accommodated by the prison’s administration directly through programs and indirectly through tolerance of illegal activities. Prior to the riot, the programs enhanced chances of parole, which led to increased participation. They were also crucial to “self-policing” process within the inmate environment. However, the prison also faced high levels of illegal drug trafficking within the prison. Drug consumption increased dramatically at New Mexico from about 1971 to 1976 (Colvin, 1982) The prison administration during this time were tolerable of the illegal trafficking, in some cases, involved. Beginning in 1975, the Governor of New Mexico appointed a new prison administration as the penitentiary came under scrutiny to raise performance and “shape up”. As a result, a more strict administration took office. The turnover rate within the administration doubled within the late 1970’s, and caused policies within the prison to be unclear, leaving both guards and inmates in a state of uncertainty. The new administration removed all inmate programs. They began to tighten restrictions on inmate movement, and increased drug searches. Major informal and formal incentive controls over inmates started to fall apart. The number of voluntary …show more content…

The prior incentives, now eliminated, provided opportunities for transfers to minimum security prisons, and as a result of their dissolution, the prison population began to skyrocket. The perceived conditions of the prisons began to worsen as a result of the overcrowding. In the early 1970’s, one cellblock housed the prison's disciplinary cases and its protection cases, containing about fifty inmates. Those fifty represented around five percent of the total prison population. In 1976, over twenty percent of the inmates were either in protective custody or in segregated units, forcing the utilization of two cell blocks. Each block had a capacity of 90 inmates, but held as many as 200 inmates. (Useem, 1982) It was no wonder the new administration began reporting a new “breed” of high profile inmates entering the

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