Blood In The Water, The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson; 2016;$35.00; 724 pages; Pantheon Books, New York, NY; 978-0-375-42322-2; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Central; 4/22/17-5/4/17
Why did I read this? Last year I had decided that I would read all the Pulitzer Prize winning books each year. This was one of the winners for 2017, I had already read two of the 2017 winners, Underground Railroad and Evicted. Also, this happened when I was turning 17 and I knew very little about it and wanted to know more.
One day in September the world turned upside down at the overcrowded prison in Attica, New York. The prisoners were tired of the way they were treated by the corrections officers and the prison administration. Feed terrible food, locked in small cells for days, weeks and sometimes month on end, supervised by corrections officers with no training of any type and antagonistic administration which did not care about the conditions the prisoners were subjected to. The prisoners rose up and took over the prison on September 9, 1971. Four days later the state had agreed to 28 of their demands, however the state decided to retake the prison on September 13. They did so with state troopers and other corrections officers, whom were kept waiting outside the prison for up to four days, becoming more and more agitated. These men were given few instructions on how to regain control of the prison. They were issued and allowed to bring from home weapons to use in the retaking even though it was known that the prisoners had no weapons. The men were instructed to remove all badges and other identifying marks so no one would know whom was whom. In the retaking 10 corrections officers, civilian employees and 33 inmates were killed. Only one death could be directly attributed to the inmates and that happened at the beginning of the takeover. After the retaking the state tried to cover up the retaking, burying evidence and having the investigators be peers of those who had done the killing. As far as I can tell the last lawsuits by inmates, hostages and hostage families were settled in 2005.
This is a thorough investigation and timeline of what happened and who did what. The states behavior was atrocious before, during and after the retaking. Many inmates were tortured after the retaking being beaten and undergoing physical and psychological abuse. This is a rousing condemnation of state sponsored terrorism, which was inflicted on both inmates and hostages.