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Amazing Mutiny at the Dartmoor Convict Prison

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 47 Issue: 2 Dated: March 2007 Pages: 276-292
Alyson Brown
Date Published
March 2007
17 pages
This analysis of the Dartmoor Prison riot on January 24, 1932, shows how the subsequent trial of implicated inmates effectively focused on the bad behavior of the rioting inmates rather than the prison conditions that fueled the riot.
Some 150 inmates seized control of the prison for approximately an hour and a half. During this time, extensive damage was done, and fires were started in prison offices. Reinforcements from surrounding police forces were needed to reestablish control of the prison. Dartmoor had a reputation for toughness, and recent changes under a new Governor might have resulted in increases in brutality by prison officers. Defendants at the post-riot trial cited brutality and the ineffectiveness of complaint procedures. Defendants were disadvantaged by their status in court as criminals, and the judge placed little credibility on challenges to prison officers' evidence. The judge also refused to consider the impact of pre-riot prison subculture on inmates and their riot. Placing much of the blame for the riot on the involved inmates displaced pressure on the prison authorities and the government. There was no change in the direction of penal policy. 32 reference