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The Attica Prison Riot (1971)

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Rioting inmates at Attica State Prison, September 10, 1971.

In 1971, the Attica State Correctional Facility in upstate New York was overcrowded and the conditions for prisoners were inhumane. The majority of prisoners were minorities. A group of five prisoners representing the inmate population sent a letter to the authorities requesting reforms, including such humble changes as more frequent showers and more toilet paper. At the time, inmates were allotted one bucket of water a week as a "shower" and given only one bar of soap and one roll of toilet paper a month. The prisoners also asked for more visits and less censorship of their mail. The new commissioner of correctional services, Russell Oswald, asked for more time to make the reforms. Understanding Oswald's reply to be a delaying tactic, the prisoners took over the facility on September 9 and kept 40 guards as hostages. One guard, injured during the uprising, died in hospital. After four days of negotiations, state troopers and correctional officers took the prison back by force, killing ten hostages and twenty-nine inmates, and brutalized other inmates they had recaptured.

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