San Judas Correctional Community was established in 2020 as an experimental correctional facility in the incorporated community of Arroyo Verde, New Mexico. Saint Jude, the saint for which the facility was named, is the patron saint of hopeless causes and known in Mexico as the protector of criminals.
Dangerous overcrowding in state prisons was the catalyst for the facility’s construction. San Judas was designed to be economically self-sufficient, capable of housing 1,500 inmates in primitive adobe structures. Inmates would grow their own food, mend their own clothing, and maintain the facility as part of the rehabilitation process. The houses were designed to be heated with a fireplace or a small wood-burning stove, and the rest of the prison’s energy demands could be met with solar power.
The state of New Mexico set aside 16,000 acres of land for the project with the idea that inmates would spend their time raising crops and livestock, which could be sold to offset the costs of maintaining the facility. The prison was intended to house only low-level offenders and operate with a skeleton staff of correctional officers and conselors.
But despite the state’s grand plan for San Judas, the cost of building the facility quickly outpaced available funds. In addition to the construction of the prison itself, the state spent massive amounts of money on livestock, feed, and farming equipment.
Unsurprisingly, the first season of San Judas was an absolute disaster. Rather than filling the beds in the facility with nonviolent offenders, the state funneled inmates out of the state’s most overcrowded prisons — starting with one of its Level IV facilities.
Upon arrival, inmates experienced what the prison administrators could only explain as culture shock. The prison was equipped with enough supplies to get the inmates through the first growing season, but the inmates burned through their rations within a matter of weeks. They had no farming experience and no idea how to live in such a primitive setting. Fights broke out constantly, killing five inmates and causing half the prison staff to quit in the first six months.
Harvest levels fell far below the state’s projections, and the government had no choice but to send emergency rations to get the prisoners through the year. Unfortunately, that winter was particularly brutal, and without adequate healthcare, several hundred inmates had to be hospitalized for pneumonia.
After just two short years, San Judas was declared a failed experiment. The state had dolled out a massive amount of money to build the facility, and operational costs had continued to soar. Inmates had killed off livestock for food and vandalized several blocks of housing to protest the unlivable conditions. Repair costs and legal fees were piling up, and the state was forced to abandon the project.
For over a year, the facility sat vacant. Then GreedSeed International bought San Judas to use as a test site for its genetically modified seed and chemical fertilizers. After another year and a half of careful planning, GreenSeed decided to reopen the facility as a private prison/research facility. GreenSeed would receive a stipend for the prisoners it housed, and it now had a captive audience on which it could test its new products.
The company revamped the entire intake process, using careful psychological screening to select inmates that would thrive in community setting with minimal oversight. It brought in a team of experts to determine exactly what the prisoners would need during their first three years inside San Judas and hired farmers to work with the inmates to perfect agricultural practices and show them how to correctly store food over the winter.
During the first five years, San Judas observed inmates closely and gathered a wealth of data. It recorded everything from the prisoners’ health metrics to their social interactions within San Judas.
To run most effectively, GreenSeed determined that the prison needed a clear leader. That leader would ensure that work got done and that inmates weren’t tempted to break the rules. So, in 2031, San Judas administrators installed Mercy Peters, the leader of a notorious narcotics ring, and her sons, Hudson, Clarence, and Zachariah.
For years the prison ran without a hitch. Prisoner advocacy and environmental groups tried to draw attention to GreenSeed’s questionable business practices and the lack of government oversight, but they were quickly quashed with costly lawsuits and even just the threat of legal action.
Eventually, advocacy groups fell silent, and GreenSeed grew richer and richer. It weathered a handful of civil suits and even a federal investigation, but in 2046, everything changed.
Food prices skyrocketed, and the economy entered a free fall. Jobs were being slashed left and right, sea levels were rising, and a handful of extreme weather events left millions homeless. Hundreds of thousands of Americans went hungry in ’47, but GreenSeed was determined to survive. It continued to develop new crops that could withstand changing climate conditions and even stood to profit from the ecological disaster the world was facing.
But by 2050, it became clear that not even GreenSeed would emerge from the economic and ecological disaster unscathed. Billions of people had perished from war and famine, and millions of Americans had been permanently displaced. The world had reached the point of no return, and not even GreenSeed could save it.