The Attica Prison riot of 1971 lasted five days. By the end of the fifth day, 89 people were injured and 43 were killed. A majority of those were killed when the State Police and National Guard reclaimed the prison from the inmates.
In 1975, the state concluded an investigation into the riot and subsequent reclaiming of the prison. The original report contained three volumes. One volume was made available to the public. However, two volumes were sealed and locked inside a room in Buffalo, New York. They have remained sealed for nearly 40 years.
The report suggests the state made errors in their effort to reclaim the prison. The errors were not found to be intentional, but numerous deaths may have been avoided.
State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman wants the historical documents made public. As reported by Buffalo News, Schneiderman hopes the Attica Prison documents will bring closure to the community and the families who lost their loved ones:
“It is important, both for families directly affected and for future generations so the public can have a better understanding of what… happened and how we can prevent future tragedies.”
The Attorney General’s office petitioned the State Supreme Court in Wyoming County to unseal the documents. Schneiderman included proposed redactions to protect witnesses who testified before the grand jury.
As reported by Officer.com, the riot began as a demand for better treatment of inmates. Four days into the riot, former Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller ordered authorities to storm Attica Prison’s D Yard, where a majority of the rioters and hostages were contained.
The yard was stormed at approximately 9:45 am on September 13. The siege took less than 20 minutes and left 39 people dead.
Rockefeller initially praised the effort, stating that the officers “did the right thing.” He said it was unfortunate that people were killed. However, it was necessary to reclaim the prison. The former governor later admitted the hostages were killed by the officers’ gunfire, not by the inmates.
Schneiderman filed his request on Friday. The court has not made a decision whether to release the Attica Prison riot documents.
[Image via Wikimedia]