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Worst Prison Riot In U-S History Right Here In WNY

Attica Correctional Facility (bronayur@Flickr.com)

It turned out to be the bloodiest prison riot in U-S history and it happened right in our backyard. A four-day riot at Attica Prison came to an end on this date in 1971 when State Troopers stormed the prison and in the process killed 29 inmates and 10 hostages. 80 others were seriously injured.

Four days earlier, a group of inmates assaulted a prison guard, took a number of prison employees hostage and took control of a section of the prison. Negotiations continued for several days with the inmates demanding better living conditions at a prison that was built in the 1930’s. When negotiations broke down, Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered the prison be taken by force.

It was in the morning on September 13th when tear gas was dropped over the prison and troopers immediately moved in and opened fire. There were over a thousand inmates in that yard that day and over a hundred were either killed or wounded. In addition, three inmates and a guard had been killed earlier.

Some historians blame Rockefeller for the way the riot ended. He was positioning himself as a candidate for president and he didn’t want to look weak on crime.

National media was focused on Attica for days. It ended badly 41 years ago today.

Making matters worse, a lawsuit filed on behalf of over 1,200 Attica inmates was settled in 2000 when the state was ordered to pay $8 million to the surviving inmates. The state also agreed to pay $12 million to the survivors and families of employees killed at Attica.

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