Rage In The Cage

Nine prison riots to remember.


Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

1773 New-Gate Prison, Connecticut
The first recorded American prison riot breaks out in a converted copper mine also called “Simsbury dungeon.”

1824 Massachusetts State Prison
Three hundred inmates riot in the mess hall; 30 Marines march in and restore order.

1959 Montana State Prison
In the third major riot in a decade, three inmates lead a 36- hour prison takeover until the state National Guard intervenes.

1971 Attica Correctional Facility, New York
The death of a black inmate and dire living conditions (one shower a week, one roll of toilet paper a month, facility at 140 percent capacity) spark a mass uprising. Inmates occupy the yard for five days before Gov. Nelson Rockefeller orders an attack that leaves 10 hostages and 29 inmates dead.

1973 Oklahoma State Penitentiary
A riot inside “Big Mac” in McAlester leaves three inmates dead.

1980 New Mexico State Penitentiary
Over 36 gruesome hours, prisoners take a dozen guards hostage and then assault each other with pipes, knives, and blowtorches. Thirty-three inmates die.

1981 State Prison of Southern Michigan
Angered by unruly prisoners, budget cuts, and a lenient warden, renegade guards take over the facility, which in turn causes inmates to revolt. Over the next five days, five riots break out across this giant prison complex.

1987 US Federal Penitentiary, Atlanta, and Federal Detention Center, Louisiana
After the government announces the repatriation of detainees who came on the Mariel boatlift, Cuban inmates take 120 hostages at two prisons. The result: a temporary stop to deportations.

1993 Southern Ohio Correctional Facility
A 10-day riot erupts on Easter, prompted by Muslims upset about TB shots. Nine inmates and one guard are killed; $40 million in damage is done.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend