Monday, September 25, 2017

Attica, part 1

Most people in NY State (and many around the country) are familiar with the Attica Uprising of 1971.  Although I wasn't even born yet when it happened, I remember hearing about this horrible place called Attica when I was a teenager. Years later I would be visiting said place, with just a vague idea of what actually happened there decades prior. My husband, being inside, heard all about how it happened. It was like a folk tale being told and re-told among the inmates. He has never shared with me everything he knows about the events. As a general rule, there is a lot he doesn't tell me. I imagine that he's trying to spare me the worry that would follow if I knew too much. But I know enough.

Attica, 2012
I was 8 months pregnant
What I can say about Attica, from my personal experience, is that visiting was a pain, pretty much like everywhere else. The officers that processed the visitors were usually unpleasant and I have
many memories of them being quite rude to me- but that's their job, right? Walking to the main building, where visitations took place, I got to see the grounds. To the left was the "box" or solitary confinement, to the right were the trailers, the site for conjugal visits (Family Reunion Program). Inside the visiting room, the officers didn't bother us too much. Their demeanor was more relaxed than that of the ones up front.

My husband has been in Attica twice during his 24 year bid. The first time was 2000-2002, the second was 2012-14. When he arrived there the second time, I was due to have our youngest daughter, baby number 5. When I asked about the number of visitors he can have, I was shocked...3! Wait... that means I had to bring a two year old, a baby and possibly no one else! Some facilities count a baby as a visitor, others do not. My husband had just come from a facility that allowed the entire family to visit, and now we had to choose who got to go. That is what makes prison so hard, for the families. We shouldn't have to decide who gets to see daddy, but we have to make a choice. So, when it came time to apply for 'trailers' not all the kids were eligible. Some had not visited the minimum amount of times because... you guessed it, I couldn't bring them all at once when I would visit. And the rift got wider and deeper. That was my Attica experience.

If you ask my husband about his experience, well, he would have way more to add. He was saddened by not being able to spend time with his family. Also, the phone calls were very short and infrequent. The atmosphere was stressful, more so than in other 'spots.' He had also been hurt by officers there, but he doesn't like talking about it. Finally, the last incident that he experienced there had to do with a violation of his freedom of religion.

My husband is part of the Nation of Gods and Earths, which used to be known as the Five Percenters. Although they identify as a culture and not a religion, they received rights afforded to religious groups; like congregating and being able to have 'religious' teachings in written form. One fine evening, my husband was given prior authorization to speak at a 'service.' When he got up, he spoke about love for self and getting to know oneself, etc. He is a very animated speaker and uses his hands a great deal. That night, for the first time, the officer in charge of overseeing the congregation was video-recording. It was an uneventful evening, the service ended and everyone went back to their cells. My husband went to work the next day, came back to his cell and was settling for the night when an officer came to get him. Confused, he asked where he was going. He was told that he was headed to the box. Thinking they had the wrong person he asked him to double check the ticket. The officer said he was sure and that my husband was being charged with "inciting a riot."

And just like that, he was in the box. He received 120 days solitary confinement for talking at a religious service. He was quickly shipped out to a different facility. Some time later, I got some DVDs in the mail. They were the videos of the evening in question. As I sat there and watched my husband speak in front of his fellow Gods, I wanted to cry. There's really nothing he can do right, is there? His message was of love, but his hands were too threatening (I suppose).

One good thing did come out of that last experience... he left Attica, at least for now.

1 comment:

  1. Uggggg. One of many examples of the injustices suffered by Kemet and you and the kids 😞