“WE are MEN! We are not beasts and do not intend to be beaten or driven as such. The entire prison populace has set forth to change forever the ruthless brutalization and disregard for the lives of the prisoners here and throughout the United States.”
The Attica Prison riot of 1971 has been well documented elsewhere; therefore I will not be attempting to revisit the events that took place. If you wish to read more about the subject, you will find the following links useful.
Following on from my previous blog entry on the Folsom Prisoners manifesto from 1970, I have listed the demands made by the Attica Prison Liberation Faction in 1971, who had been inspired by events at Folsom.
The demands were made following several thousand inmates seizing control of the prison in protest against the usual issues of, overcrowding, racism, and brutality from prison staff.
We, the men of Attica Prison, have been committed to the New York State De-partment of Corrections by the people of society for the purpose of correcting what has been deemed as social errors in behaviour. Errors which have classi¬fied us as socially unacceptable until reprogrammed with new values and more thorough understanding as to our values and responsibilities as members of the outside community. The Attica Prison program in its structure and condi¬tions have been enslaved on the pages of this Manifesto of Demands with the blood, sweat, and tears of the inmates of this prison.
The program which we are submitted to under the façade of rehabilitation are relative to the ancient stupidity of pouring water on a drowning man, inasmuch as we are treated for our hostilities by our program administrators with their hostility as medication.
In our efforts to comprehend on a feeling level an existence contrary to vio¬lence, we are confronted by our captors with what is fair and just, we are vic¬timized by the exploitation and the denial of the celebrated due process of law.
In our peaceful efforts to assemble in dissent as provided under this nation’s U.S. Constitution, we are in turn murdered, brutalized, and framed on various crimi¬nal charges because we seek the rights and privileges of all American People.
In our efforts to intellectually expand in keeping with the outside world, through all categories of news media, we are systematically restricted and punitively re¬manded to isolation status when we insist on our human rights to the wisdom of awareness.
MANIFESTO OF DEMANDS
1. We Demand the constitutional rights of legal representation at the time of all parole board hearings and the protection from the procedures of the parole authorities whereby they permit no procedural safeguards such as an attorney for cross-examination of witnesses, witnesses in behalf of the parolee, at parole revocation hearings.
2. We Demand a change in medical staff and medical policy and procedure. The Attica Prison hospital is totally inadequate, understaffed, and preju¬diced in the treatment of inmates. There are numerous “mistakes” made many times; improper and erroneous medication is given by untrained personnel. We also demand periodical check-ups on all prisoners and sufficient licensed practitioners 24 hours a day instead of inmates’ help that is used now.
3. We Demand adequate visiting conditions and facilities for the inmate and
families of Attica prisoners. The visiting facilities at the prison are such as
to preclude adequate visiting for inmates and their families.
4. We Demand an end to the segregation of prisoners from the mainline population
because of their political beliefs. Some of the men in segregation
units are confined there solely for political reasons and their segregation
from other inmates is indefinite.
5. We Demand an end to the persecution and punishment of prisoners who
practice the Constitutional Right of peaceful dissent. Prisoners at Attica
and other New York prisons cannot be compelled to work as these prisons
were built for the purpose of housing prisoners and there is no mention as
to the prisoners being required to work on prison jobs in order to remain
in the mainline population and/or be considered for release. Many prisoners
believe their labour power is being exploited in order for the state to
increase its economic power and to continue to expand its correctional industries
(which are million-dollar complexes), yet do not develop working
skills acceptable for employment in the outside society, and which do not
pay the prisoner more than an average of forty cents a day. Most prisoners
never make more than fifty cents a day. Prisoners who refuse to work for
the outrageous scale, or who strike, are punished and segregated without
the access to the privileges shared by those who work; this is class legislation,
class division, and creates hostilities within the prison.
6. We Demand an end to political persecution, racial persecution, and the denial
of prisoner’s rights to subscribe to political papers, books, or any other
educational and current media chronicles that are forwarded through the
7. We Demand that industries be allowed to enter the institutions and employ
inmates to work eight hours a day and fit into the category of workers for
scale wages. The working conditions in prisons do not develop working
incentives parallel to the many jobs in the outside society, and a paroled
prisoner faces many contradictions of the job that add to his difficulty in
adjusting. Those industries outside who desire to enter prisons should be
allowed to enter for the purpose of employment placement.
