The Attica Prison Uprising: Forty Years Later

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The prisoners filling the cells of New York's Attica prison in 1971 faced inhumane conditions. They earned 56 cents per day for manual labor in searing workshops, were only allowed one bar of soap a month and could only shower once every two weeks. They were not allowed to read what they wanted to read and there was no due process in parole hearings. The prison population was largely black and Hispanic, controlled by an all-white guard staff. After years of agitation by civil rights activists and the black power movement, the authorities across America were beginning to push back. When tempers reached a boiling point on September 9, the prisoners erupted in a full-fledged rebellion, taking over the prison and holding it for four days, along with several guards who had been taken hostage. But when the negotiations broke down over the point of amnesty for violence conducted during the take-over of the complex, the mood in the prison turned sour. The Nation's Liliana Segura and Frank
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