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Post date: September 13 2016

A.G. Schneiderman, Director Of NYS Archives Ruller And State Education Commissioner Elia Announce Attica Prison Uprising Website On 45th Anniversary

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 13, 2016

New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060
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A.G. Schneiderman, Director Of NYS Archives Ruller And State Education Commissioner Elia Announce Attica Prison Uprising Website On 45th Anniversary

Site Will Showcase Documents Surrounding The Uprising And Aftermath, Which Left 43 Dead And Nearly 90 Wounded 

Schneiderman: This Website Enables Us to Pay Homage To Those Affected And Enlighten Future Generations On The Events Of The Uprising

ATTICA – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Thomas J. Ruller, Director of the New York State Archives and State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia today announced the creation of a new public website hosting a digital collection of documents relating to investigations and litigation arising from the 1971 Attica prison uprising and its aftermath. These records have previously been stored at the Office of the New York State Attorney General.

September 9th through the 13th marks the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising. The event began when inmates took several guards hostage and took control of parts of the prison. One correction officer was killed. Prisoner demands included permitting prisoners additional religious freedoms, access to uncensored newspapers and magazines, the end of administrative resentencing of prisoners, a modernized inmate educational system, better food, basic medical care, less cell time, less crowding of cells and more recreation time.

“The creation of this website enables us to shed light on the Attica uprising, one of the darkest chapters of our state’s history,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “This easily accessible database allows us to pay homage to the lives lost and those forever changed as a result of the uprising. By putting critical documents at the fingertips of those interested in finding out more, this website will allow future generations of New Yorkers to learn from these events and the role they played in the history of our state’s corrections system.”

“We are pleased to work with the Attorney General, through the State Archives, to develop this online resource,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “We hope the public, teachers, and students use the website to access these critical documents and learn more about the Attica uprising.”

“The State Archives is proud to work with the Attorney General's Office on this website,” said State Archivist Thomas Ruller. “This searchable database offers a digital collection of Attica documents that is easily and freely accessible to all.” 

After a four-day siege, the prison was retaken by state police and prison officers on September 13 at the order of Governor Nelson Rockefeller. At the time of the retaking, 1,281 convicts occupied an exercise field called D Yard, where they held 39 prison guards and employees hostage. The raid recaptured the facility, but 10 hostages and 29 inmates were killed by the officers’ gunfire. 89 others were seriously injured. 

The first installment of documents to be made available on the website are from the Al Jundi v. Rockefeller lawsuit, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, including defendants Russell Oswald, John Monahan, Vincent Mancusi and Karl Pfeil. The Al Jundi case involved inmates and families of inmates killed in the prison retaking who sued the State of New York for civil rights violations by law enforcement officers during and after the retaking of Attica. The federal law suit alleged that prisoners were beaten and tortured during the retaking. After over 25 years in the courts, in 2000, the State of New York agreed to pay $8 million ($12 million minus legal fees) to settle the case.

The settlement of the case was presided over by federal district court Judge Michael A.Telesca in Rochester, New York. The defendants in Al Jundi included Governor Nelson Rockefeller and after his death, the Rockefeller estate (which was later dismissed from the case), Vincent Mancusi, the former superintendent of Attica, Karl Pfeil, the former deputy warden, the estate of Russell G. Oswald, who was Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, and the estate of John Monahan, who was commander of the state police in Batavia.

At the time Al Jundi settled, the settlement was the biggest ever in a prisoners right case. The settlement came 25 years after the class-action civil suit was filed on behalf of 1,281 inmates who were at Attica at the time of the 1971 uprising, seige and retaking, which left 43 people dead and more than 80 wounded.  

Additional records will be added to the web state as they are collected, reviewed, scanned and indexed.

The Attorney General’s staff that helped develop the website were Chief of Law Library Services Patricia L. Partello; Associate Law Librarian Patrick Weklar; IT Specialists Dan Walsh, Cory Nugent and Matt Toomey, Director of Administrative Services Jennifer Gonroff and Deputy Counsel John Amodeo, led by Marty Mack.

The Attorney General also thanks the New York State Archives for their partnership and valuable assistance in helping develop the website.