hits counter Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy - Ebook PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy

Availability: Ready to download

The first definitive account of the infamous 1971 Attica prison uprising, the state’s violent response, and the victims' decades-long quest for justice including information never released to the public published to coincide with the forty-fifth anniversary of this historic event. On September 9, 1971, nearly 1,300 prisoners took over the Attica Correctional Facility in ups The first definitive account of the infamous 1971 Attica prison uprising, the state’s violent response, and the victims' decades-long quest for justice including information never released to the public published to coincide with the forty-fifth anniversary of this historic event. On September 9, 1971, nearly 1,300 prisoners took over the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York to protest years of mistreatment. Holding guards and civilian employees hostage, during the four long days and nights that followed, the inmates negotiated with state officials for improved living conditions. On September 13, the state abruptly ended talks and sent hundreds of heavily armed state troopers and corrections officers to retake the prison by force. In the ensuing gunfire, thirty-nine men were killed, hostages as well as prisoners, and close to one hundred were severely injured. After the prison was secured, troopers and officers brutally retaliated against the prisoners during the weeks that followed. For decades afterward, instead of charging any state employee who had committed murder or carried out egregious human rights abuses, New York officials prosecuted only the prisoners and failed to provide necessary support to the hostage survivors or the families of any of the men who'd been killed. Heather Ann Thompson sheds new light on one of the most important civil rights stories of the last century, exploring every aspect of the uprising and its legacy from the perspectives of all of those involved in this forty-five-year fight for justice: the prisoners, the state officials, the lawyers on both sides, the state troopers and corrections officers, and the families of the slain men.


Compare

The first definitive account of the infamous 1971 Attica prison uprising, the state’s violent response, and the victims' decades-long quest for justice including information never released to the public published to coincide with the forty-fifth anniversary of this historic event. On September 9, 1971, nearly 1,300 prisoners took over the Attica Correctional Facility in ups The first definitive account of the infamous 1971 Attica prison uprising, the state’s violent response, and the victims' decades-long quest for justice including information never released to the public published to coincide with the forty-fifth anniversary of this historic event. On September 9, 1971, nearly 1,300 prisoners took over the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York to protest years of mistreatment. Holding guards and civilian employees hostage, during the four long days and nights that followed, the inmates negotiated with state officials for improved living conditions. On September 13, the state abruptly ended talks and sent hundreds of heavily armed state troopers and corrections officers to retake the prison by force. In the ensuing gunfire, thirty-nine men were killed, hostages as well as prisoners, and close to one hundred were severely injured. After the prison was secured, troopers and officers brutally retaliated against the prisoners during the weeks that followed. For decades afterward, instead of charging any state employee who had committed murder or carried out egregious human rights abuses, New York officials prosecuted only the prisoners and failed to provide necessary support to the hostage survivors or the families of any of the men who'd been killed. Heather Ann Thompson sheds new light on one of the most important civil rights stories of the last century, exploring every aspect of the uprising and its legacy from the perspectives of all of those involved in this forty-five-year fight for justice: the prisoners, the state officials, the lawyers on both sides, the state troopers and corrections officers, and the families of the slain men.

30 review for Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alan Mills

    Just finished Heather Ann Thompson's Blood in the Water. It is absolutely essential to understanding the history of prisons in the US, and mass incarceration more generally. Professor Thompson spent a decade fighting for access to the long hidden records, and painstakingly reviewing the evidence to find out what really happened. Her investment in time, blood, sweat and tears has paid off for the reader! 45 years ago, prisoners took over an exercise yard at Attica prison, after months of having th Just finished Heather Ann Thompson's Blood in the Water. It is absolutely essential to understanding the history of prisons in the US, and mass incarceration more generally. Professor Thompson spent a decade fighting for access to the long hidden records, and painstakingly reviewing the evidence to find out what really happened. Her investment in time, blood, sweat and tears has paid off for the reader! 45 years ago, prisoners took over an exercise yard at Attica prison, after months of having their complaints about insufficient food, lack of medical care, guard brutality ignored. As negotiations with the prisoners were beginning to bear fruit (the state agreed that virtually all,of their complaints were legitimate), Rockefeller decided to slaughter the prisoners, to ensure he was viewed as "tough on crime" and to further his national political ambitions. The casual racism behind this decision was explicitly approved by Nixon sitting in the Oval Office (as we know because of his now famous taping system). Over the following decades, New York State did whatever it could to obscure what happened and shift blame from itself to the prisoners. Before a single body was examined, the state announced that prisoners had eviscerated guards, and castrated at least one of them, cutting off his genitiles and stuffing them in his mouth. Nothing of the sort occurred. All of the guards killed in the end were slaughtered by law enforcement; none by prisoners. After reviewing all of the events of the days during the uprising and the slaughter in the days after, Thompson turns to the cover up...which reached all the way to Governor (and then Vice President) Rockefeller. She then turns to the tireless efforts of the men at Attica to gain legal redress for the harm done to them, and then to the surviving guards' battle for an apology and compensation. At the end is a wonderful Epilogue, discussing the impact not so much of the uprising itself on the course of history, but the even bigger impact of the false narrative and cover up which followed the mass slaughter by the state in the aftermath. The book was so fascinating, that I kept going all the way through the acknowledgments. A pretty comprehensive list, including illustrious scholars like Michele Alexander and Toussaint Losier; and my great friend, Shaena Fazal. Buried in the middle, was mention of Alan Mills. If this is me, I do not belong in this esteemed crowd, and had nothing to do with the book..but am so honored to be included. Wow. Anyway, read the book! Attica; Fight Back.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Max

    Outstanding! A thoroughly documented history that is also a compelling read and relevant to what is happening in America right now. Thompson takes us through the Attica Prison riot beginning with the underlying conditions in the prison that culminated in the riot in 1971 and continuing on with the legal battles that followed. Her history is more than a recitation of facts or description of events. You can feel the suspense as the intolerable treatment of the prisoners builds tension that finally Outstanding! A thoroughly documented history that is also a compelling read and relevant to what is happening in America right now. Thompson takes us through the Attica Prison riot beginning with the underlying conditions in the prison that culminated in the riot in 1971 and continuing on with the legal battles that followed. Her history is more than a recitation of facts or description of events. You can feel the suspense as the intolerable treatment of the prisoners builds tension that finally erupts. She gives us a visceral portrait of the police response and immediate aftermath which requires a strong stomach. Thompson writes with a passion exposing the hatred and extreme brutality of the New York State Police and the corrections officers as they take revenge. She holds accountable the top prison officials and Governor Rockefeller who comes off as a Nixon suck up and a politician only concerned about his image. There is so much to dig into here. Deplorable prison conditions, constant physical and mental abuse of prisoners, minority prisoners from NYC incarcerated in far rural upstate New York at the mercy of racist guards who despise them, the mixing in of minor young offenders in with hardened criminals in a maximum security prison not much different than when it was built in the 1930s. When the riot erupts inept and politically driven decision making by the Department of Corrections hierarchy and the Governor’s office ensure a disastrous outcome. Ultimately Rockefeller himself makes the decisions based on his conspiratorial beliefs that the riot must have been organized by leftist terrorist organizations, in his mind groups like the Black Muslims and Black Panthers. He told Nixon, “The whole thing was led by the blacks.” Rockefeller couldn’t accept that the prisoners were simply pushed to the breaking point. Rockefeller refused to go to the prison to address the prisoners directly. It was Rockefeller’s decision to end the riot using the New York State Police armed with shotguns, rifles and pistols. The prisoners did not have guns. The state police were not trained in riot control and most were only experienced cruising the highways giving out traffic tickets. Rockefeller brushed off the National Guard which was trained in riot control and was ready to go in without guns to restore order. These decisions culminated in the unnecessary deaths. It was the police, not the prisoners who killed hostages as the police went on a chaotic shooting spree. They also killed and wounded many prisoners, specifically targeting prisoners who they thought were leaders. It was like shooting fish in a barrel since the prisoners had already been disabled by noxious gas dropped from helicopters. The barbaric revenge of the corrections officers on the prisoners is sickening. Medical care was an afterthought and was denied to severely wounded and injured prisoners who continued to suffer beatings and abuse. Then there was the misinformation as the state and its minions distorted the facts, blamed the prisoners for the killings, destroyed and hid evidence and forced prisoners to lie. Eventually the truth came out but it took years and countless court actions. However, many people accepted the word of the authorities over that of witness testimonies, court documents and investigative journalists. Witnesses, even doctors and coroners, who came forward to counter the state, found themselves threatened and harassed. Thompson reports on decades of legal battles as activist lawyers led a well-organized effort to get redress for the prisoners. They had to fight every step of the way as the state constantly blocked them but eventually relented and compensation was awarded to the prisoners. The widows and survivors of the correction officers killed were also screwed over by the state. They were given small checks not knowing that they were workman’s compensation checks and cashing them meant they lost their right to sue. After decades they eventually won compensation but only with a lot of outside help and intense effort. This is a very disheartening book, but I highly recommend it. It says so much about the racism that still pervades the country today.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rincey

