ATTICA, N.Y. (WROC) — Monday, September 9 marks 48 years since the riot at the Attica Correctional Facility.
More than 1,200 inmates took over the prison and took more than 40 hostages in the process. More than 40 people died after the five-day riot.
Billy Booker, a Rochester man, was an inmate at Attica during the riots. When he was eight-years-old growing up in Maryland, he watched as his father beat his grandfather to death. As an adult, he became a gun for hire with several murders under his belt. He ended up serving time at the Attica Correctional Facility in the early 1970s.
“I went through hell,” says Booker.
He says the famous 1971 riot started because inmates were being treated like slaves. They had bad medical treatment, no educational opportunities, and no-contact visits from loved ones.
“It took the bloodshed of civilians as well as convicts to get the reform that was well needed.”
During the riots, Booker was in “B block.” He played a critical role in stopping the violence.
“The baddest ‘MFs’ in Attica. When B block got to the yard, that’s when law and order was established.”
Booker helped to feed inmates and discouraged inmates from killing any more guards. In the years after the riots, lawmakers passed legislation that granted greater rights to those incarcerated. Reforms that still continue today.
“I was given my rights back, and as I sit here, I’m a free man.”
Booker spent years studying law behind bars and getting an education, even earning an Associate’s Degree. He was released in 2015.
“Prison didn’t help me at all. I helped me.”
Since his release in 2015, the booker has continued to fight for the underdog, right here in Rochester. He is a regular at city council meetings and other forums at city hall.
The Attica riot was the worst prison riot in U.S. history.