Grim Anniversary: 25 Years Ago, Inmates Held Federal Atlanta Prison Captive


Twenty-five years ago today, the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta was in the hands of inmates. Cuban detainees burned a factory at the prison, took more than 100 hostages, and held off scores of federal agents, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The uprising caused about $35 million in damages and claimed one life, that of a Cuban inmate whom a guard shot on the first day. It ended Dec. 4 and remains the longest takeover of a federal prison in U.S. history.

Repercussions from a quarter-century ago linger. The Federal Bureau of Prisons adopted more than 100 changes to prison security procedures afterward. Some prison employees quit rather than return to work in a locked environment; one has a filthy memento of his time as a hostage. An FBI agent at the standoff got a hint of what he would encounter in a future conflict. An Atlanta resident whose home is in the prison's shadow vividly recalls the police, the sound and flames. It began with an announcement from Washington. On Nov. 20, a Friday, the federal Bureau of Prisons said it would deport about 2,500 Cubans detained in federal pens.

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