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Attica Prison Uprising | Amnesty | 2

Attica Prison Uprising | Amnesty | 2

Tue, 17 Aug 2021 09:00

Negotiators enter the prison, and attempt to bring an end to the uprising. But the prisoners make a demand that proves to be a major obstacle.

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To listen to American scandal one week early and add free, join Wondry Plus in the Wondri app. Download the Wondri app in your Apple or Google Play mobile app store today. It's September 9, 1971, and late morning at the Attica Correctional Facility in Western New York. Out in the prison yard, Richard X Clark carries a heavy bundle of canned food as he heads to a table. Clark sets down the food and wipes the sweat from his forehead. His arms are sore and tired, but for Clark, it's good feeling. As he looks around, he's struck by the transformation that's taken hold of this maximum security prison. Rival gang members are working side by side, carrying supplies to a medical tent, an inmate disinfects a wound on another inmate's left cheek. The prison yard has turned into a sprawling encampment, a democratic village that's run by the prisoners themselves. It's an incredible turn of events. For years, the inmates have been treated like animals. They were beaten mercilessly and never given proper food or medical care. But then, just a few hours ago, the inmates erupted in revolt. They drove back the guards, and after taking several dozen of them hostage, they took control of the prison. The prisoners then banded together and developed a list of changes they wanted to see in Attica. To reach these goals, the inmates elected a small group of representatives, including Richard X Clark, a leader of the prison's Black Muslim community. As Clark walks through the yard, he feels optimistic that the prison administrators will meet their demands. But Clark knows that, as basic as these demands may be, the upcoming negotiations are going to be tense. There's a high pitched noise, and Clark turns, looking outside of the prison, where a man stands in a navy blue suit holding a megaphone, side by side with several policemen. Good morning. My name is Vincent Mankuzi, on the superintendent of Attica. I'm here to talk with you. Now, whoever's in charge, please, come over. Let's figure out a way to get past this. Clark looks at several other inmates. All right, I'll talk with him. And if you want to come, you're free to join. The men nod. In wielding baseball bats and football helmets, they began making their way over to Mankuzi. As they get closer, the superintendent holds up his hand. All right, all right. Stop. That's far enough. Now, who am I talking to? Good morning, Mr. Mankuzi. You're talking to me. My name is Richard X Clark. Okay, Mr. Clark. Would you please tell your men to lay down their weapons? I'm sorry, sir. I can't do that. We have to protect ourselves. But I promise you, no one intends any harm. Okay, Mr. Clark. Have them stay there, and you can step forward. I can do that. Mr. Clark, Mr. Mankuzi. As I said, no one intends any harm. Mr. Clark, I'd believe you if you were operating good faith, but look over there. Those are my prison guards. They have bruises on their faces. Cut up. They're scared out of their minds. Don't tell me about your intentions. Tell me what you want so we can put an end to this. Well, sir, it's simple. We need decent food and sanitation. You have to provide medical staff who are competent. You have to replace the abuse of guards. Clark pauses, staring at Mankuzi. Maybe, sir, you should be writing this down. Son, let's get one thing very clear. This is not an negotiation. I'm ordering you to let go of my guards. And why should we? Because until you let go of the hostages, I'm not going to even consider your demands. And if you don't let them go, I'll make damn sure you wish you had. Before Clark can respond, his fellow inmates behind him lift their weapons and begin moving towards Mankuzi. He grabs his bullhorn again. Step back. Step back. The policeman flanking Mankuzi reach for their rifles. Now, gentlemen, hold on now. Let's not do anything stupid. Mr. Mankuzi, we appreciate you coming down here. And we're committed to releasing the hostages. But only after we discuss our demands with someone higher up. Higher up. Who do you want, son? President Nixon? Nixon would be good. But we'll settle for the head of the state prisons or the governor. You out of your mind, sir, if you watch your prison back, you need to send someone with real authority. Someone who can make changes. