50 years since Attica prison riots: Lessons from the uprising amid Rikers crisis today

State News

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Attica Uprising and the remnants of that rebellion continue to impact us today.

Soffiyah Elijah, a prison reform advocate and the executive director with the Alliance of Families for Justice says the lessons learned from Attica could be applied to the current situation that is taking place on Rikers Island.

In September of 1971, an uprising by the incarcerated men of Attica, a maximum security prison located in Western New York, ended in the bloodiest attack by state authorities in United States history.

On September 9th, 1300 incarcerated men had rebelled due to inhumane prison conditions, taking over the prison and holding 40 guards hostage.

After issuing a list of demands—including calls for improvements in living conditions and medical care, religious freedom, and educational and training opportunities—they entered into negotiations with state officials.

The state unilaterally ended the negotiations and Gov. Rockefeller ordered state police to swarm the prison. Thirty-one people, including ten hostages, died.

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