Critically acclaimed author Heather Ann Thompson, a University of Michigan history professor, appeared Wednesday night on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” where she discussed her research on mass incarceration in the United States and her new book, “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy.”  

Thompson is a finalist for the National Book Award and was named to 13 best books of 2016 lists by various publications. Her book received high praise from authors, professors and executives across the country.

“This is not an easy book to read — the countless episodes of inhumanity on these pages are heartbreaking,” the book’s review in The New York Times reads. “But it is an essential one.”

Thompson details the 1971 Attica prison riot at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, N.Y., to examine the history of mass incarceration and racial justice struggles in the United States dating back to the 1970s.

The landmark prisoners’ rebellion was sparked when inmates at the New York facility requested political rights and better living conditions. Almost half of the jail’s inmates rose up against the prison staff, taking 42 hostage.

After four days, prison authorities agreed to succumb to the prisoners’ demands. The riot ultimately left 43 people dead after state police arrived to retake the prison. Prisoners succeeded in shedding light on the conditions of prisons and correctional facilities but Thompson argues today, more than 40 years after the riot, conditions remain poor.

“ ‘Blood in the Water’ tells of warning signs in 1971 that still exist more than forty years later,” writes Soffiyah Elijah, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, in a review. “Heather Ann Thompson’s prophetic analysis is a sobering reminder that we must all care about what is happening to human beings behind prison walls.”

Thompson, a University alum, has conducted extensive research on examining the mass incarceration system in the United States. Her other publications include two articles: “Why Mass Incarceration Matters” and “How Prisons Change the Balance of Power in America,” both of which have been awarded media and journalism awards.

Thompson previously worked on the board of the Prison Policy Initiative and served on a National Academy of Sciences panel to study the effect of incarceration in the United States.

Thompson’s Daily Show appearance can be found here.

 

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