Prelude to Attica: Prison Riot in Raleigh, 1968

Gov. Bob Scott visits Central Prison. Image from the State Archives.

On April 17, 1968, inmates at Central Prison in Raleigh began a riot.

The riot started as a peaceful protest, with roughly 500 inmates “sitting-in” in an attempt to get prison officials to listen to their grievances. They were upset about restricted visiting hours and poor living conditions in the aging facility.

When the prisoners were ordered to return to their cells, a violent riot began in an open yard. Inmates threw torches which started fires that damaged several buildings. Prisoners with homemade weapons attacked the staff. Riot-control officers were called in and ordered to open fire. Guards fired down from the walls. Six inmates were killed and more 75 people, including two state troopers and two corrections officers, were injured.

Today, Central Prison still houses male prisoners with sentences over 20 years. Major renovations in the 1980s included the destruction of the original castle-like building. The prison also now provides inmates with a mental health facility, therapy sessions, worship groups and educational opportunities.

The facility has not had another inmate riot since 1968.

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