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to make sure the hostages have been given a decent meal. Clark turns away from Mankuzi and he starts walking back towards the prison. He feels proud of the stance he's just taken. And he knows he has the full support of his fellow inmates. Still, Clark is nervous. The prisoners are betting their fortunes on the goodwill of politicians. But there's no saying how other government leaders could respond or how dangerous this situation might grow. Officially, one hour until your favorite show premieres, time to get some snacks delivered through Instacart. Okay, let's get some popcorn, seltzer, chocolate covered almonds, and... Wait, did they release the whole season? Better cart some ice cream for the two part finale. When your day should be ending, but a new season is starting, the world is your cart. Visit or download the app and get free delivery on your first order. Offer valid for a limited time, minimum order $10 additional terms apply. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together. And we'd love for you to join us. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts. From Wondering, I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American Scandal. On September 9th, 1971, inmates at the Attica Correctional Facility led one of the most consequential prison uprisings in American history. It began as a chaotic melee, but within hours, the prisoners had taken control of Attica. Their top priority was to reform the prison, where conditions had been brutal for years. But they remained at odds with government officials who sought the release of prison guards who'd been taken hostage. And in a show of force, New York State troopers were stationed outside the prison, ready to retake the facility if given the orders. But even in this tense atmosphere, negotiations inched forward. The inmates met with the head of New York's prison system, as well as a group of outside observers, and continued to push for changes at Attica. This is Episode 2, Amnesty. It's the early afternoon of September 9th, 1971. A black town car rumbles down a two lane highway in Western New York. As it makes a turn, a set of massive gray walls come into view. The car approaches the Attica Correctional Facility and comes to a stop. Russell Oswald steps out and gazes at the dizzying site in front of him. There are at least 200 uniformed state troopers stationed outside the prison. Their faces are cold, with a feeling of war hovering in the air. Oswald wipes his brow and begins walking toward the prison. He knows this isn't safe. He's about to enter a high pressure situation. People's lives are on the line. And if Oswald can't help resolve this crisis quickly, he could turn into a bloodbath, and he would bear the responsibility for it. Oswald is the head of the state prison system. And when he was appointed commissioner just a few months ago, he publicly vowed to reform New York's prisons. He believes strongly that inmates should be treated with compassion, that disputes like this one can be resolved with diplomacy, not force. But as he walks toward the entrance of the prison, surrounded by armed officers, Oswald can see that diplomacy will be a massive undertaking. Only minutes after exiting his car, Oswald reaches an office inside the prison. He steps inside, refines a superintendent, Vincent Mancuzzi, sitting slumped behind a desk, his face is pale and his shirt soaked with sweat. Oswald glances at a flask, sitting on the edge of the desk. God, Vincent, you're not drinking right now. Yeah, I am. And so what? You've got to keep things together. Now's not the time. Russell now is exactly the time. If you were me, you'd be on your fourth drink already. Oswald steps over to the window, where he stares out at Atticus Yard. Look at that. Man just walking free. Are those the guards? And all huddled together. What are those prisoners carrying? Metal pipes? Yeah, and anything else they could find. Russell, I'm telling you, it's scary. Never seen anything like it. Yeah. I'm scared too, but we're going to figure it out. What is there to figure out? It was good news when we took back these two cell blocks. But these animals, they got the rest of the prison. What are we supposed to do? Oswald glances down at a group of prisoners, who are handing each other medical supplies and plates of food. Then he turns from the window and takes the seat. Well, Vincent, the first step is to stop thinking about them as animals. Oh, come on, it's just us. You can drop the act. It's not an act. It's earnest. There's a reason that these men revolted. All we do is punish. We need to start focusing on rehabilitation. So I think we should meet with them, figure out what they want. And if it's reasonable, let's meet their demands. You're kidding me. They're violent. They've got weapons. Russell, I mean, you can't just reason with them. Listen, I've got 250 state troopers. They're ready to move in. We can take care of the rioters in 10 minutes. No, Vincent, you can't do that. And why the hell not? Because we're not resorting to violence unless we've exhausted every other option. I need you to understand something. I am different than other commissioners. I'm not putting on an act. And I'm going to prove that my way works. The superintendent's scales as he looks away. I understand, all right. But you've got to understand something. If you want to do the thing your way, you're going to be the one out