    "The Attica prison uprising of 1971 shows the nation that even the most marginalized citizens will never stop fighting to be treated as human beings. It testifies to this irrepressible demand for justice. This is Attica's legacy." Watch me discuss it more in my reading vlog: https://youtu.be/upSzTm5QfmQ "The Attica prison uprising of 1971 shows the nation that even the most marginalized citizens will never stop fighting to be treated as human beings. It testifies to this irrepressible demand for justice. This is Attica's legacy." Watch me discuss it more in my reading vlog: https://youtu.be/upSzTm5QfmQ

  4. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This book has won numerous awards, including the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for History. It tells the story of the Attica Prison uprising in 1971, when a riot led to a group of prisoners taking several hostages and resulting in a tense standoff, with negotiations going on for days. The author is at pains to explain that much evidence has been kept secret since the events occurred; leading to family members of those involved having unanswered questions for many years. She claims to have interviewed every This book has won numerous awards, including the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for History. It tells the story of the Attica Prison uprising in 1971, when a riot led to a group of prisoners taking several hostages and resulting in a tense standoff, with negotiations going on for days. The author is at pains to explain that much evidence has been kept secret since the events occurred; leading to family members of those involved having unanswered questions for many years. She claims to have interviewed everyone she could trace who were involved in the situation, and spent years unearthing stories from that time. The book starts with what Attica was like at the time. The petty, discriminating rules, the way the system made things difficult for prisoners and their families, the unhelpful and unresponsive doctors, the trivial violations which led to prisoners being locked in their cells for days. Oddly enough, it was a minor thing which triggered the riot. A prisoner, having finally been allowed out of his cell, after a long lock in, was indulging in some mock fighting in the prison yard. When told he had broken the rules and ordered back inside, he hit the guard. Later, he was seen being carried from his cell and a difficult, tense situation, was about to explode. We are methodically taken through events – before, during and after the riot, with everything that was involved. It is obvious that this is a painstaking and thorough account of what happened and that the author has been tireless in trying to piece together events. This is an exhaustive account at times, but certainly the definitive book on the riot and the aftermath.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    On September 9, 1971 the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York forced its way into newspaper headlines across the United States. On that day roughly 1300 prisoners took control of the facility in response to years of mistreatment and harassment. In American history there have been many violent protests that have led to the death or wounding of those who took part. Whether they involved Native-Americans, Vietnam anti-war demonstrators, organized labor, or Afro-Americans the causes and On September 9, 1971 the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York forced its way into newspaper headlines across the United States. On that day roughly 1300 prisoners took control of the facility in response to years of mistreatment and harassment. In American history there have been many violent protests that have led to the death or wounding of those who took part. Whether they involved Native-Americans, Vietnam anti-war demonstrators, organized labor, or Afro-Americans the causes and results of these events were documented and analyzed carefully by historians. In the case of Attica, where 40 individuals, prisoners and hostages were killed and hundreds wounded, government officials placed immediate road blocks to thwart an objective investigation. Government officials did not want the truth to come out, particularly New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and his administration because of errors in judgement and outright incompetence when hundreds of poorly trained New York State troopers and prison guards were sent into the facility with shotguns blazing. The Rockefeller administration immediately put out misinformation about what occurred, particularly when autopsies showed that the hostages were killed by indiscriminate gun fire, and not by prisoners. Coroners were pressured to bury the truth as were other officials who disagreed with prison administrators and Rockefeller and his cohorts. It took many years to overcome the opposition to releasing what actually took place. Finally historian Heather Ann Thompson in her comprehensive history, BLOOD IN THE WATER: THE ATTICA PRISON UPRISING OF 1971 AND ITS LEGACY has addressed all the major issues and individuals involved through her doggedness and refusal to accept no for an answer as she rummaged, researched, filed numerous freedom of information requests, interviewed participants and survivors in her quest to uncover the truth. According to Thompson the gap in the historiography pertaining to Attica existed because of the obstruction by those who knew what really occurred and were concerned with the backlash that would result if the truth came to the fore. Part of that truth were the conditions that existed in Attica as well as many other prisons nationwide. Thompson describes a system overseen by Attica’s Superintendent Vincent Mancusi that suffered from overcrowding, lack of medical care, poor training of correctional officers, using prisoners as free labor to the tune of $12 million per year, no visitation for common law families, which effected one quarter of the inmate population, a capricious and arbitrary parole system, censorship of reading material and letters, medical experiments, and an overall atmosphere of racism. The prison itself was built in 1930 and by 1971 its facilities had never been updated to accommodate an increasing number of prisoners whose racial makeup was no longer predominantly white, and the crimes they were incarcerated for did not fit the patina of the 1930s. Thompson’s book is very disturbing and the events of September, 1971 were greatly affected by the political climate of the 1960s. At that time politicians moved toward “law and order” planks as demonstrated by the Nixon administration in 1968 and as the 1972 election moved closer. The “law and order” approach greatly affected the funding and operation of America’s prisons. As politicians in the north and south saw crime as the greatest problem in society, they decided to wage war against it. This would lead to the imprisonment of more inmates than in any country in the world. In New York state Governor Rockefeller, known as a “liberal Republican saw Nixon’s crime agenda as an impediment to his own quest for the presidency. By 1970 he began to change his image to a more conservative politician who was tough on crime. An uprising at the state prison at Auburn, NY was a precursor to events at Attica. What occurred at Auburn should have served as a wakeup for New York State Prison Commissioner Russell Oswald to investigate inmate grievances, because prisoner reform advocates, New York ACLU lawyers and others were becoming very involved and wanted to investigate prisoner complaints. The prison population was younger and more politically aware than previous generations. Members of the Black Panthers, Young Lords, Black Muslims, and Weather Underground placed an emphasis on acquiring knowledge as they worked for improved educational programs. For them, knowledge meant power and it was used to convince prisoners that what occurred to them on the inside mirrored what was occurring in the outside world. From that perspective Thompson is correct that Attica was a prison that was about to explode in September, 1971. The first half of the narrative concentrates on prisoner frustration concerning their treatment and the lack of response by prison officials to their concerns, the seizure of the facility by inmates, the negotiations that were conducted to try and resolve the situation, and the final storming of the facility by New York State troopers and correctional officers. In so doing Thompson provides intimate details of every important aspect of the crisis. Thompson takes the reader inside the lives of inmates, negotiators, administrators, correctional officers taken hostage, and individuals brought in from the outside to try and alleviate the situation. In each section Thompson introduces important individuals to highlight what was about to be covered. A few of the most powerful are portraits of Michael Smith, a correctional officer who is severely wounded by gunfire; Tom Wicker, a New York Times reporter who was brought in as an observer; Tony Strollo, a New York State trooper whose brother Frank was a correctional officer inside the facility; Elizabeth Fink, a lawyer who defended the prisoners and tried to gain compensation for them and their families; and Malcom Bell, an investigative lawyer who turned whistleblower against the state. The reader will witness the motives that laid behind the actions of the major participants and how it influenced their behavior. Thompson leaves no rock unturned as she explores every aspect of her story and reaches the conclusion the massacre that takes place at Attica did not have to happen, but for Rockefeller’s selfish concern for his political career and the party line that “black revolutionaries” and outside agitators were responsible for the