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New book gives untold detailed account of historic 1971 riot at San Quentin State Prison that changed a profession for good

On August 21, 1971, revolutionary inmate George Jackson pulled out a gun and started a riot in the maximum-security Lockup at San Quentin. Thirty minutes later, three officers and three inmates were dead, and three officers had been severely tortured.

Courage, intuition, and a sense of duty propelled Correctional Lt. Richard Nelson to run into the housing unit on his day off to stop the insurrection that he strongly felt had been coming for months.

Nelson’s descriptive memoir, Into Harm’s Way: My life in Corrections and the historic riot that nearly ended it, offers untold details – including dialog by those who were there that day – in an almost minute-by-minute replay of the horrific incident that prompted major statewide changes within the profession.

His book also gives readers a colorful glimpse behind the walls of two of Corrections most iconic state prisons – Folsom and San Quentin – through stories of oddball convicts, ruthless gang members, and unforgettable moments and mentors who shaped the working philosophies that brought Nelson to that fateful day in August 1971.

Judge Terrence Boren, a Marin County deputy district attorney in 1971, and the prosecuting attorney in the 16-month-long San Quentin Six trial, remembers the incident well:

“The specifics of that event and the trial that followed are still mostly clear in my mind – and occasional nightmares. This book was a masterpiece, the very best of the many attempts to accurately describe the events of August 21, 1971, at San Quentin.”

Richard A. Nelson retired as an Associate Warden from the California Department of Corrections in 1998 after a distinguished career of nearly 40 years dedicated to public safety. He is the founder of the San Quentin Museum and has worked as a script consultant on numerous television and film productions about the profession.

Into Harm’s Way: My life in Corrections and the historic riot that nearly ended it was published by PS Communications.