there. And what are you talking about, Vincent? Prisoners. They said they'd only negotiate with two people. You or the governor. The governor's not here. So guess that means you're up to that. Oswald flinches. He knew he'd somehow be involved in the negotiations, but he didn't think he'd be on the front line. Still as scared as he might be, Oswald also knows that this is the best way forward. Mankuzi and the others are set in old ways. They view the prisoners as less than human. And that's not just wrong. It's counterproductive. So Oswald makes up his mind. He will go out into the yard and negotiate with the prisoners directly. But he's going to take a different approach than everyone else. He'll offer respect. He'll treat the inmates with dignity. If all goes according to plan, he could prevent a deadly confrontation between the prisoners and police. Just after 1pm, Richard X. Clark, bounds across the prison yard, his legs moving as fast as they can. On the other side of the yard, a group of inmates have formed a circle where they're shouting and raising their fists. Clark reaches the throng to find two inmates fighting. They're locked in each other's arms, throwing punches, grappling with each other. Spectators shout a mixture of fury and glee. Clark cannex. The men can't fight with each other not now. They're just on the verge of serious negotiations with the state government. They have to stay disciplined, unified. Because if they don't, they won't be taken seriously, and then negotiations will fall apart. Clark tries to push his way to the center of the circle to break up the fight. But he can't get through. The wall of bodies is too thick. Clark continues to struggle forward, trying to worm his way through the mass of sweaty inmates, but it's no use. Clark is about to begin shouting when suddenly something pierces through the perimeter of the circle, like a bowling ball crashing through pins. The other inmates go flying onto the ground. And then into the center of the circle steps a massive inmate, who has dark brown skin and is wearing a skull cap. He's the size of an NFL lineman and he yanks apart the fighting prisoners. He holds one prisoner by his forearm, and with his free hand, the man lifts the other inmate off the ground. Clark stares in amazement as everyone goes quiet. The towering inmate holds both men in his grasp and whispers to each of them. The two men remain glaring at each other. But then they each give each other a small nod. Seems they've reached an agreement. The large inmate lets them go, and the two men walk in opposite directions, without saying another word. The crowd breaks apart, but Clark remains standing in place. He recognizes this large man. His name is Frank Smith, but everyone affectionately calls him Big Black. He's well known around the prison, and well liked. That gives Clark an idea. If this standoff is going to be successful, the inmates will have to maintain order. They'll have to stay civil and well behaved. Otherwise, they'll never get their demands, and this whole uprising will have been for nothing. Clark knows that the man need a leader like Frank Smith, this strong and popular inmate. Clark approaches Smith and thanks him for breaking up the fight. Smith nods and starts to walk away, but Clark continues, and tells him that he has a request. Would Smith take on a leadership role? He could run a security team, making sure that throughout the standoff, everything remains peaceful and safe. Smith shakes his head, saying all he wants is to lay low and stay out of trouble. He's no leader, and he doesn't pay attention to politics or any of that. Clark nods and says he understands the hesitation, but no one can afford to be disengaged right now. Whether he likes it or not, at this point, they're all caught up in something far bigger than themselves. Staying neutral, lying low, that's not an option. And the prisoners desperately need someone like Smith to keep them safe. Smith pulls off his skull cap and runs a hand over his shaved head. He spends a minute thinking. Clark can see him processing the gravity of the decision. Finally, Smith looks up and gives a short nod. He says he'll do it, he'll run the security team. Clark passes them on the shoulder and says that's the right move. Together, he and their fellow inmates are building a true democratic society. They're organized and fighting for their rights, and after so much chaos, keeping the peace will be no small order. But if they're successful, they won't just get the prison to meet their demands. They'll show the world that they're worthy of being treated like human beings. Three hours later, Russell Oswald steps over broken glass as he makes his way down a long tunnel inside Attica. He pauses to take stock of the site. This is where the uprising began, and several of the brick walls are stained with blood. As the head of New York's prisons, the site is chilling for Oswald. He sure that his partners feel the same way. Beside him is Arthur Eave, a black state legislator