ATTICA - The Documentary Film


guards wait for orders to attack

Police at Attica

Prisoners at Attica State Correctional Facility in New York


ABOUT ATTICA: The Attica Uprising

The Attica Prison uprising occurred at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York, United States. The riot was based in part upon prisoners' demands for better living conditions. On September 9, 1971, responding to rumors of the impending torture of a prisoner, about one thousand of the prison's approximately 2,200 inmates rioted and seized control of the prison, taking 39 guards hostage.

During the following four days of negotiations, authorities agreed to 28 of the prisoners' demands, but would not agree to demands for complete amnesty from criminal prosecution or for the removal of Attica's warden. After negotiations failed, state police and guards stormed the prison. When the uprising was over at least 43 people were dead, including ten hostages who died by gunfire from state troopers and guards during the retaking.

Many people attribute the riot to the racial issues inside of the prison at the time. Of 2,200 inmates (in a facility built for 1,200), 54% of the inmates were African American and 9% Puerto Rican; however, all of the 383 correctional officers were white.

From reports on the prison conditions, the guards were openly racist and assaulted the prisoners with their batons. During this time period "black militancy" was at its peak and several prisons had their black militants transferred to Attica. Additionally, George Jackson, a member of the Black Panther Party, died at the hands of white prison guards only a few days before the riot in the San Quentin State Prison in California, adding to the racial tension.

Miraculously during the take over, there was no sign of racial tension between black and white inmates. Instead, there was friendly cooperation and camaraderie with the inmates constructing their own social organization (for food, shelter, etc.).

NEXT: Filmmaker's Biography >