uprising, the lack of training provided for the New York State Police for this type of operation, and the seeming stubbornness and vindictiveness of prison officials and many correctional officers in dealing with a situation that had gotten totally out of hand. The second half of the narrative encompasses the attempts to cover-up the truth by the Rockefeller administration and statewide prison officials, the brutal treatment of prisoners by correctional officers following the retaking of the prison, the attempts by inmate families, and families of correctional officers (hostages) that were killed to learn the truth. The obfuscation, misinformation, direct interference to learning the truth, and outright lies dominate the experience of anyone who disagreed with the findings that the leaders of the cover-up who feared what would happen should the truth emerge dominates the narrative. The atmosphere that the different investigative commissions operated under created a very difficult situation as Thompson is correct in pointing out that “the nation’s most powerful politicians viewed Attica as part and parcel of a revolutionary plot to destabilize the nation as a whole would have profound consequences for how officials, both state and federal, handled official investigations.” (267) A further impediment to learning the truth were the actions taken by Governor Rockefeller, his staff, prison officials, New York State Police officials and correctional officers to corroborate their stories to make sure they would achieve the outcome they desired from any investigation. Thompson examines each investigation and then goes on to the legal effort by the families involved to learn the truth and gain compensation and better treatment for those who perished and those who survived. Overall, it took three years for the state to bring inmates to trial for the uprising. The most common theme dealt with those who were prosecuted, those who was not, the coercion of inmates to testify, and the uneven field that was created for prisoner defense lawyers. As Malcom Bell, a lawyer recruited to Special Prosecutor Anthony Simonetti’s team pointed out when he became a “whistle blower” after experiencing the abuses of the prosecution, “it struck [me] as odd that so much effort was going into prosecuting prisoners from Attica when the officers had killed ten times as many people as the inmates had.” (403) Bell tried to gain support for his findings, even writing a report for Hugh Carey, then the recently elected governor of New York. After waiting months Bell grew tired and contacted Tom Wicker and the story ran in the New York Times creating a firestorm. The overall approach was clear, the prosecution of inmates was of the utmost importance and the case against law enforcement was a much lower priority. What followed was an investigation of the investigation and perhaps Thompson’s best chapter. Thompson discusses the prosecution of the prisoners in a very clear and concise manner. The key conviction that Simonetti’s team sought was the murderer of corrections officer William Quinn. The Quinn case as with other prosecution cases produced witnesses that were not very credible. Most had not even been at the scene of the supposed crimes, they had been coerced into testifying, or they were promised early parole, reduced sentences, or total release. Prejudiced judges in the first two cases gained convictions but once Bell became a whistle blower prosecution tactics began to change particularly when going after New York State police officials where increasing evidence that they interfered with the collection of materials and issued orders designed to protect troopers and themselves emerged. Men in Simonetti’s office were fully aware that the top brass in the NYSP were hiding and destroying evidence. Bell grew angrier and sent numerous letter to Simonetti pressuring him to go after State Police officials like Lt. Colonel George Infante, Captain Henry Williams, and Major John Monahan, but the Special Prosecutor chose to ignore Bell’s requests over and over. A number of commissions were appointed to investigate what transpired after September 9, 1971. The McKay Commission led by Robert McKay, the Dean of the New York University Law School was the most comprehensive and collected information from over 3200 witnesses that included 1600 present and former inmates, 400 correction officers, 270 New York State troopers, 200 National Guardsmen, and 100 sheriffs. It reached the conclusion that “events unflinchingly and graphically exposed the maltreatment of prisoners that had led to the rebellion, and made it equally clear that its bloody end was both avoidable and unconscionable.” (282-284) The theme of culpability for the Attica uprisings pervades Thompson’s narrative, and like a fish that rots from the head down we see the interference and strategy of the Rockefeller administration throughout. By the time a number of these cases finally reached trial, Nelson Rockefeller was undergoing Congressional hearings to be approved as Vice President once Richard Nixon resigned. Angela Davis made the correct comparison when she pleaded before the committee not to approve Rockefeller. Here was a man who refused any empathy toward the prisoners. He would not go to the prison, he would not grant any paroles or pardons. However, President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for his crimes, why couldn’t the Governor of New York do a little of the same? Thompson completes her history of Attica by exploring the long road taken by inmates to seek redress in the New York State courts. Led by attorney Elizabeth Fink they fought for years to overcome a new round of legal stalling and machinations as inmates, and families of inmates who had passed away fought “the system.” As in other parts of the narrative Thompson provide minute details as the years passed until the trial of prison administrators in the early 1990s. Partially successful the next battle would be over monetary damages to the inmates. Fink led the former prisoners through the labyrinth that was the New York court system and finally in 2000, almost thirty years later a settlement was reached. This created tension with the families of the forgotten hostages who received nothing from the state despite promises. They would begin their own war to receive compensation that was somewhat successful, but just as with the prisoner settlement New York State refused to grant them an apology or any admission of wrongdoing for the massacre at Attica. Reading Thompson’s study can be exhausting due to the detail and the emotion in which the author presents her material. However, she has done a wondrous job of research and picking apart the documentation that she uncovered. For those who lived through the Attica uprising you will be amazed at what Thompson has uncovered. If you are younger and have never heard or thought about Attica and prison reform this book will be a revelation.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    (3.5 stars) This is is difficult one to rate. It is exhaustively researched and the level of detail Thompson reconstructs is remarkable. However, I found it to be a fairly exhausting read. There's very little gesture towards crafting a compelling narrative. Dramatic, consequential moments are plowed over in the same just-the-facts reporting style as quotidian court motions. Furthermore, a book that purports to be about the 1971 uprising's "legacy" could have benefited greatly from Thompson takin (3.5 stars) This is is difficult one to rate. It is exhaustively researched and the level of detail Thompson reconstructs is remarkable. However, I found it to be a fairly exhausting read. There's very little gesture towards crafting a compelling narrative. Dramatic, consequential moments are plowed over in the same just-the-facts reporting style as quotidian court motions. Furthermore, a book that purports to be about the 1971 uprising's "legacy" could have benefited greatly from Thompson taking a wider lens to the story, providing deeper context for what was going on in the country at the time (I mean, how can a book about Attica and it's legacy not even mention Dog Day Afternoon until the last 3-4 pages where it's tossed off in a list of other pieces of American culture that mention Attica?). I'm certain that this is the definitive history of the 1971 Attica prison uprising, while equally certain that a far more captivating and resonant version of this story could have been told. 5-stars for research, 3-stars for readability.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    I have been fascinated by the story of the prison uprising since I was little and saw Al Pacino chanting “Attica!” in Dog Day Afternoon. Despite being a famous event, it has taken over forty years for some of the documents on Attica to be unsealed. Thompson has collected all that information and written a definitive account of the bloody uprising, from the perspectives of both the prisoners and the law enforcement. It is a horrifying, fascinating read on the historical mistreatment of inmates, a I have been fascinated by the story of the prison uprising since I was little and saw Al Pacino chanting “Attica!” in Dog Day Afternoon. Despite being a famous event, it has taken over forty years for some of the documents on Attica to be unsealed. Thompson has collected all that information and written a definitive account of the bloody uprising, from the perspectives of both the prisoners and the law enforcement. It is a horrifying, fascinating read on the historical mistreatment of inmates, and how some victims are still searching for justice. Tune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books, All The Books: http://bookriot.com/listen/shows/allt...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steve Peifer