who supports prisoner rights. On Oswald's other side, is Herman Schwartz, a white attorney whose close with several Attica's inmates. Schwartz represented these men after they rebelled in another state prison. Oswald is glad to have these men by his side. Working together, Oswald hopes they can curry favor with the prisoners, showing that the two sides have a common goal. A few minutes later, Oswald and the men reach the entrance to the prison yard. He takes a deep breath and nods to a state trooper. Then they go in. The gate opens slowly, and waiting on the other side is a very large, very muscular inmate. He introduces himself as Frank Smith, and says he's the head of security. They need to follow him to the negotiating table. Oswald pauses. They're about to enter a yard that's completely run by inmates incarcerated at a maximum security prison. Anything could happen. The inmates Smith sees the look of fear on Oswald's face, and says he promises he won't let anything happen to them. The prisoners are peaceful and organized. Oswald knows he can't back out now, so he and his fellow negotiator step forward into the yard. As they walk, Oswald tightens up, spotting the hundreds of inmates who are staring at them. Nearby, he notices the prison guards being held hostage. They're sitting blindfolded on mattresses. Some look bruised and scraped. It's a frightening sight, but Oswald feels a sliver of relief when he notices the food and water sitting next to the osages. And the longer he looks, the more he notices that they don't appear to have been mistreated. That's a good sign. Soon Oswald and his partners reach a long row of wooden tables. An inmate steps forward and introduces himself with a calm voice. His name is Richard X Clark. He's a leader of the prison's black Muslims. He does not believe in violence, and he hopes that together they can reach a peaceful outcome, one that improves the lives of prisoners inside Attica. Oswald smiles. He finally feels at ease. He tells Clark that he shares the same goals. He wants to reform prisons and improve condition for the inmates. But Clark suddenly frowns. The inmate says that if that's Oswald's goal, why in the world didn't he visit Attica last week? He made a promise. When he broke it, he left the prisoners bitter and disappointed and ready to revolt. Oswald stammer's out in apology, saying that the scheduling just didn't work out. But the nearby inmates chuckle, and Oswald can see they're not persuaded. So he decides to redirect the conversation. He tells the prisoners that he'd like to meet their demands, but in return, the hostages have to be released. Clark shakes his head. He says that first, the state needs to meet their most pressing demands. They need to know what happened to the prisoners Leroy Duer and Ray Lemory, the two men who were dragged out of their cells after an incident on the yard. On top of that, the prisoners need food and water. They want the media to be allowed inside the prison. They want a team of activists to come in and observe the negotiations as a neutral third party. But most important Clark says, the prisoners who revolted need a legally binding promise from the state. They have to get complete amnesty for the uprising. And a guarantee they won't face any reprisals. Oswald knows that these requests will be tough to meet, but at this point he has to keep the negotiations moving forward. So he tells Clark that he'll do everything he can to meet the demands by 7am tomorrow. If he does, he expects the hostages to be released. Clark nods, saying they'll talk again tomorrow at 7. So for now, the discussions are over. Oswald thanks Clark for his time, then he and his partners turn and walk back across the yard. As he heads towards the exit, Oswald feels hopeful. He knows that this was a good start. The two sides are communicating with each other. The negotiations are respectful and transparent. Still deep down, Oswald has a nagging anxiety. He does want to help the prisoners and to work to reformatica. But Oswald's colleagues in the state government don't share these views. They see the inmates as less than human. And they believe in punishment above all else. Somehow Oswald is going to have to convince government officials to change their minds, to view the prisoners sympathetically, even after a bloody uprising. It won't be easy, and Oswald doesn't have much time. But it's the only viable option if they want to prevent a disaster. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together. And we'd love for you to join us. The Generation Y is one of the longest running true crime podcasts out there, and we are still at it, unraveling a new case every week. We break down infamous cases like the Evil Genius Bank robbery, and lesser known cases like the case of Kimberly Rico. Did she actually kill her husband after they took part in a murder mystery game? We cover every angle, breaking down theories, diving deep into forensic evidence, and interviewing those close to the case. And with over 450 episodes, there's a little something for every true crime listener. