Interview with Russell Oswald

The Morning that Attica was taken, by the prisoners, and you got the call to come to the facility, you arrived at the prison, and you're facing two basic choices, either to storm the prison with with force you had, or to negotiate. Can you tell me what was going through your mind at the time, how you were going to make that decision, and what happened? Just describe the situation for me.


Well when I arrived at Attica, I ah, had some feelings about what was going on, I read from, in the plane, from Albany, to Attica many many letter from prisoners who had written me after I had been at Attica the week before and outlined the things I wanted to do for them. And they were commendatory letters. And I found it difficult to understand what suddenly had happened to change this whole situation. I knew that I had to make a decision, very quickly. I knew what the standards were of the American Correctional Association, in terms of dealing with prisons that are being taken over by prisoners. Because my deputy, had both worked on the books for the American Correctional Association that said, "you don't ever give in to inmates, you have to take the prison back." However, I felt that, ah, since there was a delay, in retaking that prison, because the state police and the correction department didn't have enough people to take over the whole institution, they they, delayed further efforts until I got there. And, shortly after I got there, there was enough state police ah, troopers to retake the prison, but I felt that I wanted to ah, try, something other than bloodshed retaking of the prison, and I was iconoclastic to say that I can do it. And I felt that I had previously dealt with situations, not as serious as this, but in many other states that I'd been commissioner in. And in every instance I had been able to win them over, and avoid bloodshed.