Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
Glenn S. Goord, Commissioner

Office of Public Information
[518] 457-8182

For immediate release:

Tuesday, August 4, 1998

Most of Attica returns to normal, but slowed, operations

All but approximately 450 of Attica Correctional Facility's 2,180 inmates are being released from their cells today to eat in the mess hall, go to outside yards for recreation, take showers and move to the commissary to make purchases.

Those not being released are housed in B Block, who have been locked down since Friday after a series of assaults on Correction Officers who sustained minor injuries. Blocks A and C through E were locked down on Saturday following two incidents there. During a lockdown, inmates are confined to their cells around the clock except for medical and visits.

There were no incidents at the prison Monday night or today. Commissioner Goord ordered a slowed-down schedule in order to assess inmate attitudes. He authorized release of the non-B Block inmates Monday for evening recreation, and it proceeded without incident. Today, inmates moved on a slower-than-normal schedule to the mess hall for lunch. The tenor was quiet and the movement occurred without incident. As a result, Commissioner Goord directed that recreation for those inmates be continued today and that they be allowed commissary buys later in the day.

A cell search of B Block's 450 cells that began at 7:30 p.m. Friday was completed at 1:30 p.m. on Monday. During the frisk, Officers recovered 12 homemade weapons plus small amounts of marijuana and a powder being tested as heroin. All inmates identified as owners or the contraband will face disciplinary charges for possession. That block will remain locked down while Commissioner Goord conducts an investigation into Friday's assaults. No deadline for completion of the investigation has been set.

Four Officers remain off-duty due to injuries sustained either in inmate assaults or while they were removing inmates from cells. Two sustained shoulder injuries, the third suffered a bruised knee and pain to the left groin area and the fourth suffered a bruised hand and knee. No staff were hospitalized due to their injuries, although several others received lesser injuries. Only one inmate sustained injuries, which were minor.

In the first six months of this year, there were 47 inmate-on-staff assaults at Attica. Annualized, that would be 94, slightly below Attica's 1993-97 annual average of 100 such assaults. The department uses "rates per 1,000" inmates in comparing statistics, in order to account for the major disparity in size among prisons. In the first six months of this year, Attica has seen 43 inmate-on-staff assaults per 1,000 inmates, compared to 34 per 1,000 among similar-sized maximum-security prisons.

Commissioner Goord said, "It is an understatement to say that Attica earned a certain notoriety as a result of the riot that occurred there in 1971. Unfortunately, many observers' perception of the facility is frozen in that image. That perception does not do justice to reality: that Attica's professional and dedicated personnel have brought that facility to the forefront of corrections as we prepare to enter the new millennium."

Commissioner Goord noted that the reality of 1998 includes the facts that:

  • Attica was accredited in 1989 and has since been reaccredited twice by the American Correctional Association which sets national standards for the operation and administration of correctional facilities. Attica meets 100 percent of the ACA's 41 mandatory and 98.5 percent of its 450 non-mandatory standards. New York is the only major state in which every one of its institutions are accredited.
  • Like every other state prison in New York, Attica's inmate grievance program is certified by the U.S. Department of Justice as meeting its national standards. New York is the only major state system to have earned such certification.
  • Attica's inmate population has increased 10 percent since 1971, from 1,980 then to 2,180 today. During the same period:
    • The out-of-cell program day now covers 15 hours, beginning at 7:30 a.m. and running until 10:30 p.m. In 1971, inmates were locked in their cells 15 a day.
    • The increased out-of-cell time has led to the number of Officers being increased by 50 percent to today's 584.
    • Substantial program staff was added and it accounts for the bulk of the 78 percent increase in Attica's total staffing today of 850 employees.
  • Approximately 1,300 Attica inmates participated in academic programs last year, while more than 500 inmates now participate in such programs each weekday. Those not in academic programs participate in vocational programs or the Industries program, while others are involved in such specialized programs as aggression replacement training, drug abuse counseling, mental health services, sex offender treatment or the Hispanic Inmate Needs Program, among others.
  • More than 200 Attica inmates earned vocational degrees in the past year. Attica's vocational shops include auto body, general business, custodial maintenance, floor covering, printing, radio and television repair, sheet metal and welding.