    This is an absolutely astonishing book. At first, the pro prisoner point of view threw me off, but the evidence is presented in a way that makes the case that the government killed most of the hostages through an ill conceived attack to retake the prison, and then lied and covered up the evidence. I can't imagine the research it took to create this book, but she is as great of writer as she is a researcher. The chapters leading up to the siege create a foreboding that was unparalleled in my non This is an absolutely astonishing book. At first, the pro prisoner point of view threw me off, but the evidence is presented in a way that makes the case that the government killed most of the hostages through an ill conceived attack to retake the prison, and then lied and covered up the evidence. I can't imagine the research it took to create this book, but she is as great of writer as she is a researcher. The chapters leading up to the siege create a foreboding that was unparalleled in my non fiction reading experience. Unfortunately the racism that created the circumstances which led to Attica still exists; this is no mere history book; it's a warning and a plea for change.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    One of the most difficult books I have ever read -- I found myself, throughout the first half, needing to put the book down and take a break, because of the enormity of the suffering of the prisoners of Attica and the callousness of the State of New York. It's hard, heartbreaking reading. Throughout, though, Thompson's excellent writing, dogged research, and respect for both the prisoners and the hostages of the uprising compels you to keep going. An incredibly important book. One of the most difficult books I have ever read -- I found myself, throughout the first half, needing to put the book down and take a break, because of the enormity of the suffering of the prisoners of Attica and the callousness of the State of New York. It's hard, heartbreaking reading. Throughout, though, Thompson's excellent writing, dogged research, and respect for both the prisoners and the hostages of the uprising compels you to keep going. An incredibly important book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    People will agree and disagree with this book, but the real question is, "will we treat each other as human?" People will agree and disagree with this book, but the real question is, "will we treat each other as human?"

  11. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    I was an 8-year old Canadian girl when this historical event occurred, so it's understandable why I never really knew much about its moment in history. A few years ago, I found this book's promo in PEOPLE MAGAZINE to be quite fascinating, so I bought the book. Wow! Heather Ann Thompson has really done her homework! Her research into the living and deceased people's point of view (prisoners, employees, families of prisoners and employees) is extremely solicitous and thorough! Her carefully crafte I was an 8-year old Canadian girl when this historical event occurred, so it's understandable why I never really knew much about its moment in history. A few years ago, I found this book's promo in PEOPLE MAGAZINE to be quite fascinating, so I bought the book. Wow! Heather Ann Thompson has really done her homework! Her research into the living and deceased people's point of view (prisoners, employees, families of prisoners and employees) is extremely solicitous and thorough! Her carefully crafted writing relays the injustices that occurred before, during and after the uprising. One only hopes that lessons were learned from this tragic event through Thompson's book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    Heather Ann Thompson’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Blood in the Water” about the 1971 uprising at New York’s Attica prison was an extremely difficult book to read. This had nothing to do with the writing which was exceptional throughout and managed to express the feelings of many different groups deeply invested in what happened there. Rather it is the treatment of the inmates (primarily Black and Hispanic) before, during, and after the uprising that was deeply unsettling. Faced with severe overcro Heather Ann Thompson’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Blood in the Water” about the 1971 uprising at New York’s Attica prison was an extremely difficult book to read. This had nothing to do with the writing which was exceptional throughout and managed to express the feelings of many different groups deeply invested in what happened there. Rather it is the treatment of the inmates (primarily Black and Hispanic) before, during, and after the uprising that was deeply unsettling. Faced with severe overcrowding, dismal medical facilities, constant racial and physical abuse by guards, poor food and horrible sanitary conditions, the inmates at Attica finally rose up on September 9th, 1971 and took over a small portion of the prison. What was unique in reading about what followed is how by all accounts, the prisoners quickly organised a security detail to protect the hostages they had taken from harm and drew up a list of changes they wanted to see at Attica. When negotiations between the inmates and prison officials broke down, the police stormed Attica. Rather than have the National Guard come in and use their expertise in hostage negotiations to achieve a peaceful takeover from unarmed (other than homemade knives and baseball bats) inmates, a mix of angry prison guards and state police from around the state who were determined to make an example of these prisoners, swarmed in. On the orders of their superiors, they swarmed in without any name badges to identify them. They swarmed in with state issued weapons as well as their private firearms, none of which were catalogued to identify who had what. They swarmed in with unjacketed bullets so deadly that they had been outlawed by the Geneva convention. They swarmed in and massacred 29 prisoners and 10 of their own guards. They left the badly wounded survivors without medical care and beat and tortured those they thought responsible for the uprising long after it was put down. This however is only the beginning of Thompson’s story. The rest of the book focuses on the prisoners quest for justice and the astounding lies and coverups perpetrated by the city of New York and its prison system. Even the families of hostages murdered by fellow officers on that day found themselves facing the same obstruction and deceit in their attempting to find out what happened. That in 2005, more than 30 years after the fact, both inmates and relatives of the hostages were still seeking redress from a city that refused to apologise verbally or monetarily, is a shocking indictment of police accountability and the fight for memory and history. That is more than anything what this book is. Another voice in the battle for the memory of what happened on that day. A voice for the inmates and hostages who fell and a reminder of why they fell. Thompson tries to remind all of us that this uprising was not an isolated incident. It occurred in a cauldron of racial abuse and a penal system focused on intimidation and fear rather than rehabilitation. The conditions that created an Attica continue to this day. They continue around the country and they continue at Attica itself. This is a monumental book that needs to be read by anyone concerned about social justice and equality.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Barry Sierer

    An impressive work by Ms. Thompson.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David Quijano

