Attica Prison Uprising 101, A Short Primer

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On Sept. 8, 1971, an altercation ensued involving a few prisoners and guards. Inmates were furious at this perceived injustice that had happened to them. The next day a violent riot ensued. From Sept. 9 to 13, 1971, prisoners took about 40 people hostage and took control of the Attica Correctional Facility. After four days of fruitless negotiations, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller ordered that the prison be retaken; 39 people were killed in a 15-minute assault by state police.

The uprising did not come out of nowhere. In September 1971, there were over 2,200 people locked up in the facility that was built to accommodate 1,600. Living conditions in Attica prison were almost unbearable with one shower a week, an outdated library, and race tension boiling, something was bound to happen and unfortunately it was an incident as tragic as this.

We need to reflect on the conditions that precipitated the rebellion and to examine its legacy. In 1970, there were 48,497 people in federal and state prisonsin the U.S. By 2009, there were 1,613,740individuals locked up in our federal and state prisons. This exponential growth of the prison population means that the events of Attica are as relevant today as they were in 1971; perhaps even more so.


Title: Attica Prison Uprising 101, a short primer
Author: Mariame Kaba with contributions by Lewis Wallace
Source: San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, September 9, 2011

Student Researcher: Louie Pomerantz, Sonoma State University
Faculty Evaluator: Suzel A. Bozada-Deas , Sonoma State University