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1980 Riot at the Penitentiary of New Mexico: Newspaper Articles


The newspaper coverage listed here focuses on the riot as a developing news story; also included are some of the more comprehensive articles written after the event. Many newspaper articles can be requested directly from the State Library as PDF files. Our reference staff can assist with researching New Mexico newspapers for aspects of the riot and aftermath not covered here. 

Breaking News

Santa Fe

February 2, 1980. The New Mexican, Extra edition, coverage on pages A1 & A6.

Page A1 articles: Inmates take over prison; Chronology; ‘Chaotic' condition in pen; Inmates' calls grow desperate; Officials blame prison problems; Next step 'up to inmates’, warden says; King: The prisoners just acted before we did.

February 3, 1980. The New Mexican, coverage on pages A1-A5; A12.

Page A1 articles: Inmate: 'They wiped them out’; Bulletin; Officials bargaining for hostages

Page A2 articles: King pondered retaking pen by force; Prison a site of past strikes, sit-ins, violence; Calls flood police headquarters; Chronology of takeover events.

Page A3 photos: Riot.

Page A4 articles: Co-workers maintain grim vigil; SF jail housing some prisoners; Inmate calls plead for riot publicity; King: The prisoners just acted before we did. Page A5 photo spread: At the scene: Officials, police, even dogs converge on state prison.

Page A12 articles: List of Injured; Inmates release demands list; Radio transmissions ‘bizarre’.

February 4, 1980. The New Mexican, Extra edition, coverage on pages A1-A3, A7, A9, B1-B3.

Page A1 articles: 32 dead in wake of pen riot; Negotiations for guards test of wits; Prisoners promised transfers; Guards vote to continue working.

Page A2 articles: Inmates aid guard in escape from pen; Guard's mom: Don't go back; Long ordeal continues for anxious relatives; Angry relatives say treatment of prison inmates 'inhuman'.

Page A3 photo spread: The tragic siege ends

Page A7 articles: Mutilations ‘not unusual’ in prison riots; SWAT team meets little resistance; Prison dead transferred to morgue; Legislator describes prison as ‘pretty horrible’; Inmate prosecutions will be ‘stiff’-DA

Page A-9 photo spread: The agony

Page B1 photo spread: After siege: Caring for wounded, cold inmates

Page B2 articles: Arizona offers to house some inmates; Patients flood emergency room; Hospital lists injured inmates; Other NM prisons reported ‘quiet’; Chronology of prison siege

Page B3 articles: Siege 'horrible' for inmates, guards; Pen damage could cut tax rebates; Rampaging inmates reduce prison to ‘shambles’; New corrections chief says changes ‘probable’; King's sleepless nights full of prison thoughts.

February 5, 1980. The New Mexican. Coverage on pages A1-A3

Page A1 articles: Party discovery blamed in riot; Prisoners may leave NM today; List of dead.

Page A2 articles: Officials read names of 979 who survived; Overcrowding led to siege, corrections director claims; Prosecutors to seek ‘stiffest’ penalties.

Page A3 articles: Pen damage estimated at about $20 million; 'Advanced' prison soon labeled unsafe; Anguished 21-year-old says inmates raped repeatedly.


Andelman, David A. (1980, February 3). 10 reported killed after inmates seize New Mexico prison. The New York Times. Page A1, A14, A19.

Hollie, Pamela G.  (1980, February 4). Officers recapture New Mexico prison without resistance. The New York Times. Page A1 & D9.

King, Wayne (1980, February  5). Scene of riot and mayhem yields 25 bodies at prison in New Mexico. The New York Times. Page A1 & A18.

Post-Riot Coverage

Santa Fe


Katel, Peter. (1981, February 1). Cloud of doubt still hangs over prison: One year after riot no one can forget the brutal uprising. The New Mexican, page B1.

Seagrave, Jane. (1981, February 1). Hostage guards’ future unresolved. The New Mexican, page B1.


Atwood, Sam (1984, January 29). Portrait of a frustrated activist. The New Mexican, pages D1-D2.


The New Mexican, February 3, 1985. Uprising: five years after the Prison Riot. Special coverage, pages E1-E4.


Guaisson, Helen. January 21, 1990. Attorney general seeks major change in order ruling prison. The New Mexican.

Vukelich, Dan. January 29, 1990. State, people still feeling effects of the riot. The New Mexican, pages B1 & B4.


Albuquerque Journal, March 30, 1980, Prison Perspective. 28 page special insert covering the riot and the prison system in New Mexico.



Stevens, William K. (1980, February 6). Recent inquiry criticized New Mexico penitentiary. The New York Times.  Page A12.


Rawls, Jr., Wendell. (1981, December 21). Prison reforms ordered after riot come grudgingly in New Mexico. The New York Times. Page A1 & D13.

Reference Librarian