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What is the Attica Correctional Facility?

Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari
Updated May 17, 2024
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One of the most famous prisons in the United States, Attica Correctional Facility is a prison in Attica, New York that houses many of the most dangerous prisoners in the country. Prisoners are usually sent to Attica Correctional Facility if they display dangerous or reckless behavior in other prisons that may endanger their lives or the lives of others. it is a maximum security prison, which is the highest level of security for a prison in the United States.

After Attica Correctional Facility opened in the 1930s, it became known as an extremely harsh place to be incarcerated. Living conditions were poor, and the prisoners were routinely disciplined with excessively brutal methods. After decades of such treatment, prisoners staged a riot in Attica Correctional Facility and took control over much of the prison. The riot lasted four days, and the inmates released a list of demands that would overhaul Attica Correctional Facility policy concerning the treatment of prisoners incarcerated there. While many of the demands were considered by authorities, others were ultimately denied. The riot ended when state troopers dropped tear gas on the facility and stormed the prison. Many prisoners were injured or killed, and several hostages were also shot and killed by troopers who shot blindly into the gas and smoke.

Prisoners at Attica Correctional Facility may be serving short-term sentences, or they may be in for life terms. There is no death row in Attica. The facility can house over 2000 inmates, and all inmates in the facility are males. In order to take control of hostile situations, many parts of the prison are fitted with tear gas systems that can be easily activated should inmates turn violent. Dining halls and work areas are fitted with such systems. Conditions within the prison have changed significantly since the riots, and many facilities and programs were developed after the riots to improve prisoner life and training.

Perhaps the most famous inmate to do time in Attica was David Berkowitz, more commonly known as the Son of Sam killer. Berkowitz was a serial killer who murdered six people in the 1970s. He was transferred from Attica to another prison to serve his life sentence. Attica was also home to Mark David Chapman, who committed the assassination of John Lennon in New York City. He was also sentenced to life in prison and has been denied parole many times.

UnitedStatesNow is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By GardenTurtle — On Jun 03, 2011

@googie98- According to prison documents, 28 of the inmates’ demands were met. It was under the order of Nelson Rockefeller for the state police to enter and take control of the situation. The four-day riot left 39 people dead. Ten of those were civilians and employees.

The version that I have read about is this: Inmates from Company 5 were lining up for breakfast. They were told that one of their “brother” inmates was held in his cell and was being tortured. Some of the Company 5 inmates insisted that they, too, be locked up and walked back to their cells. The rest of the inmates went on to breakfast. The protesting Company 5 inmates were able to free the “brother” that was locked up. The officers then realized what had happened and tried to contain the situation and was assaulted in the process. The riot broke out after that.

By GrumpyGuppy — On May 31, 2011

@googie98- The famous Attica Prison riot took place in September of 1971. There were events that led up to the riot. One contributing factor was that the inmates were demanding better living conditions. Another event was the death of prisoner George Jackson. Jackson was a black radical activist who was shot to death by correction officers in San Quentin prison.

Approximately 1,000 of the prisons 2,200 inmates joined in on the riot and took control of the prison. There were 33 prison employees taken hostage.

By googie98 — On May 28, 2011

This is a great article. I am doing a term paper on Attica, specifically the riot. Does anyone have any more specific details about the riot? Thanks.

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