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This Prison In New Mexico Has A Dark And Evil History That Will Never Be Forgotten

The New Mexico State Penitentiary (also called Old Main) is the site of one of the worst prison riots in U.S. history. In February 1980, inmates took over the facility for 36 hours. While some prisoners simply tried to find a safe place to wait out the riot, others banded together to rampage through Old Main, torturing and murdering other inmates. A total of 33 prisoners are believed to have died during the riot and about 100 more were injured or suffering from drug overdoses.

Old Main closed in 1998 but you can sometimes take a tour. Limited numbers of visitors walk through the building, where hatchet marks are still visible on the floor.

The goal is to use funds from tours to turn Old Main into a museum. The theme of these tours is: “Respecting our Past to Create a Better Future,” so it’s not a haunted prison tour. Visitors are subject to searches and must sign a waiver. Tours sell out quickly. Check the New Mexico Corrections Department website to see when one will be available. (At time of publication, ticket sales for 2016 appear to have ended.)

If you’d like to learn more about the riot, view this BBC documentary that includes interviews with both corrections officers and ex-inmates of Old Main. (It does contain some graphic descriptions of the violence.)

Do you remember the New Mexico prison riot? Would you want to tour Old Main?

 

Juliet White
New Mexico staff writer for Only In Your State and freelance writer. A committed travel junkie, Juliet has lived on two continents, but believes that the sunsets in New Mexico are the best. She can be reached on Twitter @JulietWrites.