The “ringleaders”

Who were the culprits?

Jerry Myles was a petty burglar but was far more dangerous than his prison record implied. Myles was intelligent, conniving and capable of inspiring fellow inmates to join

disturbances. Myles spent most of his adult life in several state and federal prisons. He came to Montana State Prison in the summer of 1958, soon after serving a long sentence at Alcatraz Island. Myles had heard through the prison grapevine that inmates ran the old prison at Deer Lodge. Within months, he would lead a riot there.

Myles had a teenage accomplice, Lee Smart, who had dreams of escaping prison and hitting the open road. He was an impulsive murderer, having come to MSP after killing a traveling salesman and robbing him. Although years apart in age, Myles and Smart were both psychopaths and much the same person. The third ringleader was George Alton, who went along with the riot until he discovered Myles’ brags of an escape were false. Alton was Smart’s cellmate.

George Alton, considered the more sensible of the three inmates who started a riot at Montana State Prison on April 16, 1959, died of cancer at 74 as a free man. Alton was serving a second sentence for burglary when he joined a takeover led by Jerry Myles and Lee Smart. Alton didn’t trust Myles but complied because he thought the takeover was a plan to escape, which it wasn’t. Hostage Walter Jones Jr. credited Alton with stopping Myles and Smart from murdering their 26 hostages, who they packed into cells out of view of guards in the wall towers. Alton quit the riot and retired to a cell several hours before a National Guard assault on the prison. He was paroled in 1966

Tell us what you think?