Attica Prison Riot

Although the rhetoric surrounding the prison system was that of therapy and reform, this could not hide the repressive character of prisons and the racism inherent in the American justice system. Racism in the justice system was increasingly attacked by Civil Rights activists, who could draw on Cold War talk of democracy and citizenship rights and focus them on the racist practices in U.S. prisons.

If democracy was to be enforced in prisons, why not start by attacking the racist incarceration practices?

September 1971, three weeks after black inmate George Jackson had been shot in Soledad Prison, inmates at Attica Prison seized over four of the five prison blocks and took more than 30 guards and civilian workers hostage.

The spokesperson of the rioters issued a statement that shows how prisoners referred to notions of prisons as institutions of a democratic society:

"WE are MEN! We are not beasts and we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such. The entire prison populace—that means each and every one of us here—has set forth to change forever the ruthless brutalization and disregard for the lives of the prisoners here and throughout the United States. What has happened here is but the sound before the fury of those who are oppressed."