Advocates and former inmates on Sunday commemorated the anniversary of the final day of the Attica prison uprising with a push for an end to solitary confinement and the closure of correctional facilities around the state.
The protests, held in New York City and in Albany, come as criminal justice advocates have also called for the release of inmates during the coronavirus pandemic amid concerns the virus can easily spread in congregate settings like prisons.
Advocates called for the passage of an elder parole bill and a long-sought measure ending solitary confinement in state prisons. Another measure pushed for is meant to protect transgender individuals.
The demonstrations came on the 49th anniversary of the prison riot at Attica Correcitonl Facility in Batavia. The five-day uprising resulted in the deaths of 10 corrections officers and a State Trooper as welll as 33 inmates.
The event became a broader flashpoint in the push for prion reform.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has closed dozens of small and mid-sized correctional facilities in New York during his time as governor and backed the successful push for juvenile justice law changes.
But the Attica incident remains a searing point in the state's history.
“I was shot four times at Attica," said Akil Shakur, a former inmate at Attica and a survivor of the event. "I stayed there from September 13 to January 3 when I was released on parole. It was a horrific scene, they used ammunition on us that had been banned in Vietnam at the time. They weren’t even allowed to use that in war.”