English II Pre-AP
22 February 2009
Jonestown: A Massacre
In 1977 Jones began to “urge his congregation to join him in a new, isolated community where they could escape American capitalism—and criticism—and practice a more communal way of life.” (Haney). Jones had his members sign over all their property and paychecks to the church, over 10 million dollars in all (Inside). Jones purchased a compound in British Guyana and named it Jonestown. He was able to relocated many cult members to Jonestown (Haney). Jones claimed it was a “socialist paradise.” (Inside). Many soon referred to the conditions at Jonestown as “concentration camp-like” (Haney). According to Jonestown resident Deborah Layton “conditions had become so bad that half of Jonestown was ill with severe diarrhea and high fevers.” Still they “were required to work in the fields from 7 AM to 6 PM six days per week and on Sunday from 7 AM to 2 PM and the food was woefully inadequate.” (Ross). In addition to the terrible conditions, Jones’ mental health was in a downward spiral. Ms. Layton said “Jones claimed that he was the reincarnation of Lenin, Jesus Christ, and had divine powers. He would not sleep for days at a time and talked compulsively about the conspiracies against him.” (Ross). Armed guards covered the compound and no one was allowed to leave unless permitted by Jones himself. Layton also stated that Jim Jones warned “that the time was not far off when it would become necessary for his followers to die by their own hands.” Jones often ordered his followers in the compound to rehearse mass suicide, which he referred to as “White Nights” or “State of emergency”. Many grew suspicious of what was going on at Jonestown.
Family members and relatives of the People’s Temple members became worried by the situation in Jonestown and requested that the government intervene (Haney). That’s when everything began to take a turn for the worst. California congressman...