By William M. Kuntier
September 13 marked the 20th anniversary of authorities recapturing the D Yard of the Attica Correctional Institution, a high-security prison in upstate New York. A military attack on the yard by an army of state police, prison officers, and sheriff’s deputies killed 33 inmates and 10 hostages, and seriously injured many others. Many died from blood loss and lack of proper medical care because the state was unable to provide enough doctors, nurses, and plasma for the expected number of casualties. After the attack, prisoners were forced to confront baton-wielding police officers or subjected to other cruelty.
About 17 years ago, a team of dedicated attorneys involved in legal proceedings involving the recapture of a facility filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in Buffalo, New York, on behalf of affected inmates. The lawsuit seeks damages for both atrocities committed against customers and for lack of adequate medical and human resource planning. The original defendants included the property of Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Director of Corrections Russell Oswald, Chief Vincent Mancusi and the Chief of Staff. Rockefeller’s attorneys successfully obtained the Foundation’s dismissal order, but the lawsuit against the other defendants has just continued in the Federal Court of Appeals, which also directed a speedy trial.
To prepare for this trial, which is estimated to take six to seven months, the Attica Judiciary Commission was established. Among the hundred-odd members are Susan Sarandon, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Spike Lee, Father Daniel Berrigan, Ramsey Clark, Bishop Paul Moore, painters Leon Golub and Nancy Spero. And so on. The commission’s purpose is to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the uprising and to assist the Attica plaintiffs and their families during the Buffalo trial. The trial’s budget is estimated at $100,000, which will cover the cost of transporting many witnesses to Buffalo. These include former New York City Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Burden. new york times Columnist Tom Wicker. And Malcolm Bell, as New York’s Assistant Attorney General, exposed the wrongful prosecution of Attica inmates in his book. turkey shootthereby ordering Governor Hugh Carey to drop all charges against them.
As one of the observers requested by the inmates, I, along with other members of the small group, advised Governor Rockefeller not to retake D Yard by force until all efforts were made during the four days before the September 13th invasion. spent trying to persuade In other words, a peaceful solution was sought. Sadly we failed. On Monday morning, the 13th, I stood at the entrance of the prison, watching dozens of police officers yelling “Help the Negroes!” through the gates. With tears in my eyes, I heard the smell of CS gas being dropped from a hovering helicopter and later learned that double-O shots had been fired into the bodies of prisoners and hostages. As long as I live, I will never forget that sound and smell. I also remember the police trying to run me over with their car as I walked out the gate after the shooting stopped.
Our last contact with the rebellious prisoners was on Sunday, September 12th. That day we entered the D Yard with a TV crew from Buffalo’s WGR-TV and ended up recording the pleas of some of the hostages held by the authorities. Block any attempt to stop the takeover pending further negotiations. Just before we left the facility, Secretary Oswald showed us the documents he was about to send to the yard. It contained the false statement that we agreed with him that the prisoner should surrender. We begged him not to deliver as we felt our lives might be in danger.
Even though he promised not to send it, he sent it anyway. Afterwards, for the first time, we were asked to sign a general disclaimer on behalf of us and our heirs stating that the state would not be held responsible if anything happened to us in the garden. . Director Oswald and others in the correctional ranks, and perhaps the governor as well, that we are branded traitors by the inmates and murdered to publicly justify the planned attack by the state. I strongly believe that opinion. Fortunately, the prisoners were much more understanding than the authorities and were not fooled by this grotesque attempt to justify the assault. After the latter incident occurred, it was reported that the press was necessary because the inmate had cut the hostage’s throat. This turned out to be a lie. Two days later, the Monroe County Coroner’s Office announced that there were no cuts to the throat and that all casualties were gunshot wounds.
In the pending lawsuit, not only was it betrayed by prison officials, but it also accused prisoners of refusing to respond to a number of complaints filed with them until their grievances exploded long ago in September. is expected to become clear. But its true value highlights that our prison conditions are, if anything, worse than they were in 1971, as evidenced by the recent riot at Southport Correctional Facility near Elmira, New York. That’s right. As Santayana once said, “He who cannot remember the past is doomed to repeat it” is sad beyond words.
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