New Mexico resumes tours of former penitentiary

October 15, 2013 • State News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Periodic tours of New Mexico’s former penitentiary have temporarily resumed as state corrections officials consider ways to use the facility near Santa Fe as an historical attraction or for other purposes.

The public tours of “Old Main” resumed earlier this month and continue next weekend. However, no tours are planned this winter because the facility lacks heating, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported ( ).

On Oct. 25, there’ll be free tours for survivors, first responders and others [auth] who played roles in the bloody riot that occurred at the prison in 1980.

Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said officials want to hear those individuals’ perspectives about the riot, in which 33 inmates were killed, and the time surrounding it.

“Each person who responded to the riot or had a part in the department at that time has a perspective on what happened, and we want to hear that perspective,” Marcantel said.

Department spokesman Alex Tomlin said officials want to “stay true to what led up to the riot, what happened during the riot and how it changed afterwards.”

“So there’s no more ghost stories. There’s no haunting. There’s no overly graphic details,” Tomlin said of the current tours. “But at the same time, we’re not going to censor history, so we really want people to come and learn from it.”

Tomlin said she hopes to videotape some of the corrections officers and others who were present at the riot so the videos can be shown to visitors in the future.

“While we can, we’re going to try to gather these people together to preserve them for history so that 20 years down the line, you’re still watching that officer and hearing from him what happened,” she said.

Officials also are seeking feedback from people taking the public tours.

The former penitentiary opened in 1956, replacing the old territorial prison that had opened in 1885. It was closed in 1998.

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