Three staff members died at the last Menard riot, Nov. 23, 1965. Lieutenant Lewis M. Paul, 36 and the father of two sons, died instantly from a stab wound to his heart when the riot broke out about 4:15 p.m. in the inmate dininghall.
Lieutenant Arthur L. Kisro, 45, and the father of a son and daughter, died at 6:15 p.m. from wounds to his liver and abdomen.
Officer George L. Wilson, 62, succumbed to liver and kidney wounds at 8:40 that night. Six other staff were injured in the riot, which Warden Max Frye said “was spontaneous but planned.”
The incident started when a flaming bottle filled with lacquer thinner was thrown at the tower manned by Officer Wilbur A. Moritz, who was severely burned. Bedlam erupted and the four ringleaders of the escapade barricaded themselves and hostages in the kitchen. At one time during the four-hour ordeal, injured Officer Thomas F. Gross, who was being held hostage and suffering from loss of blood, was given a transfusion through the bars of the kitchen door.
Department of Public Safety Director Ross Randolph, who in 13 years as warden of the Illinois State Penitentiary, Southern Branch, had molded it into a model prison, “talked the holdout inmates into surrender” at 8:40 p.m. According to Randolph, president-elect of the American Wardens Association, "The men who killed planned it. They weren’t abused. They were armed with ‘shives,’ and they murdered unarmed men who were in the performance of their duty.”
Convicted of the murders were Alonzo H. Jones of Manchester, Tenn., John Stamps, Sr. of Granite City, William E. Bassett of Fairfield, and Prentiss R. Griffin of Chicago. They demanded better hospitalization, more recreation and better food -- “the usual beefs of psychotic prisoners,” according to a Local newspaper account.
Jones, 60, who was doing three years for burglary and theft from Coles County and one year to one year and a day, consecutive, for escaping from Menard the year before the riot, received a 150-300 year sentence, consecutive to two concurrent 75-90 year sentences.
Stamps, 58, who was serving a 25 year murder sentence from Madison County, received 100-200 years consecutive to another 100-200 year sentence.
Bassett, 59, sentenced to 3-10 years for forgery and burglary from Wayne County, received the same sentence as Jones.
Griffin, 59, who was serving a 3-5 year sentence for armed robbery from Cook County, received a 50-75 year sentence and was paroled July 2, 1998. The other three remain imprisoned.