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music, or every listen to podcasts, or you can listen ad free by joining Wondry Plus in the Wondry app. It's September 10, 1971, around 3 a.m. It's a quiet night when a car comes racing down the Main Street of Manchester, a small town in southern Vermont. Herman Schwartz lays his foot on the pedal, the engine roaring as his hands grow white from gripping the steering wheel. Schwartz is an attorney, and he likes to think of himself as a law abiding citizen. But tonight there's too much at stake to follow the rules and drive the speed limit. Earlier today, he stepped inside the Attica Correctional Facility, alongside a state legislator in the head of New York State's prisons. Together, they met with the inmates who'd overtaken Attica and begun a tense standoff that could turn bloody. According to one of the inmates leaders, the prisoner's highest priority is to gain amnesty. They want to make sure that they don't face any reprisal for their actions, and they won't release the hostages until they get that assurance. It was there standing in the prison yard that Schwartz grew convinced he could help. As an attorney, Schwartz knows that Attica falls under the jurisdiction of a federal judge named John Curtin. If Schwartz could convince the judge to offer amnesty to the inmates, he could deliver on their central demand and help bring the standoff to a close. So Schwartz typed up a legal document detailing the terms of the amnesty. All he needed was the judge's signature. But when he called Curtin's office, his secretary said the judge was on vacation in Vermont. Schwartz didn't hesitate. He hung up and drove straight to the nearest airport. He hopped a midnight flight and now his rental car comes to a halt in front of the hotel where the judge is staying. Schwartz jumps out of the car and dashes past the uniform ballet. He calls out that he'll be right back. Schwartz stalks down a hallway, and soon he finds Judge Curtin's suite and bangs on the door. There's no answer, but it is the middle of the night and the judge is probably asleep, so Schwartz tries again. Finally, he hears footsteps panning over. The door swings open, cautiously. Standing in the doorway is the 50 year old judge, eyes barely open and a dumbfounded look on his face. The judge peers at Schwartz and demands to know what the hell he's doing here in the middle of the night. Schwartz begins to explain, but Judge Curtin interrupts him, says he'll deal with this tomorrow and he shuts the door. But Schwartz stops it from closing with his hand. He says he's sorry, but this can't wait. What might be the largest prison ride in American history just took place yesterday morning? There's a good chance the inmates will face off against state troopers if they don't surrender. Lives are hanging in the balance, and their surrender hinges on the inmates receiving an emnesty. Schwartz holds up the document he prepared and tells Curtin that all he needs is his signature. It'll help put an end to the whole ordeal. The judge's size then grabs the document from Schwartz. He retreats back to his room and then a few minutes later returns with paper. When Schwartz sees the judge's signature at the bottom, he grins and starts thanking Curtin over and over. But Curtin just rubs his eyes and groans and then slams the door shut. Schwartz is proud. As an attorney, he spends his days fighting for prisoners rights, and this may go down as one of the highlights of his entire career. But he can't dwell on it. There's more to do. Schwartz sprints out of the hotel, jumped in his car and drives back to the airport. It's time to get back to Attica. It's September 10, 1971 in Attica, New York, day two of the standoff. And just like yesterday, Russell Oswald is walking through Attica's A tunnel heading toward the prison yard. Oswald is the head of New York's prisons, and once again he's joined by Arthur Eave, a state legislator, and Herman Schwartz, an attorney. Oswald rubs his eyes as he nears the yard. He didn't sleep much last night. There's too much to take care of. He and Eave had to put together a team of neutral observers just as the inmates requested. And while the rest of the east coast was asleep, Herman Schwartz flew to Vermont and returned with a signed court order promising the inmates would remain free from any legal or physical retribution. So even though he's tired, Oswald feels optimistic as he reaches the prison yard. He doesn't want to get too far ahead of himself, but looking at everything they've accomplished since yesterday, they may be close to solving the crisis at Attica. By tonight, the hostages could be back with their families. But as Oswald steps back into the yard, he notices that the inmates all seem grim. They glare at him, muttering angrily. He doesn't know what's wrong, but whatever it is, he sure their moods will improve as soon as he tells them the good news. Oswald reaches the negotiation table