8. We Demand that inmates be granted the right to join or form labour unions.
9. We Demand that inmates be granted the right to support their own families;
at present, thousands of welfare recipients have to divide their checks
to support their imprisoned relatives, who without outside support, cannot
even buy toilet articles or food. Men working on scale wages could support
themselves and families while in prison.
10. We Demand that correctional officers be prosecuted as a matter of law for
any act of cruel and unusual punishment where it is not a matter of life and
11. We Demand that all institutions using inmate labour be made to conform
with the state and federal minimum wage laws.
12. We Demand an end to the escalating practice of physical brutality being
perpetrated upon the inmates of New York State prisons.
13. We Demand the appointment of three lawyers from the New York State Bar
Association to full-time positions for the provision of legal assistance to
inmates seeking post-conviction relief, and to act as a liaison between the
administration and inmates for bringing inmates’ complaints to the attention
of the administration.
14. We Demand the updating of industry working conditions to the standards
provided for under New York State law.
15. We Demand the establishment of inmate worker’s insurance plan to provide
compensation for work-related accidents.
16. We Demand the establishment of unionized vocational training programs
comparable to that of the Federal Prison System which provides for union
instructions, union pay scales, and union membership upon completion of
the vocational training course.
17. We Demand annual accounting of the inmates Recreational Fund and formulation of an inmate committee to give inmates a voice as to how such
funds are used.
18. We Demand that the present Parole Board appointed by the Governor be
eradicated and replaced by the parole board elected by popular vote of the
people. In a world where many crimes are punished by indeterminate sentences
and where authority acts within secrecy and within vast discretion
and given heavy weight to accusations by prison employees against inmates,
inmates feel trapped unless they are willing to abandon their desire
to be independent men.
19. We Demand that the state legislature create a full-time salaried board of
overseers for the State Prisons. The board would be responsible for evaluating
allegations made by inmates, their families, friends and lawyers against
employers charged with acting inhumanely, illegally or unreasonably. The
board should include people nominated by a psychological or psychiatric
association, by the State Bar Association or by the Civil Liberties Union and
by groups of concerned involved laymen.
20. We Demand an immediate end to the agitation of race relations by the
prison administration of this State.
21. We Demand that the Dept. of Corrections furnish all prisoners with the services
of ethnic counsellors for the needed special services of the Brown and
Black population of this prison.
22. We Demand an end to the discrimination in the judgment and quota of parole
for Black and Brown people.
23. We Demand that all prisoners be present at the time their cells and property
are being searched by the correctional officers of state prisons.
24. We Demand an end to the discrimination against prisoners when they appear
before the Parole Board. Most prisoners are denied parole solely because
of their prior records. Life sentences should not confine a man longer
than 10 years as 7 years is the considered statute for a lifetime out of circulation,
and if a man cannot be rehabilitated after a maximum of ten years
of constructive programs, etc., then he belongs in a mental hygiene centre,
not a prison.
25. We Demand that better food be served to the inmates. The food is a gastronomical disaster.
We also demand that drinking water be put on each table and that each inmate be allowed to take as much food as he wants and as much bread as he wants, instead of the severely limited portions and limited
(4) slices of bread. Inmates wishing a pork-free diet should have one,
since 85% of our diet is pork meat or pork-saturated food.
26. We Demand an end to the unsanitary conditions that exist in the mess hall:
i.e., dirty trays, dirty utensils, stained drinking cups and an end to the
practice of putting food on the table’s hours before eating time without any
protective covering over it.
27. We Demand that there be one set of rules governing all prisons in this state
instead of the present system where each warden makes rules for his institution
as he sees fit.
We are firm in our resolve and we demand, as human beings, the dignity and justice that is due to us by our right of birth. We do not know how the present system of brutality and dehumanization and injustice has been allowed to be perpetrated in this day of enlightenment, but we are the living proof of its exis¬tence and we cannot allow it to continue.
The taxpayers who just happen to be our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons should be made aware of how their tax dollars are being spent to deny their sons, brothers, fathers and uncles of justice, equality and dignity.