To the Editors:
…Attica has faded from the headlines but none of the conditions that led to the uprising have been ameliorated. None of the twenty-eight demands that Commissioner Oswald had acknowledged as both reasonable and desirable have been implemented. The state’s response to complaints about food, medical attention, religious freedom, and the like are proposals for maxi-maxi jails.
Since September 13, almost 100 persons have been held in solitary—locked in their cells twenty-four hours a day, denied exercise time, isolated from all contact with another human soul—a virtual jail within a jail, yet none has been charged with any crime or any violation of any administrative regulations. The state claimed that they were targets of proposed indictments. When, after three months, a suit was brought on the prisoners’ behalf in Federal Court to release them from segregation, the state’s attorney suddenly shifted the state’s position and claimed that the inmates were not being confined in segregation for punitive reasons but rather were being held in protective custody.
At present, a grand jury is meeting in Wyoming County in rural upstate New York to return indictments against the prisoners. The presiding judge denied defense motions for a change of venue, despite the fact that thirteen of the twenty-four grand jurors acknowledged that they had either relatives or friends who worked inside the prison. There is no doubt that the same state officials who executed inmates and guards alike in the attack of September 13 will now ask for judicial executions by way of the death penalty for scores of inmates.
The Attica Defense Committee has been formed to provide legal and public support for the inmates who are about to be indicted for the events of September 9 through 13. It is a charitable trust under New York State law. The trustees are lawyers and legal workers involved in the defense of the Attica inmates. The normal massive problems in a situation like this are exacerbated by the physical isolation of Attica. Funds are desperately needed to staff an office in upstate New York and to provide for the relocation of a full-time staff of attorneys since no local counsel is prepared to enter into such a case. State officials have transferred hundreds of possible witnesses to prisons across New York State, and unless vital investigative work can proceed immediately, critical time will be lost….
All these things cost money. We are appealing to you to contribute these desperately needed funds to guarantee the defense of the Attica inmates.
If you can call together a group of your friends who want to help the Attica defense, contact us and we will be glad to send a speaker.
William H. Schaap
Attica Defense Committee
One Hudson Street, 9th Floor
New York, New York 10013