The Attica Prison Rebellion

13th September 1971

The Attica Prison Rebellion was an uprising following the killing of a prisoner who had been campaigning for better living conditions. It ended with a disproportionally violent repression from the State and Prison officers resulting in the deaths of 33 people.

Conditions in Attica Prison had been far from ideal for a long time which lead to over crowding and frustration amongst prisoners. A prisoner who had been campaigning for Prisoners rights had been shot previously in a separate prison which again added fuel to prisoners frustrations. After a mix up and change in schedule, intended as a punishment, the frustration boiled over resulting in a riot where prisoners gained control of large parts of Attica prison and took 42 people hostage.

The prisoners listed their demands which included amnesty from prosecution for the rebellion, the removal of the prison governor, better medical provision and an end to brutality. During the negotiations the prisoners spoke fairly and treated their hostages extremely well and allowed observers into the prison to ensure the negotiations were fair. After four days, the prisoners were told that negotiations would continue despite the fact it had been decided that the prison would be taken back by force. Tear gas was fired into the prison yard and officers began firing blindly into the smoke continuously for two minutes meaning that many of the, previously unharmed, hostages were wounded and killed, as well as many prisoners who were not actively being hostile. As well as those killed in this exchange, 4 prisoners were killed later by vigilante prison officers, including one who had been key during the peaceful negotiations. Among those drafted in to help recapture the prison were previous prison officers who would have held grudges against prisoners involved. The media reported, in error, that some hostages had been killed by inmates when all deaths and injuries occurred from prison officers and soldiers firing into the prison form the outside.

The riots occurred during heightened race tensions in the US where the majority of prison officers were white, many of which held openly racist views, compared to the prison population which was predominantly black. In the aftermath of the retaking of Attica Prison the State Corrections Department was bombed, violence inside the prison continued and race tensions increased.

Attica Prison was retaken violently on this day 1971 and was the bloodiest incident on American soil since the Civil War.

A Prayer for The Attica Prison Rebellion:

Lord God and Father we lament the violent oppression of the Attica Prison Rebellion. We pray for all those who still mourn the loss of a loved one on that day and for those who live with the after effects of the violence. We pray for all those in prison, especially for those imprisoned in inhumane conditions. We lament the use of state violence and for the times when negotiations have broken down. We ask for Your Peace to come down from above and quell any stirring tensions and ask that you soften the hearts of those who would violently oppress others in their care. We ask this through Your Executed and Risen Son. Amen

Suggested Bible verse:

Hebrews 13.1-6