The Penitentiary in Crisis

From Accommodation to Riot in New Mexico

By Mark Colvin

Subjects: Social Problems
Series: SUNY series in Deviance and Social Control
Paperback : 9780791409305, 257 pages, July 1992
Hardcover : 9780791409299, 257 pages, July 1992

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Table of contents

Ben M. Crouch


1. Introduction

2. Theoretical Considerations

3. Years of Accommodation, 1968-1974

4. Years of Confrontation, 1975-1977

5. Years of Fragmentation, 1978-1980

6. The Riot

7. Understanding Prison Disorder

8. Conclusion: Continued Crisis, Future Prospects

APPENDIX A: List of New Mexico State and Corrections Officials, 1966-1980

APPENDIX B: Physical Layout of PNM





This is a case study of the violence and disorder that have become endemic in U. S. prisons. The 1980 riot at the Penitentiary of New Mexico was one of the worst riots in prison history. Thirty-three inmates were killed and hundreds were injured. The author demonstrates how this riot, and the growing disorder that preceded it, reflect important shifts in the organizational structure and philosophy of prison management in the U. S.

The Penitentiary in Crisis analyzes how shifts in prisoner control strategies disrupted important power relations between inmates and staff and created disorder. The author's experiences as a corrections counselor and planner in New Mexico corrections and his later role as principal researcher for the official investigation of the riot give him a unique perspective for understanding the riot and the prison's organization and history.

Mark Colvin is Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at George Mason University.


"This book will be a major contribution to the field. No social scientist has ever gotten closer to a major prison riot than Mark Colvin.

"The major classic in the field, Stateville by Jacobs, must now move over to make room for this second masterpiece." — Richard Hawkins, Southern Methodist University