The Attica prison riot was the culmination of years of increasing tension between the urban, racial, and ethnic minorities held at the prison and the rural, white officers, and administrators responsible for incarcerating them. While race was certainly an important factor in the riot,
there were also a number of problems at the prison that prompted inmates of all races to unite against the New York State Department of Correctional Services and the state government. Inmates’ frustration increased as they waited for reforms that were promised but never materialized.
As inmates’ patience waned, the prison administration made a number of decisions that damaged its ability to maintain peace and respond to problems. A review of the circumstances leading to the riot at the Attica Penitentiary in September 1971 is included as well as an analysis of some
more recent riots where similar conditions and warning signs were present.