Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson:
Forty years after the uprising of 1971, conditions at Attica were worse than they had ever been. According to the Correctional Association of New York, by 2001 “the Department of Correctional Services had cut over 1200 programs providing services to inmates that were there in 1991.” By April 12, 2011, there were 2, 152 men crammed into this facility, the vast majority of whom were African American and Hispanic, and an overwhelming 21 percent of Attica’s prison population that year had been “diagnosed with some level of mental illness.” According to the Correctional Association of New York, which surveyed Attica’s prisoners, there was still “a noticeably high level of intimidation and fear throughout the facility…[and] we received numerous letters describing threats and retaliation for participating in the CA survey.” Furthermore, the association noted, “Attica inmates had the highest ratings of all CA-visited prisons for frequency of physical assaults, verbal harassment, threats and intimidation, abusive pat frisks, turning off lights and water, and retaliation materialized in the form of some officers not letting inmates leave their cells for meals.”
It is both tragic and deeply ironic that new levels of brutality against America’s prisoners have been, at least so far, the most obvious and lasting legacy of the 1971 Attica uprising. Even though the extraordinary violence that took place in 1971 was overwhelmingly perpetrated by members of law enforcement, not the prisoners, American voters ultimately did not respond to this prison uprising by demanding that states rein in police power. Instead they demanded that police be given even more support and even more punitive laws to enforce.