The Killing Floor

In Colorado's highest-security prison, two inmates beat Michael Garcia to death while a crowd of corrections officers watched. Why didn't anyone stop it?

DOC officials are optimistic that the changes will help minimize the opportunity for future violence. "We learn and we go on," says spokeswoman McDonough.

Yet three weeks after Garcia's death, there was another stabbing in the PRO Unit, with a shiv made of something other than a toothbrush. The DOC doesn't classify the incident as "serious" because it resulted in only superficial wounds, like most of the assaults in the PRO Unit. But then, Clark's and Estrada's wounds were superficial, too.

Prisoners say the changes amount to more scrutiny and control, not safety. They already know that they're the worst of the worst, unfit for association with even the average felon. What Garcia's death told them is that even their keepers figure they're not worth saving. Not in this place, where every man fears his neighbor, his keeper, his prisoner.

"I have never observed so much concentrated evil in one environment," says one resident of the PRO Unit. "CSP is a physical and psychological torture chamber that words cannot adequately describe. How does one go about articulating desperation to one who is not desperate?"

A crime went down in D unit the day Michael Garcia died. Maybe more than one.

"What went on here was wrong," says another prisoner who saw the fight. "If the officers had come in when it started, Mike Garcia would still be alive today. They just let him die without lifting a finger to stop it. We know they ain't going to protect us if we need it.

"And then they wonder why we do what we do."

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