    After reading Devil in the Grove, the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner in history, I added a bunch of Pulitzer winners (from various categories) to my read list. Devil in the Grove set the bar incredibly high, and I have been mostly disappointed or underwhelmed with the other various Pulitzer winners I have read. Blood in the Water, which won the Pulitzer for history in 2017, falls prey to some of the common pitfalls that bother me about other history books but was overall, an excellent book. Prior to After reading Devil in the Grove, the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner in history, I added a bunch of Pulitzer winners (from various categories) to my read list. Devil in the Grove set the bar incredibly high, and I have been mostly disappointed or underwhelmed with the other various Pulitzer winners I have read. Blood in the Water, which won the Pulitzer for history in 2017, falls prey to some of the common pitfalls that bother me about other history books but was overall, an excellent book. Prior to reading this book, I only vaguely remember some of the lawsuit settlements that came out of the Attica prison riot in the early 2000’s (you read that right, it took 30+ years for some of these lawsuits to be resolved). I don’t remember my exact thoughts, but I know I knew absolutely nothing about the issue. For sure, my thoughts were not sympathetic towards the prisoners. In my mind, inmates that riot and kill guards are not victims. No prisoner deserves compensation under those circumstances, no matter how brutal the retaking of the prison was. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Needless to say, I was wrong, and the general narrative surrounding Attica isn’t exactly accurate. Long story short, prisons in 1971 were not run the way they are today. Inmates were unable to shower regularly, not given enough food, and were subject to constant violations of their civil rights (including beatings by guards, frivolous censorship of reading materials, among many other violations). The lack of basic necessities lead to unrest within the system. This general unrest helped cause or at least fuel a radicalism within the inmate population and eventually lead to several prison riots throughout the county. In the case of Attica, 1,300 inmates took over the facility for four days, attempting to negotiate better conditions. Prison riots are inadvisable, but imagine not having access to basic necessities like showers or basic health care and having no legal recourse? It makes sense that eventually some inmates would resort to drastic measures. During the Attica riot, the inmates took 42 hostages. During the initial taking of the prison one guard died due to inmate action. That one death would be a crucial factor in the rest of the events that played out at Attica. During the negotiations, the prisoners made several demands, most of which the state agreed to. The one point of contention was the question of amnesty. Prisoners wanted amnesty for all the crimes they committed while taking over the prison. The authorities did not want to grant amnesty, in large part because of the dead correctional officer. After four days, neither side would concede and talks broke down. As the inmates got more frustrated, they threatened to execute four of the guards. What happened next, in my opinion, is best described as a massacre. New York State Police tear-gassed the yard occupied by inmates and apparently shot their guns indiscriminately for two minutes straight. When it was all over, 29 inmates and 10 hostages were dead, all from state trooper gunfire. For the next several weeks, leaders of the riot who survived were tortured by correctional officers and denied medical treatment in retaliation for the riot. This story should be fairly clear cut, in my opinion. No matter what your beliefs, the retaking of Attica and the subsequent torture of prisoners after the fact is completely indefensible. National Guardsmen who were also at the prison at the time of the retaking, seemed to think that the prison could have been retaken without shooting inmates at all. Who knows if this is true, but from the testimony, it does seem clear that the retaking was overly brutal. People were shot while trying to give up and while begging for their lives. I got the impression that the author really wanted readers to sympathize with the inmates, but no matter how hard she tried, I found myself hating the inmates as well as state troopers involved. Maybe that reflects the moral ambiguity of the situation. Terrible people (rapists and murders) can be victims, but they are difficult to sympathize with. The author does a pretty good job, at times, of not sugar coating the actions of the inmates. At other times, she really does go over the top in defending them. She acknowledges that there were multiple rapes and murders (inmate on inmate) during the initial hours when the inmates took over the prison. She also states that inmates directly threatened the physical safety of prison guards. At the same time, she had this odd but predictable obsession with painting the inmates as sophisticated revolutionaries. Their threats against prison guards, after all, were for a good cause and they didn’t really mean it. She at times, positively refers to inmates as Maoists. I don’t know how anyone can think being a Maoist is a sign of anything positive. The guy was an economic ignoramus and a mass murderer. I do not see how it is any different than a white person in prison proudly declaring themselves a Hitlerist. Whatever, I get that authors have their own belief systems, but don’t make your biases so cartoonishly obvious. This level of editorializing occured throughout the book. At one point, early on while trying to describe prison conditions, the author talks about the guards being underpaid. According to her numbers, prison guards would start with a salary between $8,500-9600 per year. After 15 years, they would still make under $12k a year. Sounds terrible, right? No wonder the prison system was such a mess. The problem is she didn’t adjust for inflation. That starting salary today would be the equivalent of making between $57,000-64,000. After 15 years the guard would be making under $80k. Not bad at all for a high school grad. I don’t want to overstate this point. It was a relatively minor part of the book. But this level of deception or negligence on part of the author really made my bias alarms go off. My main issue with the glorification of the inmates is that you can admit these inmates were mostly (but not all) violent ass holes who were, on average, pretty dumb and also acknowledge that the state troopers were just as bad if not worse. At various times throughout the book, the author refers to prisoners as “disenfranchised” or “activists” while simultaneously scoffing at the idea from then-Governor Rockefeller that this uprising was a leftist plot. If the riot was carried out by activists who were prisoners, then by definition it was a leftist plot. Perhaps the most triggering line for me in this book is when the author referred to one of the most disturbing crimes during the initial taking of the prison as “coerced sex” rather than rape. She also seems to think the inmates deserved amnesty for their crimes during the prison uprising (though she didn’t outright say it). The implication is that these prisoners deserved to not be charged for their brutal rape because they were revolutionaries. Fuck that. The author is very obviously liberal from the tone of the book. My general view is that in a history book, you shouldn’t be able to pinpoint the political beliefs of the author. I want a dispassionate explanation of what is happening and what is motivating the people involved. I do not want activism. I can read stupid opinions on Twitter whenever I want. I could go on and on, but that wouldn’t be fair. This is a very informative book about an incident that most are unaware of, despite its importance. Yes, some of the complaints of the prisoners were ridiculous. One of the complaints was that they had too much pork in their diet. Having worked in food service in jail before, this is particularly triggering for me. They will complain about any type of food you give them. Other complaints were completely legit. Yes, you should be able to take a shower every day. Yes, you should be able to follow the religion you want to follow. And of course, inmates should not be subject to beatings or rapes while they are incarcerated. Did Attica cause a change in policy that lead to better treatment of inmates? I am skeptical. Attica was a symptom of a set of beliefs we had and continue to have today as a society. On one hand, we hate criminals. On the other hand, we generally think they should be treated like humans. I think the idea of negotiating with the prisoners in Attica was a mistake from the beginning. You can't incentivize prison riots by making concessions to prisoners who successfully take hostages. At the same time, changes were genuinely needed. However, the biggest lessons from Attica, are ones we still have not learned. The New York State Troopers murdered people that day and were at the very least, criminally negligent regarding the killing of the ten hostages. They were not held accountable. When law enforcement murders people, there needs to be a path for justice. That is an issue we are improving on, but still have a ways to go. Overall, I really liked this book, though it did drag a bit at the end. Roughly the first half of the book was the lead-up to the riot, the riot, and the immediate aftermath. The second half of the book covered the subsequent lawsuits and was much less interesting in my opinion. I considered giving this book three stars for some of the silly editorializing but decided to bump it to four stars due to its importance.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    The first third of the book describing the riot, the stand-off, and the retaking of the prison is excellent - I would recommend Blood in the Water based on those pages alone. I found the rest of book that covers the subsequent trials and settlements less effective and engaging. At times I felt the author downplayed or at least de-emphasized the violence committed by the prisoners. That violence in no way excuses the actions of law enforcement during the retaking of the prison or the subsequent c The first third of the book describing the riot, the stand-off, and the retaking of the prison is excellent - I would recommend Blood in the Water based on those pages alone. I found the rest of book that covers the subsequent trials and settlements less effective and engaging. At times I felt the author downplayed or at least de-emphasized the violence committed by the prisoners. That violence in no way excuses the actions of law enforcement during the retaking of the prison or the subsequent cover-up, but somehow the book's treatment of it was a little off-putting to me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Only way to describe this is brutal. Descriptions of the riot itself get pretty gruesome. The level of torture described is absolutely horrifying and unreal. Thought the coverage of the prisoner trials was a little too meticulous - even I got a little bored reading procedure. But, the selective prosecutorial decisions and shielding of officers from liability, and the subsequent civil class action case were very interesting.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Truly outstanding book

