Criminal Injustice: Death and Politics at Attica

In September of 1971, the infamous prison rebellion began at the Attica State Correctional Facility in upstate New York—a dramatic civil rights protest that ended with Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordering more than 600 state troopers to storm the prison and retake it with force. As a result of this forcible retaking, 39 people were shot to death—hostages and inmates alike—and scores of other prisoners were severely wounded and tortured for days.

Criminal Injustice: Death and Politics at Attica brings this historical event to life in new and startling ways. Based on interviews of eyewitnesses who waited four decades to open up and share their stories, as well as newly discovered documents, Criminal Injustice sheds new light on what happened at Attica from September 9th to 13th, 1971, and the role played by local, state, and federal officials. This film raises important new questions about the needless deaths, the White House’s involvement, and the influence of Nelson Rockefeller's political aspirations on decisions made before, during, and long after the controversial and deadly event.

Forty years after this cataclysmic and highly charged event, filmmakers found witnesses willing to speak with new candor that adds depth to, and often alters, the historic record. The film includes the final interview regarding Attica given by New York Times reporter Tom Wicker, an on-the-scene negotiator who later documented his experiences in the book A Time to Die; Malcolm Bell, the special prosecutor turned whistle blower; Dr. Heather Thompson, the nation's leading academic authority on the Attica prison uprising; as well as inmates, former hostages, law enforcement officers, and others.



Official Selection, American Historical Association Annual Conference, 2013

Winner, 2013 Emmy Award, Research


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