BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Forty years ago, the deadliest prisoner
rebellion in U.S. history occurred. Next month, a major conference
will bring together prisoner advocates, legislators, policymakers,
corrections professionals, activists and people who were on the
front lines of the conflict, on both sides.
The conference, called "40 Years After the Attica Uprising:
Looking Back, Moving Forward," is sponsored by the University at
Buffalo Law School and its Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy.
Admission is free (with pre-registration) and open to the public,
with free parking in university lots.
The two-day event marks the anniversary of the uprising at
Attica State Prison, about 40 miles east of Buffalo, that brought
the world's attention to long-festering problems in the U.S. prison
system. The Attica Uprising began on Sept. 9, 1971, and ended four
days later when then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller ordered state troopers
to storm and retake the prison from the inmates who had taken
control. Twenty-nine prisoners and 11 security and civilian staff
To open the conference, the documentary "Ghosts of Attica" will
be shown at the Burchfield Penny Art Center (Buffalo State College)
on Sunday, Sept. 11. Over the next two days, Sept. 12-13,
conference events will be held on UB's North and South campuses and
at a downtown Buffalo church. The schedule of events is posted on
the conference website: http://www.law.buffalo.edu/baldycenter/attica40/.
"It's about healing, in part," says UB Law Professor Teresa A.
Miller, conference organizer. "This is the last decade in which
these people are going to be able to sit down together and reflect
upon Attica's turbulent past. This conference is unique in that it
creates a dialog between stakeholders with diverse ideological
perspectives on the Attica Uprising. For the Buffalo community,
this is one of the last opportunities to hear firsthand from people
who were there."
In addition to looking back at the uprising, the conference will
feature several influential policymakers, including New York State
Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubrey, chair of the Committee on Corrections
and a vocal advocate for prison reform. Miller says it comes at a
time when the corrections industry, an entrenched part of the
state's and the nation's economy, is undergoing
"We run a very expensive prison system. New York is leading the
country in looking at the wisdom of that and evaluating
alternatives," Miller says. "We're at a point at which we need to
reform, and consider downsizing, a system that has just grown too
large. As a parent, you spank your child as a last resort, after
nothing else has changed their behavior. That needs to be the way
we approach corrections as well, with incarceration as a last
resort. Growing the prison system and locking people up as a job
creation strategy is morally wrong, economically inefficient, and
The conference is an occasion to re-examine the work of
corrections officers as well; according to Miller, they suffer
stress-related illnesses at rates far greater than that of the
general population, as well as disproportionate rates of drug
abuse, domestic violence and other social maladies. And they die
young -- at age 58, on average, she says. "Day after day, it's all
negative," she says of the job. "It takes a toll."
Keynote speakers for the conference include Brian Fischer,
Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections and
Community Supervision. In addition to academic researchers,
presenters also include:
-- Malcolm Bell, a former special assistant attorney general who
helped lead the investigation into the uprising and the state
-- Arthur O. Eve, a negotiator and observer in 1971 and a former
New York State assemblyman.
-- Herman Schwartz, also an observer, and a UB Law professor in
-- Michael Smith, a correctional officer who was held hostage
and wounded during the retaking of the prison.
-- Jim Conway, who recently retired as the prison's
Since its founding in 1887, the University at Buffalo Law School
-- the State University of New York system's only law school -- has
established an excellent reputation and is widely regarded as a
leader in legal education. Its cutting-edge curriculum provides
both a strong theoretical foundation and the practical tools
graduates need to succeed in a competitive marketplace, wherever
they choose to practice. A special emphasis on interdisciplinary
studies, public service and opportunities for hands-on clinical
education makes UB Law unique among the nation's premier public law
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.