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A Lesson To Be Learned: 40 Plus Years After Attica

1483 words - 6 pages

What can be learned about the Attica Prison Riot that can benefit society today? This riot began a chain reaction that changed the way the corrections department of this country works. Society should care about this uprising because it set a precedent that molded the way this country controls its prison population. New procedures and precedents were set that are still in place today and may not have been created had the riot never happened. First, we will learn about the conditions of the prison before the riot. Then, we will learn the demands of the prisoners and why some guards and prison workers were treated more harshly than others. Next, we learn whether or not the New York officials acted in “good faith” or not and how they finally reclaimed the prison. Finally, we will learn whether New York officials acted ethically in blaming and whether or not the guards should be compensated for the hardships they endured during the uprising. Despite the horrific acts that occurred during the uprising, we can learn to avoid another situation like this based on the information that we now know.
The living conditions within the prison were awful to say the least. Inmates were only allowed one roll of toilet paper per month, and only one shower per week. According to the documentary, Ghosts of Attica, the inmates were primarily urbanized minorities; while the guards were all white and born and raised in the suburbs of the city. This led the guards to have a very biased opinion of the inmates. They considered them to all be “thugs”, and “delinquents”. The inmates had very little religious freedom and some had no way of communicating with the guards because the guards could only speak one language. Leading up to the riot, the prison was overfull. Its maximum capacity was exceeded by over a thousand. According to Craig Frazier, a writer for the New York Amsterdam News; “The key event leading up to the Attica Rebellion was the murder of George Jackson, a Black revolutionary imprisoned in California” ("Attica Rebellion turns 40” 29). After the rebellion broke out, a few inmates took charge and wrote down the demands that they wanted to receive.
At 8:50 am on September 9th the rebellion began and it lasted for four days straight. After the rebellion began, within hours, the inmates who had taken charge had drafted a list of thirty one demands. Out of the thirty one, only twenty eight of them were actually accepted by the corrections commissioner, Russell G. Oswald. The proposals could easily be met but the demands were impossible to be put in effect. In Attica At 40, Liliana Segura states:
“At the top of a list of “demands” was the basic request that officials “provide adequate food, water, and shelter for all inmates.” Others included adequate medical treatment,” “realistic, effective rehabilitation programs,” “true religious freedom” “an end to “censorship of newspapers, magazines [and] letters” and tellingly, “a program for the recruitment and employment...

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