Top 10 MOST VIOLENT Prison Riots
When you group a mass of criminals together under one building, you have to assume that, at some point, things may go a little awry. In this installment, we’re going to go behind bars and cause a little mayhem with the Top 10 Biggest Prison Riots.
Federal Penitentiaries at Atlanta and Oakdale
During the 1980s, many Cubans did what they could to escape their oppressive country, even if it meant risking being picked up and sent to a federal prison in their destination, the United States. In 1987, American officials came to an agreement with Cuba to reinstate a 1984 accord that repatriated upwards of 2,500 Cuban nationals, even those that had tried to flee Fidel Castro’s communist rule. When word reached the Federal prison in Oakdale, the 1,000 Cuban detainees rioted, setting the prison ablaze and seizing 28 hostages. Two days later on November 23rd, the 1,400 detainees in the Atlanta Federal prison followed suit, taking over 100 hostages. Despite the tense situations in both prisons, neither ended in mass bloodshed and the Cuban rioters eventually laid down their arms for a peaceful resolution. Of approximately 4,000 Cuban detainees that fled their country, only an estimated 1,000 were sent back.
Sao Paulo Prison
Sao Paulo’s House of Detention housed upwards of 7,300 prisoners in a space built for 3,500. During a brutal riot in 1992, around 2,000 prisoners had finally had enough of the veritable Powder Keg that the lack of space presented and turned on the detention center. Plenty of skepticism evolving police response during the riot arose when 111 prisoners were murdered and not one officer slain. While inmates and kin of the deceased were quick to blame the police for the deaths, Pedro Franco de Campos, Sao Paulo’s secretary of public safety, claimed the slayings were done at the hands of the rioting inmates. In April of 2013, the long arm of the law came down on 63 of the officers involved with sentences ranging from 156 years to 624 years.
Attica Correctional Facility
Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York is one of the United States’ most known prisons, once acting as the Arkham Asylum of the real world and housing some of the most dangerous known criminals. More notable than some of its famed killers, like David Berkowitz and Mark David Chapman, is the 1971 riot, which ended with 43 total dead, 10 correctional officers and prison employees, and 33 inmates. 1,281 of the near 2,000 inmates at Attica seized control in response to a demand for political rights and improved living conditions. September 13th marked the end of the riot when Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered the retaking of the prison rather than continue negotiations.
On April 1st, 1990, prisoners started what would become a 25-day riot in the Strangeways Prison in Manchester, England. At the end of the riot, one inmate and one officer were found dead and upwards of £90 million (Pounds) or $141 million in damages to the prison was done. The riot started in the prison’s chapel after a preacher from the Church of England had delivered a sermon. Prison chaplain Reverend Noel Proctor was prepping to thank the preacher when inmate Paul Taylor grabbed the mic from him and instigated the congregation of prisoners. Rooftop protests and destruction was brought down upon Strangeways by 1,100 prisoners, eventually ending in a negotiation between prisoner Alan Lord and Home Office officials. When Lord was captured on April 23rd, it was agreed that April 25th would be the last day of the protest.
Post September 11th became a massive manhunt for any connected to al-Qaeda, the terrorist group the United States pegged responsible for the 2001 attacks. Qala-i-Jangi became a prisoner-of-war camp in Afghanistan that was being used to detain any and all thought to have connections to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The detainees were waiting interrogation from two CIA operatives, Johnny “Mike” Spann and Dave “Dawson” Tyson. During one interrogation, prisoners concealing grenades rose up to take on their captors. The fanatic and better-trained prisoners quickly overcame the Northern Alliance soldiers that guarded them, taking over the southern half of the fortress, seizing an armory filled with small arms, grenade launchers, and mortars. Though the prisoners fought hard against the allied assault that sought to take back Qala-i-Jangi, only 86 prisoners survived the revolt.
Oklahoma State Prison
When conditions are less than stellar in an institution meant to rehabilitate and house dangerous criminals, an eventual downfall can be predicted. The Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, also known as Big Mac, faced many issues prior to the July 27th, 1973 riot. Months before the outburst of rage, prisoners partook in a 3-day hunger strike to protest the miserable conditions. Included in their concerns were poor health care, racial discrimination, and mail censorship. Drunk off of hooch and clearly fed up with the lackluster conditions, inmates turned on the officers, stabbing two and taking many prison employees hostage at the violent start of the riot. The 3-day long siege ended with 3 slain inmates, 20 injuries, and a mass of damage totaling $20 million, leaving many to question whether the prison should be razed completely. It still stands today, housing a mere 600 inmates compared to the 2,000 in 1973.
New Mexico Penitentiary
It was a normal day in 1980 when everything turned upside down at the New Mexico State Penitentiary. Over the course of 36 hours, 33 inmates lost their lives after a riot erupted after inmates overwhelmed correctional officers during a dormitory routine inspection. During the destructive riot, twelve guards were held hostage and an estimate 90 inmates were victim of stabbings, beatings, rapes, and drug overdoses. What is believed to be the catalyst of the riot was moving inmates from a maximum-security unit during construction to a medium-security unit, though overcrowding and the threat of cutting the rehabilitation program likely threw fuel on the fire. The prison itself was in a general state of disarray, with undertrained guards, malfunctioning safety measures, and even a lack of nightlights in the dormitory where the riot began.
Southern Ohio Correctional Facility
What started with 250 inmates in the recreation yard exploded into a 450 inmate strong riot on L-Block at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility on Eastern Sunday in 1993. It is thought that the Aryan Brotherhood and members of the Gangster Disciples orchestrated the takeover of the facility, creating an unholy alliance that would result in the death of 9 inmates and one correction officer. The riot was believed to have been a result of overpopulation, lack of competent management, and a response to authorities forcing Muslim prisoners to undergo tuberculosis vaccinations despite being a violation of their religious rights. Carlos Sanders, Jason Robb, George Skatzes, and James Were also faced the death penalty after being pegged as the orchestrators of the event.
HM Prison Ashwell
This 19-hour riot is believed to have been completely avoidable, at least if one listens to Colin Moses, national chairman of the Prison Officers Association. The English prison was facing overpopulation and, to save money, had cut behavior programs and a portion of its regime. With space running out, Category B inmates, a step below maximum security, were downgraded to Category C, or inmates deemed unlikely to escape, causing tension within the prison system. 400 inmates were involved in the riot which left 75% of the facility damaged and unusable. When the riot ended, no staff were injured and only two inmates required medical treatment.
Sometimes it doesn’t take much to cause a prison riot. Enter the 300 plus prisoners that started to riot in Ravenhall in Melbourne, Australia when a smoking ban was placed upon the inmates. As the riot steamrolled throughout the prison, causing an estimated $10 million or £6.4 million (Australia Dollars) in damage through fires and other physical destruction, the prison staff was evacuated and heavily armed police were brought in. Tear gas and high-pressure water cannons were used to bring things under control. By the time order was restored 15 hours later, there were no casualties and no prisoners had escaped. When a person is stripped of most freedoms, it seems that taking away even the most basic remaining freedoms is enough for unrest.