Letters and Politics

The Attica Prison Uprising

with Heather Ann Thompson, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and author of the new book, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its’ Legacy, a finalist for the National Book Award.

About the book:

9780375423222On September 9, 1971, nearly 1,300 prisoners took over the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York to protest years of mistreatment. On September 13, the state abruptly sent hundreds of heavily armed troopers and correction officers to retake the prison by force. Their gunfire killed thirty-nine men—hostages as well as prisoners—and severely wounded more than one hundred others.

Drawing from more than a decade of extensive research, historian Heather Ann Thompson sheds new light on every aspect of the uprising and its legacy, giving voice to all those who took part in this forty-five-year fight for justice: prisoners, former hostages, families of the victims, lawyers and judges, and state officials and members of law enforcement. Blood in the Water is the searing and indelible account of one of the most important civil rights stories of the last century.

  • leaf

    I started listening to this with an open mind. I live on grounds at San Quentin, so I have a front row seat to life in a prison, so I can see both sides. I really dropped off when I hear her talking about how prisoners were “forced to work” in order to buy toilet paper. Guess what – I AM FORCED TO WORK TO BUY TOILET PAPER!
    To begin with – prisoners are provided with better health care than some people on the outside will every be able to afford. And guess what? Taxpayers are paying for it. Someone commits a crime and then they’re well taken care of (medical and dental) during their stay in prison. If you are transgender they will even provide hormone therapy. Please!
    This woman makes it sound like there was such a wonderful coming together of races for this Attica riot. ‘Makes it sound like it was peace and love and Rock’n’Roll. I want to rip my ears off at this point!

    As to the misappropriation of blacks being incarcerated? Guess what – there is a more blacks being incarcerated because more blacks are committing crimes. Gee Whiz!

    • marlese

      gee wiz, whites are not incarcerated for same crimes committed by African people and have privilege to get first access to jobs. I have many friends who are white, do drugs sell drugs – no prison for them.
      Maybe San Quentin is an exception to many prisons where abuse is norm. NO prisoners should not be working for below minimum wage ( slave labor) or paying above average inflated prices for normal items and phone calls. You live on the grounds, you have retiredment you are subsidized by MY TAX DOLLARS

      • Mark Talmont

        The NatGeo channel had a series on prison life this year, the episode I saw was from the one near Monterey that used to be called Soledad. They interviewed a cluster of the 6 or 7 black inmates housed in a unit run by what the narrator described as “southerners” (Sureno gang members) who dominated it. While the film crew was inside the prison, 20 southerners attacked the 3 whites in the unit, beating them unconscious with socks full of batteries. After this, the blacks discussed the situation, basically explaining, we’re not into participating in such assaults but we’re outnumbered too so the best we can do is stay out of the way and watch each other’s backs.

        Years ago the Cal prison system strictly segregated the gangs but then the ACLU sued, complaining about discrimination. So now the real “minorities” in the joint are set up for this kind of violence, which is exactly what the prison authorities warned against. Furthermore if there were any such attacks by whites against non-whites it would draw federal DOJ and probably Cal AG attention in a major way. But the attacks as described above are apparently OK with these authorities, seeing as how it was on TV and all.

        California policy is now extremely liberal and you have to do something pretty bad to get locked up in a max security joint. They are paroling Murder Ones while still in their 40s or 50s with plenty of fight left in them, they are even citing overcrowding and expense in the release orders. Also the med and dental care is an issue with the criminals from the 3rd world who are not scared of our lockups and for whom getting busted does have the side benefit of getting their teeth fixed. The “sanctuary” policy does have these kinds of consequences, and not everybody who comes is here to do honest labor. Do I have to remind you what happened to David Nadel?

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