Overcrowding Blamed for Riots That Left 23 Dead Including 2 Americans
By Artie Ojeda, NBC 7/39 Reporter / Mon., Sept. 22, 2008
Riots at the La Mesa Penitentiary outside of Tijuana left at least 23 people dead, two of them Americans. At the height of the rioting, fires burned inside and outside of the prison walls. Prisoners threw pieces of cement at federal police in riot gear. Police responded by firing what they say were rubber bullets.Through all the chaos and commotion, there was one person watching with sadness and resignation: An 81-year old American nun known as Mother Antonia. She has been the only outsider allowed inside the prison walls since the first of two uprisings started at the prison Sunday, Sept. 14.
For the first time since the riots, Mother Antonio spoke about the chaotic scene and what it’s left behind. She didn’t mince words.
“It was rage that happened. It was terrorism. It was an earthquake. It was a Katrina. It was terrible. It was an Ike in a sense because so much was destroyed, so much was broken, so much was burned down,” she said.
Mother Antonia, who has lived at the La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana for 31-years, made her comments at a church in Clairemont Mesa on Sunday Morning. She was there for a book signing of a book written about her life called ‘Prison Angel’, which was released several years ago.
During the riots, she described seeing rock, glass and metal everywhere. The kitchen, laundry room, music room and art room all burned.
Mother Antonia says she blames overcrowding and the death of an inmate, allegedly at the hands of a guard, for causing the riots.
“I think we have to look at this situation and find out how we can have men in prison in a more human way. That’s one of the big steps,” she said.
She said the prison currently holds 9-thousand people and it was built for 3-thousand. Mother Antonia says things have quieted down at La Mesa Penitentiary and the focus is on rebuilding.
“After the storm the sun comes up and we have to keep going,” said Mother Antonia. [Go here for the original.]