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    Where to begin with this book? Wow. Heather Ann Thompson won several awards for this chilling, detailed look at the 1971 Attica (NY) prison uprising, and was nominated for a few more. One can easily see why throughout the story as her investigative skills shine from beginning to end. This effort took many years to complete, in no small part due to the deliberate intransigence and roadblocks put up by the State of New York. Indeed, if there is one major villain amongst a cast of many, and I think Where to begin with this book? Wow. Heather Ann Thompson won several awards for this chilling, detailed look at the 1971 Attica (NY) prison uprising, and was nominated for a few more. One can easily see why throughout the story as her investigative skills shine from beginning to end. This effort took many years to complete, in no small part due to the deliberate intransigence and roadblocks put up by the State of New York. Indeed, if there is one major villain amongst a cast of many, and I think there is, it is the State. After finishing this book, it is difficult not to feel disgust at how it, through its many elected and appointed officials, acted over the course of four decades to thwart justice. Attica is a maximum security prison near Buffalo, in upstate NY. While it did then, and still does, have the reputation as being for the worst of the worst as far as criminals go, Thompson shows that many of the prisoners there actually weren't seasoned or even especially dangerous convicts. Some of them were there due to parole violations, and were imprisoned to begin with for relatively minor infractions (one inmate had cut open the top of a convertible car). And yet they were mixed in with men who were dangerous, who had committed murders. This being the early 70s, some of the prisoners were also quite politically active, and supported the Black Panther Party. That brings me to one of the themes throughout: racism. It was (and, as the epilogue so cogently points out, still is) endemic to the prison system, and to American society in general. Thompson spends a lot of time here – detailing how the prison population at Attica was largely black and Puerto Rican (another problem: no one in the administration there spoke Spanish; the one guard who did was discouraged from using it with those inmates who had a limited understanding of English), and was treated even more harshly by the almost exclusively all-white Correction Officers. Blacks were beat more often than whites, tortured worse than whites, and were threatened infinitely more than whites. Not to mention they had to endure racist epithets and taunts constantly (“We're gonna kill you, nigger” seemed to be a frequent one). Notice I used the word “more” in the last sentence; whites did not escape abuse by a long shot. Nobody was safe at the prison, with the Correction Officers frequently beating people for any reason, or no reason at all. In fact, whites who were friends with or supporters their fellow black inmates, were targeted almost as bad as the blacks themselves were, frequently being referred to as “nigger lovers”. It is all so disgusting. It's awful just reading about it. I can't imagine living it. Notice I have not mentioned anything directly about the prison riot and retaking of the prison. There are a few reasons for that. First, for anyone who plans on reading it, I do not want to spoil the intensity of not knowing what is coming, exactly. I knew in general, prior to reading this book, that there had been a prison uprising at Attica, and I knew that the governor at the time, Nelson Rockefeller, mishandled it about as bad as a person could do, but I did not know the context behind what led to the riot, what happened during the days it was going on, or how disastrously the New York State Police handled the retaking of the prison. Nor was I aware of the ensuing decades of litigation and wreckage that followed in its wake. And the second reason I am not going into it here is that this is something that, once you start it, where do you stop? There is so much to go through: talking about the people who died (both prisoners and Corrections Officers); the people who were severely wounded; the families of those who had died, the families of those who lived but with permanent physical, emotional, economic, and psychological damage; the state troopers who were almost blinded by rage; the attorneys for all sides; the prison officials who were, at best, negligent and, at worst, criminal in their attempts to sweep things under the rug; the observers committee brought in to try to avoid the calamity that ended up occurring; and the state officials from Rockefeller on down whose only seeming goal was to cover up the atrocities and blame the victims. And by the way, I do not hold the prisoners blameless. They did have legitimate reasons for many (not all though) of their actions, and it seems that they truly did work to avoid bloodshed. Frank “Big Black” Smith is one who comes to mind, who went out of his way to try to protect people, yet ended up being tortured more than anyone else because 1) he was black, and 2) he was outspoken. Yet there were factions within the prisoners themselves, and three inmates were killed prior to the state police entering the prison, and in addition a Corrections Officer died from injuries sustained in the riot. So there is plenty of blame that needs to be put on some of the inmates as well (I did get the sense that Thompson didn't press that point nearly as hard as she maybe should have). Thompson's structuring of the narrative is excellent, dividing it into separate sections and focusing on specific people whose actions related to that section the most. Occasionally she gets a minor detail wrong, such as when she mentioned that Rockefeller was still Vice-President in April of 1977 (page 521) when he had actually left office three months earlier. And it seemed that the issues that the Puerto Rican prisoners faced disappeared as the book moved along, which was a disappointment to me. Also, she seemed less interested in trying to determine which prisoners had murdered the three inmates prior to the violent retaking, and there was no significant push by her to try to determine (as much as possible) who individually might have been responsible for William Quinn's death. Her writing style is engaging; even some of the courtroom scenes are riveting. She details how the state went to great lengths in an effort to try to prevent her, in 2011, from gaining access to documents concerning Attica, documents that have no real reason to be kept hidden from the public. I think this a very solid book, and I can see why it garnered the praise that it did. Yet, as noted above, there were some aspects that I think could have been examined more closely. That the State of New York had not, as of the time this was published in 2016, apologized for the actions of its employees and elected officials (the state policemen, their superiors, and members of Rockefeller's – and subsequent – administrations) when evidence so clearly points to rank and wanton recklessness, endangerment, abuse (and also murder) is abhorrent. The more American history that I read (which, sadly, is only barely able to scratch the surface of what is out there) the more I believe that “justice” is an elusive, abstract concept that is rarely achieved, and only then at great cost. Grade: A-

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Remarkable book, unearthing the actual story behind the Attica prison riots for the first time ever, and also doing much to explain why it took so long. The first few chapters detail unbelievable brutality before, during and after the uprising; the good faith of the prisoners is in sharp contrast to the lies and murderous violence of the state. Some of these guys were murders (some were not, some were there because of minor parole violations) and they come off as much more honorable than the pri Remarkable book, unearthing the actual story behind the Attica prison riots for the first time ever, and also doing much to explain why it took so long. The first few chapters detail unbelievable brutality before, during and after the uprising; the good faith of the prisoners is in sharp contrast to the lies and murderous violence of the state. Some of these guys were murders (some were not, some were there because of minor parole violations) and they come off as much more honorable than the prison administrators. The remaining chapters document a decades-long cover up by the New York State government and everyone involved, which left not just prisoners but prison employees taken hostage without redress or even admission that anything bad had happened. This book is especially relevant now as an example of badly unchecked power can go astray and how limited our courts and press are against government institutions determined to do wrong. The last chapter ties the events at Attica to our current problems with mass incarceration. Meticulously researched, fluidly written, full of detail but every detail builds the story -- there are no loose ends or rabbit holes.

  20. 4 out of 5

    William

    Writing this review in 2021, fifty years after the Attica massacre. It's the middle of a covid-19 pandemic and I'm taking extra steps to ensure that I keep overall societal depression and dysfunction at bay. I've noticed two or three days of despondency, loneliness and depression manifesting itself. Diligently tracking the source I realize it's this book. An exhaustive history of the Attica uprising and subsequent massacre of the prisoners, hostages, and prison employees. In 1971 I was a college Writing this review in 2021, fifty years after the Attica massacre. It's the middle of a covid-19 pandemic and I'm taking extra steps to ensure that I keep overall societal depression and dysfunction at bay. I've noticed two or three days of despondency, loneliness and depression manifesting itself. Diligently tracking the source I realize it's this book. An exhaustive history of the Attica uprising and subsequent massacre of the prisoners, hostages, and prison employees. In 1971 I was a college freshman and could be rightly called a militant/radical youth. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the slogans, pronouncements, and indignation we shouted would pale in comparison to the horrible truths. N.Y. governor N. Rockefeller had dreams of the presidency and bargained with arbitrators in bad faith. State police and former prison guards and other correctional officers were fed a steady 3-4 day diet of lies of prisoner atrocities against their hostages, including slit throats and castration. Instead of the true story of prisoners forming a "hostage circle" to protect them from other inmates, offering the best "accommodations" , and getting the injured medical care. The lies of prisoner atrocities made it unquestioned into the national press. There was a panel of negotiators which included prison brass, community leaders and the press. Almost all believed the stalemate could be resolved if Rockefeller simply showed up to give his imprimatur to the proceedings. He, along with his compatriot's blessing, Nixon, refused. The NY State police after 4 days of lies are truly rabid and seem to have lost any shred of humanity and decency. Make no mistake, the retaking of Attica was a racist massacre from start to finish. The police had very successfully put down other prison takeovers without the use of firearms. Police actually were allowed to bring in their personal untraceable handguns and hunting rifles and automatic weapons. Weapons given to police were never recorded by the police intentionally to avoid later prosecution. Even the presence of white hostages was not enough to quell the blood lust of people determined to kill as many niggers as they could in the time it took to retake the prison. The police were issued ammunition that was banned by the Geneva convention because of the maximum damage it caused to human flesh. Ten hostages were killed on top of the 33 prisoners. One policeman later bragged that he was able to kill four prisoners with his hunting rifle. Make no mistake, the amount of racial hatred, and murderous depravity described here is on par with anything witnessed in Germany, Rwanda or Palestine. And this is just the first third of the book. The next 2/3 concerns the fights that both the prisoners and then the hostage families fought against the State of New York for some redress for their injuries. It is equally heartbreaking if not as visceral. While there have been very small monetary damages granted to both groups, neither have ever received a formal apology. I get sad thinking about this book. What does it say about a state (you, me, we compromise that said state) that would orchestrate as a matter of policy a massacre (one that just as easily could have been avoided?).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dana Sweeney

