¶ … Negotiation Process: How Attica and Lewis Changed the Nature of Negotiation
The historical events of the riot at Attica prison on Sept 9th, 1971 and the hostage situation in 2004 at Lewis State Prison (Arizona) led to a significant change in the application of crisis negotiation. The lessons learned from each event changed the art of crisis negotiation as a result. Understanding how this transformation came to be, it is essential to discuss the events that transpired.
The Attica prison revolt served as a "wake-up call" to administers of crisis negotiation (Strentz, 2012, p. 176). Lacking on this day were the necessary "experience" and "intelligence" of crisis negotiators, as well as the implementation of correct "command decisions," tactics, and techniques (Strentz, 2012, p. 176). The "art" of negotiation was unrefined, crude, "forceful," and disorganized (Brown, Campbell, 2010, p. 362). However, among the prisoners, there was the opposite: organization, rhetorical skill, and leadership (Christoper, 2013).
The prisoners seized control of the central control room of the prison following an incident in which 5 Company rebelled after not being led to their usual routine outside following breakfast. The prisoners took 42 hostages but kept them safe as they produced a list of demands, including improvements in medical treatment and sanitation (Christopher, 2013). However, Governor Rockefeller refused to take part in the negotiations, viewing the inmates as animals/rebels who deserved nothing but a show of force -- which is what they received. As the inmates grew dispirited, violence became a real threat. The prison was then set upon by the National Guard, and several hostages were killed by police fire. It was a deadly retaking of the prison...
One of the biggest lessons learned from this situation was the necessity of fairness and of not letting officers "take revenge" on prisoners by allowing them to be part of the "siege." What had started out as "hostage negotiation" was now being termed "crisis negotiation" as a result of the horrendous response at Attica. The art of negotiation now began to be about understanding the needs of those in revolt and attempting to deliver a peaceful non-violent outcome.
But these lessons were not learned overnight. The Lewis State Prison example indicates as much. Here, in 2004, two prisoners took hostages. Their situation was much less motivated by a sense of injustice and much more by a desperate desire to escape their circumstances no matter what. The negotiation process over the next two weeks was much different from that of Attica, too, in that "more than 30 negotiators were utilized," which produced a team of negotiators from several FBI units as well as the local police department (McMains, Mullins, 2014, p. 33). Several coordinators and team leaders were used as well. This was a coordinated effort rather than one-man-calling-the-shots affair. Negotiations were difficult because the two men where "psychopaths" -- a much different scenario from what unfolded at Attica, where the inmates were viewed rather as victims of police brutality (McMains, Mullins, 2014, p. 33). Negotiators were aware of the psychology of the hostage takers and used this knowledge as leverage within the negotiation process. This was one lesson learned from Attica: understand the other side.
By day 10, the negotiators were attempting to build "rapport" with the inmates by sending them "small items" for "comfort" (McMains, Mullins, 2014, p. 34). The negotiators also used relatives of the hostage takers as third-party intermediaries, in order to help talk sense into the hostage takers. This had an effect as soon one of the inmates was speaking of turning on the other. Their resolve was crumbling as was their solidarity. However, authorities agreed to meet certain demands, such…
Brown, J., Campbell, E. (2010). The Cambridge Handbook of Forensic Psychology.
UK: Cambridge University Press.
McMains, M., Mullins, W. (2014). Crisis Negotiations. NY: Routledge.
Strentz, T. (2012). Psychological Aspects of Crisis Negotiation. FL: CRC Press.
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