Demands meant to “Bring closer to reality the demise of these prisons”–L.D. Barkley, a leader of the Attica uprising September 9, 1971, who died with 32 other prisoners Sept. 13, 1971
Today marks the 5oth Anniversary of the heroic rebellion at Attica Prison in New York. In the wake of the assassination of Black Panther Party Field Marshal George Jackson at California’s San Quentin Prison Aug. 21, hundreds of incarcerated men rebelled Sept. 9, 1971, took 42 prison guards hostage, and maintained control of the prison for four days. Their rebellion electrified the nation and the world. On Sept. 13, 1971, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered state police to open fire on the men in D Yard, killing 43 people, including ten of the hostages, and 33 inmates.
The demands they fought for are listed here, meant to “bring closer to reality the demise of these prisons, institutions that serve no useful purpose to the People of America but to those who would enslave and exploit the People of America.” — Elliot ‘L.D.’ Barkley, brutally murdered along with 32 other prisoners in Attica’s D Yard on Sept. 13, 1971 at the direction of NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller.
The Five Demands
To the People of America:
The incident that has erupted here at Attica is not a result of the dastardly bushwhacking of the two prisoners Sept. 8, 1971, but of the unmitigated oppression wrought by the racist administration network of the prison, throughout the year.
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. What has happened here is but the sound before the fury of those who are oppressed.
We will not compromise on any terms except those that are agreeable to us. We call upon all the conscientious citizens of America to assist us in putting an end to this situation that threatens not only our lives, but each and every citizen as well.
We have set forth demands that will bring closer to reality the demise of these prisons, institutions that serve no useful purpose to the People of America but to those who would enslave and exploit the People of America.
Our Demands Are Such:
- We want complete amnesty, meaning freedom from any physical, mental, and legal reprisals.
- We want now, speedy and safe transportation out of confinement, to a non-imperialistic country.
- We demand that the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT intervene, so that we will be under direct FEDERAL JURISDICTION.
- We demand the reconstruction of ATTICA PRISON to be done by inmates and/or inmate supervision.
- We urgently demand immediate negotiation thru Wm. M. Kunstler, Attorney-at-Law, 588 Ninth Ave., NYC, Assemblyman Arthur O. Eve of Buffalo, the Solidarity Committee, Minister Farrakhan of MUHAMMAD SPEAKS, Palante, The Young Lords Party Paper, the Black Panther Party, Clarence Jones of the Amsterdam News, Tom Wicker of NY Times, Richard Roth of the Courier Express, the Fortune Society, David Anderson of the Urban League of Rochester, Blond-Eva Bond of NICAP, and Jim Ingram of Democrat Chronicle of Detroit, Michigan. We guarantee the safe passage of all people to and from this institution. We invite all the people to come here and witness this degradation, so that they can better know how to bring this degradation to an end. — THE INMATES OF ATTICA PRISON
THE 15 PRACTICAL PROPOSALS
- Apply the New York State minimum wage law to all state institutions. STOP SLAVE LABOR.
- Allow all New York State prisoners to be politically active, without intimidation or reprisals.
- Give us true religious freedom.
- End all censorship of newspapers, magazines, letters, and other publications coming from the publisher.
- Allow all inmates, at their own expense, to communicate with anyone they please.
- When an inmate reaches conditional release date, give him a full release without parole.
- Cease administrative resentencing of inmates returned for parole violations.
- Institute realistic rehabilitation programs for all inmates according to their offense and personal needs.
- Educate all correctional officers to the needs of the inmates, i.e., understanding rather than punishment.
- Give us a healthy diet, stop feeding us so much pork, and give us some fresh fruit daily.
- Modernize the inmate education system.
- Give us a doctor that will examine and treat all inmates that request treatment.
- Have an institutional delegation comprised of one inmate from each company authorized to speak to the institution administration concerning grievances (QUARTERLY).
- Give us less cell time and more recreation with better recreational equipment and facilities.
- Remove inside walls, making one open yard, and no more segregation or punishment.
ATTICA PRISON LIBERATION FACTION, MANIFESTO OF DEMANDS, 1971
“[I]nspired 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 Department of Corrections by the people of society for the purpose of correcting what has been deemed as social errors in behavior. Errors which have classified 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 conditions 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 violence, we are confronted by our captors with what is fair and just, we are victimized 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 criminal 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 remanded to isolation status when we insist on our human rights to the wisdom of awareness.
MANIFESTO OF DEMANDS
- 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.
- We Demand a change in medical staff and medical policy and procedure. The Attica Prison hospital is totally inadequate, understaffed, and prejudiced 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 labor 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.
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 U.S. Mail.
- 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.
- We Demand that inmates be granted the right to join or form labor unions.
- 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.
- 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 death.
- We Demand that all institutions using inmate labor be made to conform with the state and federal minimum wage laws.
- We Demand an end to the escalating practice of physical brutality being perpetrated upon the inmates of New York State prisons.
- 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.
- We Demand the updating of industry working conditions to the standards provided for under New York State law.
- We Demand the establishment of inmate worker’s insurance plan to provide compensation for work-related accidents.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- We Demand an immediate end to the agitation of race relations by the prison administration of this State.
- 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.
- We Demand an end to the discrimination in the judgment and quota of parole for Black and Brown people.
- We Demand that all prisoners be present at the time their cells and property are being searched by the correctional officers of state prisons.
- 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 center, not a prison.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 existence 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.