George Jackson the most famous political prisoner in the 70’s and leader of the Black Panther Party was incarcerated at San Quentin Prison in California. He was killed by the State on August 21, 1971. Because of this Attica inmates organized a hunger strike and wore black arm bands.
George Jackson’s revolutionary writings in his book he had written “Soledad Brother” was passed from inmate to inmate inside Attica State Prison, which had an enormous impact on the prisoners awareness of their feelings. Mr. Jackson’s death lead to the direct uprising of New York’s Attica State Correctional facility which was approximately two weeks after George Jackson’s death. The uprising of New York’s Attica State Correctional Facility is known as the most notorious prison riot in American History.
During this time New York’s Governor Nelson Rockefeller ran the Attica State prison as forced labor camps as well as other state prisons. Attica State Prison during this time also had an all white correctional staff and eighty-five percent of Attica’s prisoners were Black and Latino.
Working conditions in Attica State Prison were unbearable, prisoners were political, poor and maltreated. Hygienic conditions were very bad and medical care was practically non-existent. Prisoners average pay was 40 cents a day for manufacturing mattresses, shoes and license plates, prisoners never saw a lawyer, were prevented from defending themselves, were isolated, raped, harassed and murdered. They decided to go on strike April 9, 1971, which is considered a direct defiance against the authority of the state.
September 9, 1971, 1,500 men in cell block D took over Attica Prison, taking prison guards as hostages. All Black, Latino and White prisoners had united. By the uprising they were trying to force the state to address to their demands. They had a list of 27 demands that covered legal rights, repression, work, food, hygiene and other critical issues in regards to prison conditions.
Four major demands, they wanted the Warden removed, participants of the uprising to receive full amnesty , demanded union recognition and demanded safe passage out of the United States to a non-imperialist country.
The prisoners were aware that authorities were infuriated with their demands and preparing to end this rebellion. Therefore the prisoners called for an observers’ committee, which was made up of representatives of independent organizations. Representatives of these committees included a Prisoners Solidarity Committee representative, representatives of the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords Party, New York State Assembly member Arthur O. Eve, lawyer William Kunstler and others.
Pressures on the prisoners were high and they new their lives were at stake but they never gave up.
On September 12, 1971 the prisoners let it be known that there could be a peaceful resolution to this situation if Governor Rockefeller would open negotiations with them.
Instead on September 13, 1971 Governor Rockefeller ordered a military attack on Attica Prison. A combined force of about 1,000 State Troopers, Sheriff’s deputies and Prison Guards stormed Attica State Prison leaving 10 hostages dead and 29 prisoners And hundreds wounded on the 55 acre grounds. It was reported by the News Media that prisoners had slashed the throats of the 10 guards who died. But it was later to be found out that the 10 hostages had not died from the hands of the inmates but from friendly fire from other prison guards.
In a 1992 trial, a jury found that the former deputy warden, Karl Pfeil, of Attica Prison was liable for overseeing brutal reprisals against inmates. Surviving Inmates and prison employees during the time of the September 13, 1971 riot, described at the trial how state troopers and guards forced naked inmates...