How The Attica Prison Riot Fueled Mass Incarceration in America

September 25, 2016

The Attica Prison riot is remembered as one of the bloodiest and savage of its kind, but a new history is challenging that familiar narrative. Heather Ann Thompson is a historian who’s just come out with a gripping new account of the uprising called "Blood in the Water." To write it, she spent 13 years wading through thousands of public archives and court documents, and what she uncovered is pretty damning: evidence of police negligence and torture during the prison’s retaking, and of a government cover up. She says an effort by authorities to smear the prisoners created a public backlash, which in turn laid the groundwork for tough-on-crime drug policies and an era of mass incarceration.


Thank you for this enlightening report. Sobered me right up. So much I knew not, and you connecting the dots is eye opening. To change our punitive incarceration institutions seems like a big challenge Hope your investigation and report motivate especially young folks embarking on careers of service.

So, we have official government organs--prison system, state police, and even the state governor personally, as well as his official office--behaving barbarically, committing and covering up criminal actions, colluding in the cover ups, lying in official capacites, and in almost every way possible, besmirching official government, yet I am told that I need to trust this same governmental system, and that it has my best interests in view when it comes to nearly every other interaction in my life.

Some very serious changing of our government, and our notions of how it should be run are desperately called for.