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September 1969

Prison Riot: Assaulters vs Defenders

Author Affiliations

Morgantown, WVa
From the US Public Health Service, Robert F. Kennedy Youth Center, Morgantown, WVa. Dr. Skelton is currently with the Department of Psychiatry, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1969;21(3):359-362. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1969.01740210103015

ON APRIL 27, 1968, the Federal Reformatory, El Reno, Okla, experienced the worst outbreak of violence in its history. The reformatory is a maximum security institution for male federal offenders between the ages of 18 and 26. Approximately 300 of the 900 inmates rioted. Using baseball bats, golf clubs, and horseshoes as weapons, they caused $7,000 property damage and injured numerous officers. Three officers were hospitalized for treatment of facial lacerations, a brain concussion, and a fractured arm.

Postriot statements by officers and inmates indicated that the intent of a small number of rioters was to inflict severe physical injury on staff members. A number of officers felt their lives had been saved by the intervention of an even smaller number of inmates who interposed themselves between the attackers and the defenseless officer or officers. Investigations identified 17 inmates as assaulting officers and

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