The Attica Correctional Facility in Wyoming County, N.Y., is infamously known for the 1971 riot by inmates demanding better treatment. Inmates held 40 correction officers hostage for five days, which ultimately resulted in a massacre by New York State Police. The gunfire left 39 people killed, including 10 guards.
Still ongoing is a grassroots movement push to shut down the infamous prison. A few months ago, the Sept. 14 Coalition to End Mass Incarceration and Close Attica met with Deputy Security for Public Safety of New York state Elizabeth Glazer, who represented Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, to discuss the closing of the correctional facility in Wyoming County.
Suzanne Ross, who was present at the event, said that even though Glazer was receptive to their points about Attica’s condition, maximum security prisons could not be closed because they are overcrowded.
“Many of these prisoners don’t need to be in maximum security prison,” Ross said, “so if they were to be reclassified, they wouldn’t be in maximum security prisons, and Attica could be closed.”
Executive Director of the Correctional Association of New York Soffiyah Elijah also said reclassification would be a solution. Elijah added that the incarcerated get classified based on the nature of their offense and whether they have a record—and that classification sticks with them. She suggested periodical reviews of the incarcerated, giving them the opportunity to be reclassified and relocated. The problem, she said, is that “the system currently is not set up to reclassify anyone.”
Lewis Webb Jr. of the American Friends Service Committee also attended the meeting with the governor’s office. Webb said that aside from the killings that took place in 1971 at Attica, the prison is far from the New York City area, where most of the inmates are from, making visitations more difficult.