Today, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Civil Rights Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law filed a federal lawsuit challenging the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s (DOCCS’) blanket censorship of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising and Its Legacy, the Pulitzer-prize winning book by acclaimed professor and historian Dr. Heather Ann Thompson.  Since its publication in 2016, Blood in the Water has been banned at DOCCS facilities across New York, despite its widespread availability in other prison systems around the country.    

Blood in the Water offers the most comprehensive account in existence of the 1971 uprising of people incarcerated at the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York, relying heavily on firsthand accounts due to the fact that New York State has largely kept records from the public.  That uprising, which the State ended with a brutal crackdown by an all-white police force and the indiscriminate killing of 39 men, led to an array of critical reforms in prisons across the country, including the implementation of grievance systems and the right to soap and hygiene supplies.

Beginning the year Blood in the Water was published, DOCCS has censored it at prisons around New York, often without the notice required under DOCCS’s own policies.  Among other instances of censorship, DOCCS has repeatedly blocked Dr. Thompson, a professor at the University of Michigan, from sending copies of Blood in the Water to incarcerated New Yorkers.

Attorney(s)

Betsy Ginsberg, Miles Dixon-Darling, and Isaac Strauss from the Cardozo Civil Rights Clinic; Antony Gemmell, Veronica Salama, and Christopher Dunn from the New York Civil Liberties Union

Date filed

March 31, 2022

Court

Southern District of New York

Status

Victory!

Case number

1:22-cv-02632