Saturday, October 15, 2005
A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
October 15, 2005
A horrifying book about the most horrifying bloodbath in modern New Mexico history is back in print.
The Hate Factory by Georgelle Hirliman is an unbridled and frequently graphic account of the February 1980 Penitentiary of New Mexico riot, which left 33 inmates dead and many other inmates and guards scarred for life.
Hirliman will read passages from the book and sign copies 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. today at Borders, 3513 Zafarano Drive.
Originally published in 1982, the book has been off the shelves since the mid 1980s. “But it’s become a cult classic,” Hirliman said, pointing out that on some used book Web sites such as Abebooks.com, original copies of The Hate Factory sell for as much as $144.99.
She decided to self-publish the book after a former-inmate Oakland-based filmmaker, Sean Wilson bought the movie rights last year. Wilson in January told The New Mexican, the film “will make a great story of survival and heroism amongst some of the most brutal, inhumane acts ever documented.”
The Hate Factory was written by Hirliman based on interviews with a veteran prison inmate who was back in the joint on a parole violation, and scheduled for release several weeks after the riot.
In the book, this inmate is known by the pseudonym “W.G. Stone.” In an interview Friday Hirliman said her collaborator’s real name was W.G. Gannons.
“He died in 1985 in prison of cirrhoses of the liver,” she said.
Hirliman became involved in prison issues when she was a radio reporter in the 1970s for the long-defunct KAFE-AM in Santa Fe and KUNM in Albuquerque.
(Ironically the book tells how an early riot plot involved inmates taking hostages during a planned live KUNM broadcast from the prison in December 1979. This plan, according to the book, was thwarted when prison authorities got word of it and canceled the show.)
“I got to know the prison system and I hated it,” Hirliman said.
Hirliman covered the infamous Vagos case — in which four California bikers were convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a college student in Albuquerque and later exonerated when the real killer confessed. She eventually married one of the bikers, who has since died.
“I wrote a book about that case, which was supposed to be published by Easyriders magazine,” she said. (She hopes to revise and publish the Vagos book in the near future.)
But then the riot happened.
Through her prison sources, she met Gannons, who had been in and out of prison since the 1960s.
The Hate Factory describes in grim detail the brutal deaths of several inmates — including mutilations, a beheading and torture with acetylene torch — and the beatings and rapes of corrections officers.
But it also deals with the severe conditions in the prison that led to the uprising. There was the prison psychologist who “treated” inmates by putting them in plaster casts from neck to ankles (with appropriate holes for body functions) and the dreaded “Dungeon Hole” where problem inmates were stripped naked and left for days in darkness with a hole in the floor as a toilet.
The Hate Factory deals with the politics of corrections and the cliques that ran the prison.
The revised version of the book has a new introduction that begins with the 2004 shooting of the Adam Sandler/Chris Rock comedy The Longest Yard at the site of the old main facility, which hasn’t been used to house inmates since 1998.
“New Mexico’s Film Commission and Tourism Department will be happy to take you on a tour of the empty old prison,” Hirliman waxes sarcastically. “Perhaps they will even point out the hatchet marks permanently cut into the floor where Paulina Paul’s head was so agonizingly severed, or where the one-armed man nearly lost the other to the blade of a berserk biker.”
In the introduction, Hirliman writes about many of the state corrections controversies that have occurred in more recent years — privatization of prisons, the 1999 murder of Corrections Officer Ralph Garcia at the private prison in Santa Rosa, the policy of non-contact video visits (halted two years ago), and even former Corrections Secretary Lane McCotter’s involvement in the planning of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
“We have to start doing something else besides prisons,” she said. “Punishment just doesn’t work. We’ve proved that over and over.”
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