    This book is an absolutely indispensable puzzle piece for readers who want to understand the history of police brutality, mass incarceration, and public conceptions of criminality. Blood in the Water is a deeply researched, accessible, first-of-its-kind look into what actually happened during the Attica Prison Uprising of 1971. It is based on the author’s extensive interviews with survivors from the prison yard, with former corrections officers, with members of the negotiation team, with members This book is an absolutely indispensable puzzle piece for readers who want to understand the history of police brutality, mass incarceration, and public conceptions of criminality. Blood in the Water is a deeply researched, accessible, first-of-its-kind look into what actually happened during the Attica Prison Uprising of 1971. It is based on the author’s extensive interviews with survivors from the prison yard, with former corrections officers, with members of the negotiation team, with members of the governmental investigative committee forged in the aftermath, and on extensive documentary evidence that has been classified and hidden by the state of New York in the decades since the uprising occurred. The book conclusively demonstrates that the state of New York lied to the public continuously throughout the uprising. New York spun a fabricated narrative of prisoners resorting to unspeakable violence when left to their own devices, and then used this premise as an excuse to embark on one of the most lethal attacks the U.S. government has ever launched on its own citizens. After the assault on the prison yard, the state tortured and abused survivors and lied about this, too. The state of New York continues to protect the individuals who deliberately and fatally endangered the lives of inmates, and the lies that state officials spun about the innate criminality of inmates of color entered the public consciousness as a powerful reinforcement of Nixon’s burgeoning, racist “law and order” framework. The reverberations of this event continue to ripple through American life, even as many have forgotten the event itself. I STRONGLY recommend this read as an essential and understudied event in modern American history. I had honestly never heard of Attica, but it looms large in my understanding of police and mass incarceration after reading. The documented depth of the state’s depravity is also, for me, radicalizing. It leads me to question police narratives more deeply, and also to engage with conversations with what prison abolition might look like, because the stuff in this book is truly evil.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Phil Overeem

    Infuriating. Though I must say that my belief in the basic goodness of humanity was rocked to the core numerous times (by the actions/inactions of public officials and the sheer bloodletting madness of the NY State Police), it was partially restored by the efforts of inmates to improve their conditions, protect, feed, and maintain the health of their hostages (in vain, for nine of them), and the strivings of an organized network of lawyers and legal assistants to make sure the Attica rebels had Infuriating. Though I must say that my belief in the basic goodness of humanity was rocked to the core numerous times (by the actions/inactions of public officials and the sheer bloodletting madness of the NY State Police), it was partially restored by the efforts of inmates to improve their conditions, protect, feed, and maintain the health of their hostages (in vain, for nine of them), and the strivings of an organized network of lawyers and legal assistants to make sure the Attica rebels had adequate representation--even more necessary than usual after coerced testimony and confessions forced by--guess who?--the NY State Police Force. Indefatigably and meticulously researched but written in clear, moving, and readable style by Ms. Thompson. An essential read, especially for folks interested in current issues involving mass incarceration and prison conditions.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tanya Daigle

    This book and its message is as disturbing as it is necessary to society's collective memory. Thompson's incredible thoroughness in their research, alongside their narrative skills, makes for an amazing work of history. This book is difficult to read not due to its layout (the writing and ways in which the chapters flowed naturally was yet another thing that impressed me about this book), but because of the explicit, evidence-backed accounts of the horrors of Attica's retaking and its aftermath This book and its message is as disturbing as it is necessary to society's collective memory. Thompson's incredible thoroughness in their research, alongside their narrative skills, makes for an amazing work of history. This book is difficult to read not due to its layout (the writing and ways in which the chapters flowed naturally was yet another thing that impressed me about this book), but because of the explicit, evidence-backed accounts of the horrors of Attica's retaking and its aftermath as well as the NY state's attempt to cover up the most chilling details. In all, this book will discomfort, anger and disturb you--as it should. Kudos to this groundbreaking work!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nate Hendrix

    WOW. Way more than I really wanted to know about the riot at Attica and the cover up that followed. Thompson took 10 years to write this book and it is amazingly detailed. The retaking of the prison is horrific and the cover up that lasted for over 20 years is shameful. Prisoners and hostages were executed and the NYSP tried to cover up all of it. The the state of New York denied benefits to the survivors for decades. The story is so detailed and so depressing and so long that I had to take a br WOW. Way more than I really wanted to know about the riot at Attica and the cover up that followed. Thompson took 10 years to write this book and it is amazingly detailed. The retaking of the prison is horrific and the cover up that lasted for over 20 years is shameful. Prisoners and hostages were executed and the NYSP tried to cover up all of it. The the state of New York denied benefits to the survivors for decades. The story is so detailed and so depressing and so long that I had to take a break and read something else for several days to take a break.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    WOW. This is a completely nonpartisan exploration of the 1971 riot at Attica and its ultimate influence on the tough on crime, law and order politics of the 80s and 90s which fueled the development of mass incarceration. This book was frustrating, revealing, challenging, and utterly shocking. This is an essential read for anyone with any interest in prison reform- it is a little dense for someone uninterested in the topic, however it will undoubtedly benefit anyone who reads it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    Well researched and well presented, but scary to read how a government, and *supposed* law enforcers can so blatantly abuse, torture and kill, and not be held accountable. Some justice was finally meted out 30 years later but most of it was to little too soon, or not at all. A book well worth reading but so hard to fathom and accept.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    America in 1971 was a country in the midst of massive social uprisings. The Civil Rights and Black Nationalist movements, the Anti-War Movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement and all the organizations that were central to these were shaping public debates in all corners of society. The American prison system was no exception. As jails and prisons faced endemic overcrowding and poor conditions, inmates quickly flocked to radical political ideas wanting to bring the power of human liberation to America in 1971 was a country in the midst of massive social uprisings. The Civil Rights and Black Nationalist movements, the Anti-War Movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement and all the organizations that were central to these were shaping public debates in all corners of society. The American prison system was no exception. As jails and prisons faced endemic overcrowding and poor conditions, inmates quickly flocked to radical political ideas wanting to bring the power of human liberation to the struggle for a more just incarceration system. It was in this context that the largest prison uprising in American history occurred at the Attica Correctional Facility in New York, and where the story begins for Heather Ann Thompson’s definitive history of the uprising and its aftermath, Blood in the Water. Weighing in at 752 pages, Thompson takes us on an incredible and tragic journey, starting with the brutally violent conditions prisoners were subjected to, where a small altercation with correctional guards sparked the prisoner takeover of the facility. What followed were four days of tense negotiations between prisoners and state officials, the former hoping to negotiate improved living conditions and political freedom (such as access to revolutionary literature). Despite efforts from players on both sides, the office of New York governor and the governor himself refused to entertain one of the most important prisoner demands, full amnesty for those participating in the uprising. Nelson Rockefeller, a liberal Republican with national aspirations was desperate to bolster his conservative bona fides and did not want to appear lax with the prisoners. Eventually, he grew impatient and gave the go ahead to take the facility back by force. In some of the most difficult to read chapters, Thompson describes how ill prepared and trigger-happy state troopers went full force into the prison yard, shooting, maiming and killing not only prisoners but also their hostages. Ignoring cries of surrender, the state forces were intent on sending a message to those who had dared rise up against the prison authority. Over several hours, the state forces engaged in acts of torture and brutality, exacting particularly humiliating punishment on those perceived as ring-leaders. What followed the bloody retaking was more than three decades of legal battles, initially with the state going on the offensive, attempting to criminally prosecute prisoners. However, driven and whip-smart legal teams and prisoners managed to push back against the vast majority of the indictments. Emboldened, the victims of the takeover launched class action suits against the state of New York that took years to resolve, sadly with many who suffered gruesomely having died by the time a settlement was reached. Eventually, the families of prison guards, who had been held hostage and who perished at the hand state troopers, eventually secured monetary compensation, after years of being lied to as to who was guilty of killing their kin. Thompson’s Blood in the Water won both the 2017 Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize, some of the most prestigious awards in history writing and it certainly deserves all the accolades. Filled with enormous amounts of detail, personal accounts of prisoners, advocates, prison guards, and families of those killed in the uprising, Blood in the Water is both rich in content and captivating, a page turner as we are desperate to see if those who suffered so greatly received even a modicum of justice. And while Thompson spares no detail in terms of the brutality of the uprising and its crushing by state forces, the story she tells asserts that those who stood up to the brutal conditions of the prison system were heroic in their efforts to fight for a better world, both inside and outside the walls of Attica. The spirit of Attica, those who fought and died there or those who continued to fight for decades after, is a spirit that should continue to inspire those eager to see the revolutionary change our world desperately needs.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Delany

