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.

We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:

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?