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New York Employees Families Settle Attica Riot Claims for $12 Million

The State of New York has reached a $12 million settlement with the Forgotten Victims of Attica, a group of surviving state employees and relatives of 11 guards killed during the 1971 uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility.

Under a proposal by Governor George E. Pataki, the Forgotten Victims of Attica will receive $2 million a year for 6 consecutive years. On 2005, Pataki recommended including the first $2 million payment in 2005-6 budget.
Thirty-two prisoners and 11 guards were slain during the infamous Attica riot, which lasted 5 days. Most of the deaths occurred during the chaotic retaking of the prison when State Police shot to death 10 guards and 29 prisoners as they wildly stormed the compound.

Formed in 2000 after prisoner victims of the riot settled their 30 year old lawsuit against the state for $12 million [see PLN, June 2000, p. 12], the Forgotten Victims sought restitution, an annual ceremony at the prison, the release of all records related to the uprising, counseling, and an official apology from the state.

At least two of those demands have been met. Along with the monetary settlement, Pataki promised that the Attica prison grounds will be open annually for ceremonies on September 13, the anniversary of the deadly retaking. The group and Pataki continue to negotiate over records release and an apology, but no separate money will be provided for counseling.
Genesee County Public Defender Gary Horton, who represented the Forgotten Victims, said only his expenses will be deducted from the settlement.
The Forgotten Victims largely welcomed Pataki's proposal, said Michael Smith, a former prison guard who was shot five times by police as they assaulted the prison. I don't know if this is justice," Smith said. But it's recognition. And that recognition is important to the healing process.

It's relevant to note that the Forgotten Victims' settlement for eleven dead guards will be divided among roughly 50 families, while the prisoners' settlement was split between more than 500 beaten and tortured former prisoners and their families and the estates of 32 murdered prisoners. Four million dollars of the prisoners' settlement was also earmarked for attorney fees to compensate the attorneys who spent 30 years litigating the case. The unspoken implication is that the life of a guard is worth at least ten times that of a prisoner. The Attica insurrection remains the nation's deadliest prison uprising.

Sources: Associated Press,

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