    Perhaps this was not the best time for me to have chosen to read this book, a time when our culture is in upheaval due to a struggle to shed light on and, it is hoped, to eliminate a routine of black citizens being brutalized and killed by police officers, a time when we are in the last few weeks of a presidential election campaign in which one very popular candidate has encouraged and accepted the adulation of white supremacists throughout our nation. But this is when I chose to read it, and I' Perhaps this was not the best time for me to have chosen to read this book, a time when our culture is in upheaval due to a struggle to shed light on and, it is hoped, to eliminate a routine of black citizens being brutalized and killed by police officers, a time when we are in the last few weeks of a presidential election campaign in which one very popular candidate has encouraged and accepted the adulation of white supremacists throughout our nation. But this is when I chose to read it, and I'm glad I did. And chastened. The Attica uprising and subsequent backlash and reprisals happened in September, 1971. I was then starting my sophomore year in college. I remember the news reports, and I remember the sense that it was indeed a "big deal," but, as I recall, neither I nor my friends or professors had much to say about it. It was something that was happening far away, in a prison. I knew absolutely nothing about prisons. I was majoring in mathematics, philosophy, and having fun. Richard Nixon was president. Reading this book has vividly brought back to me the times as they existed for me in the late '60s and early '70s, and stunned me a bit about how very different my outlook is, today. Today I am retired from careers as a prosecutor and a forensic psychologist. I've also been a peace activist, have had dear friends who served time in prison for their activities as protesters. I am very familiar with prisons and those who are incarcerated in them. And now, finally (45 years later!), I actually do care about (and know something about) the Attica uprising and its aftermath. Reduced to its simplest terms, it is a very old and familiar story: the crime, then the coverup, and -- much later, and after much struggle -- uncovering the coverup. The "crime" I refer to was not that of the inmates who engaged in the uprisong. Many if not most of them were basically decent men who had been repeatedly pushed to the brink and who were in that state of hopelessness and helplessness in which humans will, sometimes, rise up and attempt to take their fate into their own hands. The "crime" I am talking about is the routine brutality and deprivation to which the prisoners were (and many prisoners still are) subjected, followed by the insane reprisals that took place as state troopers and prison guards, in a frenzy of rage, "re-took" the prison with guns blazing -- and then after the guns were put down, systematically beat and tortured the surviving prisoners and did their best to deny them medical care. The coverup was a project that Governor Rockefeller and those under his direction worked hard at, for years. Here's a paragraph to remember from this excellent book: "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."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    This is a big book and I mean that in every way. BLOOD IN THE WATER is an incredible, detailed account of the 1971 Attica Prison uprising and its aftermath. I must admit that, prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about Attica and most of what I did know was filtered through popular culture ("Dog Day Afternoon," etc). What a harrowing, eye-opening book this is. The events at Attica were more violent, more cruel, and more complicated than I expected. At several points while I was rea This is a big book and I mean that in every way. BLOOD IN THE WATER is an incredible, detailed account of the 1971 Attica Prison uprising and its aftermath. I must admit that, prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about Attica and most of what I did know was filtered through popular culture ("Dog Day Afternoon," etc). What a harrowing, eye-opening book this is. The events at Attica were more violent, more cruel, and more complicated than I expected. At several points while I was reading this, I found myself shaking my head and saying "Jesus" out loud. Thompson's prose is fantastic but this is by no means an "easy" book to read. I needed to give myself ample time to sit with it rather than barreling on through. Part legal history, part social history of prisons, and part "true crime" BLOOD IN THE WATER does an excellent job linking the rapid deterioration of events at Attica to the hostage crisis to the decades of legal maneuvering afterward. About half the book focuses on the events in September 1971, the rest is a discussion of the cover-up and lawsuits that tried to get some justice for the prisoners, hostages, and their families. The state of New York does not come out of this book looking at all good and the prison officials, state troopers, and politicians look even worse. Thompson's research is detailed and incredibly well presented. There is real narrative force to this book, something I can't say for all history texts, that makes it a page-turner even when you're reading about the minutiae of legal rulings. A quick note of caution: there are several photographs of the uprising and its aftermath reproduced in the book. Although these help underscore the violence and cruelty on display at Attica, they are graphic and difficult to look at. If that sort of thing bothers you, be prepared.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Helga Cohen

    This very much deserved book was the winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in History. This is a definitive history of the infamous and horrible 1971 Attica Prison uprising. It is a story that needs to be told and read by everyone. It told of the state of New York’s violent response that lead to killings and injuries and then lies and cover up’s and it told of the victims more than 45 year quest for justice and truth. On Sept 9, 1971, nearly 1300 prisoners took over the Attica correctional Facility t This very much deserved book was the winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in History. This is a definitive history of the infamous and horrible 1971 Attica Prison uprising. It is a story that needs to be told and read by everyone. It told of the state of New York’s violent response that lead to killings and injuries and then lies and cover up’s and it told of the victims more than 45 year quest for justice and truth. On Sept 9, 1971, nearly 1300 prisoners took over the Attica correctional Facility to protest the mistreatment of the prisoners who wanted to seek rights and overall better treatment. They wanted to negotiate with the state officials. But on Sept 13, 1971, the state instead of meeting their negotiations to acceptance retook the prison by force. They came in with tear gas and gunfire. They killed 39 men, hostages and prisoners and injured more than 100 more and in the weeks and months to come brutally retaliated against the prisoners. New York State authorities then went and prosecuted only the prisoners and accused them of killing the hostages and prisoners. They withheld the evidence and covered up the crimes committed by the police and correction officers who retook the prison. The prisoners and the hostages and their families fought for justice and to have the truth be told. This fight took 45 years to be told completely through the extensive research by Ann Thompson. It was through the words of the surviving prisoners, hostages and the whistle blower Malcolm Bell, the attorneys and others that this story could be completed and justice pursued. This is an extremely important civil rights story and at times was very difficult to read. The atrocities by the police and correction officers and the outright lies and cover up was hard to accept sometimes so I had to read this book in small doses. But everyone should read it. I highly recommend it.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.