Attica Prison riot

1971 prisoner rebellion, Attica, New York prison / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Attica Prison Riot, also known as the Attica Prison Rebellion, the Attica Uprising, or the Attica Prison Massacre, took place at the state prison in Attica, New York; it started on September 9, 1971, and ended on September 13 with the highest number of fatalities in the history of United States prison uprisings. Of the 43 men who died, 33 inmates and 10 correctional officers and employees, all but one guard and three inmates were killed by law enforcement gunfire when the state retook control of the prison on the final day of the uprising.[1][2][3] The Attica Uprising has been described as a historical event in the prisoners' rights movement.[4][5]

Quick facts: Attica Prison Riot, Date, Location, Belligere...
Attica Prison Riot

Attica Correctional Facility in 2007. A memorial to staff who died in the uprising is visible between the flagpoles.
DateSeptember 9–13, 1971
Location42°50′59″N 78°16′18″W
Attica incarcerated population
Commanders and leaders
  • Governor Nelson Rockefeller
  • Commissioner Russell G. Oswald
  • Deputy Commissioner Walter Dunbar
  • Superintendent William Kirwan
  • Deputy Superintendent Karl Pfeil
  • Warden Vincent R. Mancusi
  • Major John Monahan
  • Chief Inspector John C. Miller
  • Lieutenant Joseph P. Christian (GSW)
1,281 inmates 74 correctional officers[lower-alpha 4]
550 state troopers
42 correctional officers and civilian workers taken hostage
Casualties and losses
33 inmates killed (3 by other inmates)[lower-alpha 5]
85 inmates wounded[lower-alpha 5]

10 correctional officers killed (9 by correctional officers)[lower-alpha 6]
5 correctional officers wounded during the assault[lower-alpha 7]

1 state trooper wounded[lower-alpha 8]

Prisoners revolted to seek better living conditions and political rights, claiming that they were treated as beasts.[6] On September 9, 1971, 1,281 of the approximately 2,200 men incarcerated in the Attica Correctional Facility rioted and took control of the prison, taking 42 staff hostage. During the following four days of negotiations, authorities agreed to 28 of the prisoners' demands[7] but would not agree to demands for the removal of Attica's superintendent nor to complete amnesty from criminal prosecution for inmates for the prison takeover.[8] By order of Governor Nelson Rockefeller (after consultation with President Richard M. Nixon),[3] armed corrections officers and state and local police were sent in to regain control of the prison. By the time they stopped firing, at least 43 people were dead, 10 hostage correctional officers and civilian employees and 33 inmates, nearly all killed by law enforcement gunfire.[3]

Rockefeller had refused to go to the prison or meet with prisoners. After the uprising was suppressed, he said that the prisoners "carried out the cold-blood killings they had threatened from the outset".[9] Medical examiners confirmed that all but the deaths of one officer and three inmates were caused by law enforcement gunfire.[1][10] The New York Times writer Fred Ferretti said the rebellion concluded in "mass deaths that four days of taut negotiations had sought to avert".[11]

As a result of the rebellion, the New York Corrections Department made changes in prisons to satisfy some of the prisoners' demands, reduce tension in the system, and prevent such incidents in the future. While there were improvements to prison conditions in the years immediately following the uprising, many of these improvements were reversed in the 1980s and 1990s. Attica remains one of the most infamous prison riots to have occurred in the United States.[2][4]