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The Penitentiary in Crisis: From Accommodation to Riot in New Mexico.

This is not another book about the two-day riot at the New Mexico State Penitentiary in Santa Fe in 1980. Author Mark Colvin devotes only one chapter to the actual riot, which is appropriate given the book's true nature. The riot already has been covered in several books, and it would be pointless for the author to review it further.

Instead, Colvin explores the political upheaval that took place over many years within the New Mexico Governor's office and the Department of Corrections and eventually culminated in the riot. The book's title might have been The Politics of a Riot.

Colvin sets the stage by presenting a lengthy theoretical look at socioeconomic conditions in the United States and New Mexico, exploring issues such as unemployment, poverty, unions and gang violence. Colvin believes there is a direct correlation between the rise in unemployment and increases in prison populations. Many correctional practitioners share this belief, and introducing it into consideration as an element of the riot will undoubtedly spark debate.

Colvin uses his personal experiences as a correctional counselor at the penitentiary, a planner for the New Mexico DOC and a post-riot researcher to document the turmoil caused by the ever-changing political structure within the Governor's office.

He dates the transformation of the facility as far back as 1968, when New Mexico witnessed a migration of its population to larger cities such as Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Social reforms of the 1960s and '70s ultimately affected the state and shaped the legislature. From 1968 to 1980, New Mexico had five governors (one was elected twice) and nine corrections secretaries, and the penitentiary had eight wardens and four deputy wardens, each of whom had an agenda on how the prison should operate. The conflicting viewpoints caused the penal system to fall into a state of confusion and led to the conditions that sparked the riot.

Colvin's book is a thought-provoking overview of how a chaotic political system affected the complex task of managing the state corrections department. While I do not endorse all his theories, his subjective analysis raises important issues about New Mexico's political structure.

Readers get a vivid lesson in how politics can shape the operation of a corrections department. I recommend The Penitentiary in Crisis to everyone in corrections, especially if they have read other books on the New Mexico riot. The book will help readers form a more complete picture of what led to the horrific events at the penitentiary.

Reviewed by Sgt. William Riley, disruptive groups information analyst, Washington State Penitentiary, Walla Walla.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Correctional Association, Inc.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Riley, William
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Words:425
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