and pulls out a chair across from Richard X Clark, the inmate who's become a leader of the uprising. Like the other inmates, Clark looks furious about something. Mr. Oswald, can I trust you? Trust me, of course you can't. Why don't you ask? Because some of the brothers here are saying that I shouldn't. I'm starting to believe them. He said you'd be here at 7 o clock. You're four hours late. Mr. Clark, I apologize, but these things take time. But look, we've made a lot of progress. We've got you observers, and I've checked on Door and Lemory, the two inmates. I saw them myself, and I promised they're fine. Additional food and water should be arriving within the hour. That's a start. But what about amnesty? We need protection after this whole thing ends. Oswald turns to Schwartz, the attorney. Herman? Schwartz reaches into his pocket and pulls out the court order. And he hands it to Clark, who leads it side by side with a group of inmates. A minute later, Clark looks up with a scow. This is worthless. I'm sorry, what do you mean? You have full amnesty. It's signed by a federal judge. Man, don't play games with me. You got this sign, but where's the seal? Our guy says that if it's from a judge, it's got to have a seal, otherwise it's not official. Look, I'm telling you, it doesn't get any more official than this. And that's not the only thing, man. Whoever wrote this, it says we get amnesty for what happened yesterday. What if something happens today or tomorrow? We're going to hold this prison for as long as it takes. So when we say we want complete amnesty, we mean complete amnesty. The other inmates begin shouting, pointing at Oswald. They begin to come closer as if they're going to take him hostage. Oswald's body goes weak as the inmates approach him. Look, men, men, hold on. Mr. Clark, please stop them. Brothers, cool it. Look, we do things democratically. So let's take a vote. I'm not in favor of it. But who wants to take Mr. Oswald hostage? A few inmates raise their hands, and who does not? As more hands go up, Oswald feels a wave of relief wash over him. All right, that's the vote. Mr. Oswald, you're still free. But we ask for observers, and I don't see them. So go on, get those observers out here. We're not doing any more talking without them. Oswald looks out at the faces of the inmates and nods. And he turns, and alongside his fellow negotiators, he heads out of the yard and back into the tunnel. As Oswald walks to the exit, he notices that his hands are shaking. He was moments away from being taken hostage by inmates in a maximum security prison. And now that he's walking away as a free man, he knows that he can never set foot in that yard again. But Oswald isn't ready to give up on the inmates. While he may have lost their trust, he still has a plan. A way to fix this damaged situation. Later that afternoon, Russell Oswald looks out over a room of faces inside an office at the Attica Correctional Facility. A motley crew has assembled for this meeting. There are a couple of prison activists sitting in suits and ties, a pair of young organizers in Berets, a group of liberal newspaper columnists, and even a conservative state legislator. But sitting directly in front of Oswald is a man with brown, wavy hair, who might be the most famous person here. His name is Herman Badeo. He's not only the first U.S. Congressman who was born in Puerto Rico, but he's also a champion of civil rights. As Oswald gazes at Badeo and the other faces in the room, he feels a trickle of hope. This group could be the key to a peaceful resolution, but first he needs to get them on board with his plan. Oswald stands and begins explaining the important task now in front of them. Yesterday, the prisoners overtook Attica. They've made a series of demands in an effort to improve life inside the prison. The list includes a demand for neutral third party observers who will watch the negotiations and make sure the prisoners are getting a fair shake. Everyone in this room has agreed to be one of these observers. Oswald pauses as the people in the audience nod their heads. So far so good. Oswald continues, saying that while this was the original plan, the situation has changed. He needs every person in the room to be okay with a different role. Oswald explains that the inmates have grown hostile and negotiations have stalled. They're not going anywhere if the prisoners don't have faith in the process, but that's where the observers fit in. The inmates see them as allies. This means the observers could help reestablish a sense of trust that's key for the negotiations. But for the observers, that means taking on a larger risk. They can't just serve as passive onlookers. They need to actually take part in the negotiations and move the ball forward. Oswald pauses as the people in the room start to murmur. One of the activists stands up and points out that this is a heavy burden. And it's not why they came here. They're not trained negotiators. They were just supposed to watch the negotiations and