New York State Capitol, Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo,
We are asking today that you take a principled stance against one of our country’s most enduring symbols of brutality and racism by closing Attica Correctional Facility. Closing Attica would not resolve larger systemic problems, but would be a first step on the part of New York State to address the widespread violations of basic human rights that exist throughout the prison system.
In September of 1971, the men incarcerated in New York State’s Attica Correctional Facility staged a four-day protest against the inhumane conditions they were forced to endure. They were demanding that their basic civil and human rights be respected. Nelson Rockefeller, New York’s governor at the time, refused to negotiate with the protesters about their more than legitimate demands. Instead, Rockefeller sent in the State Police and the New York National Guard to end the protest. During the siege, the state forces killed 39 people, including 10 correctional officers.
Today, conditions remain largely the same throughout the prison system. While other prisons, both in New York State and throughout the US, are also very brutal, Attica, because of its legendary 1971 uprising and massacre, is a symbol in this country and around the world of a horrific, brutal, racist system and a nation characterized by mass incarceration.
Four decades after the uprising, Attica does not only stand as a symbol for a legacy of racism and a culture of brutality, but many of the actual conditions remain as they were in 1971. Governor Cuomo, you stated that prisons should not be used as a “jobs program”. You have closed some prisons, but these closures did not include any maximum security prisons, where much of the worst brutality occurs. Attica is both an example and a major site of the abusive conditions that prevail in New York’s maximum security prisons. We request, simply, that you reject the culture of brutality and racism which the prison system is currently built on and close Attica. If we are committed to humanity, respecting the lives of those lost in 1971, and the many brutalized today, we must close Attica.