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ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — New Mexico state officials are hoping to make a tourist attraction out of an unusual place: a prison where one of the nation’s deadliest riots took place in 1980.
In February 1980, inmates at New Mexico’s “Old Main” prison killed 33 fellow prisoners in a violent clash that included beheadings, amputations and burned bodies. More than 100 other inmates and guards were hurt in the 36-hour riot fueled by overcrowded conditions.
The now closed Old Main prison near Santa Fe would become a permanent museum, under the proposed plan.
Officials say the plan, which would not seek state taxpayer money and is still in its early stages, would transform the empty building into a tourist attraction funded by visitors’ fees. Crews from the Penitentiary of New Mexico would help with repairs, and the museum could open within three to five years, official say, although the final cost is not unclear.
State Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel told The Associated Press on Monday that strong public interest in tours of the site offered during last year’s New Mexico centennial celebration sparked the idea.
“I was amazed at the response,” Marcantel said. “We decided to give one tour a month for a year. The tours all booked up within three days.”
A second tour a month was offered and those all booked within a week, Marcantel said. “That told me that we were sitting on something that could help us remember our history but we also had an opportunity to do something for our current inmates.”
The museum would include tours, a prisoner-run restaurant and an inmate-staffed hobby shop.