make sure that they were fair. Oswald nods and admits it's true. But he assumes that every observer cares about the inmates. And if they do, then this is the best way to bring about resolution. The prisoners need to negotiate with people they trust. Herman Badeo, the celebrated congressman, stands up, is faced set with the look of determination. He announces to the room that Oswald is right. The situation may be volatile, but they're still a peaceful path forward. Trust is everything. And without it, it doesn't matter who's acting as an observer. The negotiations will remain stalled and eventually, the prisoners will suffer the consequences. All of those in the room can't let that happen. The other observers start to murmur. Then, one by one, they call out announcing their decision. They agree. This is the best path forward. The electives observers and negotiators. Oswald smiles with satisfaction. Then he picks up the phone and calls the guards. It's time for the observers to head out into the yard to meet the prisoners. It's time to bring this long standoff to a close. It's the evening of September 10th, 1971, at the Attica Correctional Facility in Western New York. Attorney William Constler walks through a dimly lit tunnel inside the maximum security prison. He's flanked by guards with large rifles and dark circled under their eyes. Trailing behind him is a group of some 30 people. The group murmurs anxiously as they make their way to the prison yard and get ready to meet with the inmates. Constler knows why everyone is nervous. When they arrived at Attica, this group believed they were just here to act as neutral observers. But now they're about to negotiate with the inmates themselves. A group of men running on little sleep and who are aware that at any minute the government could storm in and take the prison by force. The media has also assembled in the prison yard. And with TV cameras rolling, the whole world can now watch the events unfold at Attica. It's a combustible situation. But as the group stepped out into the yard and Constler sees hundreds of prisoners walking free, he couldn't be happier. This is exactly the kind of work he loves to do. Constler is a famed civil rights attorney. He's represented Martin Luther King Jr. and worked with the Freedom Riders. He made national headlines when he defended the Chicago 7, a group of activists charged with conspiring to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Constler admits that he feels a glow when he's in the national spotlight. But that's not what really drives him. His life's mission is to defend people who were oppressed and despised. And while Constler is a successful attorney, he's not satisfied to spend his days filing briefs and memos. He gets in on the action. Which is why he's so glad to be at Attica with a larger role to play. Looking out at the yard, he can see it on the inmates faces. They're weary and afraid. The prisoner's eyes dart left and right as they clench makeshift weapons like baseball bats and pipes. They look like they're about to snap. But Constler will do whatever he can to set them at ease and help them achieve their demands. Soon Constler reaches the negotiating table. After introducing himself to the inmates leaders, he turns to address the larger group of prisoners. As he does, the yard goes quiet. The inmates stop what they're doing and look up at Constler. Constler takes a deep breath. In a situation like this, first impressions are everything. He has to show the inmates that he's on their side. So he calls out to the yard saying that New York has an immoral, decrepit prison system. No man should be treated with such brutality. They're human beings, not animals. They deserve dignity and justice. There's a small moment of silence. And then the inmates break out into cheers and applause. Constler smiles. He has their support. So he continues, promising that the observers are on their side. They're here to help the prisoners develop their final list of demands. And they'll join the fight. They can sure that no matter what, the demands will be met. The cheering and applause grow louder. And out in the crowd, one prisoner calls out that he has an idea. What if Constler serves as their lawyer? Constler doesn't blink an eye. He tells the group that he'll take the job. He'd be glad to represent the inmates to help improve the conditions at Annika. The inmates break out into another way of cheers and applause. And Constler smiles as he locks eyes with the prisoners. He feels he's earned their trust. It's an important first step. But from here, the hard work really begins. Constler and the other observers will have to juggle the interests of multiple parties, the prisoners, the state government, and the prison administration. And with the observers now taking part in the negotiations, they'll have to stay unified themselves. Otherwise, talks will once again fall apart. About an hour later, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller sets down a memo inside his