Upon anniversary of riot, prisoner advocates call for closing of Attica

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From Legislative Gazette:


Last week marked the 41st anniversary of the Attica Correctional Facility riot in 1971, where 1,300 inmates rebelled against the poor conditions of the facility, resulting in the death of 43 people. Inmates, correctional officers and staff were among those killed, according to information from a press release issued by Correctional Association of New York representative Nick Carcaterra.

The Correctional Association of New York, along with other organizations, held an event on Friday at Riverside Church in New York City to advocate a call to closure of Attica Prison. The association proposed this action because of the way incarcerated people are treated.


Attica AP photograph

The Correctional Association of New York State last week recognized the 41st anniversary of the Attica prison riot in 1971. The riot broke out when 1,300 inmates rebelled in response to conditions in the facility and resulted in 43 deaths. Photo by AP.


The Correctional Association of New York is an organization focusing on the conditions inside prisons and respect for inmates. They have visited Attica seven times since 1995 and have taken surveys to gather information from the inmates about the conditions. The advocacy group last visited Attica in April of 2011.

“Many of the problems back in 1971 still exist in Attica today. Prisoner violence, violence from the staff, inadequate programming, inadequate educational opportunities and inadequate health care,” said Soffiyah Elijah, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York.

New York State Corrections Officers Police Benevolent Association is also remembering the anniversary, and issued a statement in remembrance of the lost lives of correctional officers and civilian employees in the riot, which started on Sept. 9, 1971 and ended on Sept. 13, 1971.

“We also pause this week to remember and thank the thousands of correction officers who protect public safety everyday they go to work. Correction officers have one of the most dangerous jobs in New York state. We join all New Yorkers in remembering that dark chapter in our state’s history and stand in unity with the officers who work in our correctional facilities today,” NYSCOPBA President Donn Rowe said.

The prison rights advocates calling for Attica’s closing do not fully blame correctional officers for the conditions of the prisons and treatment of the inmates. Although they believe the [correctional officers] attitude is a problem, as well as lack of “funding and educational opportunities” and an “over reliance on incarceration to address many of the social problems that exist.”

The Correctional Association emphasizes that the anniversary of the riot brings awareness to Attica and this call to closure is just a small step in ending poor conditions in all state prisons.

“We’re not saying that Attica is the only facility that has problems, but it is an example and it is symbolic of enforcing every problem we found throughout the system,” Elijah said.