The Penitentiary of New Mexico is made up of level V, level VI and level II facilities. There are about 800 inmates living there and they are on average 35 years old. The majority of those residing in the Level VI unit, also called Supermax, are federal death row inmates. However, those housed in the Level II unit require a minimum level of control and supervision.
New Mexico has recently implemented the Level System in its Department of Corrections and inmates in the Penitentiary of New Mexico are organized according to their behavior toward themselves, other inmates and the security guards. The Penitentiary of New Mexico was inaugurated in the late 1880s and was designed using the same architectural formations as Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York, and Joliet Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois. One of the most violent prison riots in the country took place in the main unit in 1980. Over the course of just a few days, more than 30 prisoners were killed and 12 officials were held hostage.