office in Albany, New York. He rubs his temples, his eyes glassy, as he stares at the endless spread of reports and documents all about Annika. As Governor of New York, Rockefeller has been flooded with information about Annika. What he knows at the situation really boils down to just one thing. The most dangerous men in his state have taken control of a prison, a building that was designed to contain them. It's an unacceptable problem, and no one in Rockefeller's administration has come up with a good solution. And that is raising an even bigger issue. Rockefeller has larger political ambitions. Maybe one day he could be a cabinet member or even president of the United States. But the entire nation has its eyes on Annika and on Rockefeller. He's presiding over a state where criminals have run amok. Every major American newspaper is running the story, and every time there's a description of an inmate walking free inside Annika's yard, Rockefeller looks weak and powerless. At the same time, he can't just order a fierce crackdown. The press would have a field day with that, and the political blowback would be immense. Rockefeller is stuck. Unsure how to end this crisis. There's a knock on the door and Rockefeller looks up to find New York Assemblyman James Emory. Emory has dark, severe eyes, and he's known for being tough on crime. That's why Rockefeller lobbied to make him one of the observers at Annika. He needed someone on the inside he could trust. Emory steps forward from the doorway, nods, giving her a Rockefeller we need to talk. Of course, I'm glad you're here. Have a seat. Sir, I just came from Annika, and I have some troublingness. Well, James, be straight with me. I need to know what's happening on the ground. What's happening is that the observers are all radical lefties. As bad as it gets. As afraid of that. Sir, we can't trust them. And the inmates, they were out of control. Really? I've gotten different reports. According to my age, the inmates are behaving quite well. I don't believe everything you hear. Rockefeller looks away, considering these details. He knows that Emory might be embellishing the truth. He's known to be a hardliner. At the same time, the assemblyman was just in Annika, meeting with the prisoners. All right, James, what else? Well, you've got a big problem with that attorney, William Cunsellor. Leading heart. He's a civil rights champion, and basically told the prisoners he'd help burn Annika to the ground. He and the other observers are just egging them on. Things are going to get very violent, very fast. You can't, Donald. It's time to use force. That's concerning. But look, I have to find a way to solve this peacefully. Otherwise, I'm dead in the water. Emory shakes his head. Governor Rockefeller, I say this knowing that I'm the assemblyman, and you're the governor. But listen to me. You have only one option, and that's brute force. You need to exercise that option right now. If you keep waiting, you're going to look ineffective. You can always apologize if you go too far. Voters, they might respond to that. But they'll never forget a loser. Someone who gets pushed around. Rockefeller's cows, bitter tastes seeping into his mouth. Oh, James. You're right. But for now, I'm going to take a middle ground. I'm going to give the process a least a few more days. If the inmates don't surrender, I'll take action. We'll send in the troops. Well, Governor Rockefeller, it's the right decision. After Emory leaves the office, Rockefeller walks over to a window where he looks out at the state capital. As a Rockefeller, he's been born into success. But still, he's done well for himself, rising to be governor of New York. But his career isn't going to end in Albany. He's not going to let that happen. Rockefeller will try to end this standoff peacefully, to look presidential like a master diplomat. But if the situation descends into chaos, he'll play that other presidential role. Commander in chief. And he won't hesitate to overwhelm Attica with force. Next, on American scandal, with tensions rising inside the prison and in Albany, an unexpected death upends the negotiations at Attica. And as both sides dig in their heels, a hope for a peaceful resolution begins to fade. From Wondering, this is episode two of the Attica Prison of Rising for American scandal. A quick note about our reenactments. In most cases, we can't know exactly what was said. But all our dramatizations are based on historical research. If you'd like to learn more about the Attica Prison of Rising, we recommend the book Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson. American scandal is hosted, edited and executed produced by me Lindsey Graham for airship, audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Barrett, music by Lindsey Graham. This episode is written by Hannibal Diaz, edited by Christina Malsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Riven. Executive producers are Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and Arnon Lopez for Wondering.