An organization that advocates for prisoners has begun an 19-day march against human rights abuses in correctional facilities, as well as pushing for comprehensive reform of the juvenile justice system and the closing of New York’s Attica state prison.
The Alliance of Families for Justice has organized the March for Justice, which began Aug. 26. Dozens of people are walking a minimum of 10 miles a day from New York City to Albany until Sept. 13, culminating in a major rally and news conference in the city in remembrance of the anniversary of the 1971 prison riot at the Attica Correctional Facility.
“The March for Justice is focused on a number of different aspects of mass incarceration,” said Soffiyah Elijah, march organizer and executive director of Alliance of Families for Justice. “The central focus is the conditions of confinement and human rights violations that occur inside of New York prisons and jails.”
Based on prisoner demands for better living conditions and political rights, the riot served as a significant uprising during the Prisoners’ Rights Movement of the 1970s that fought for fair treatment. About 2,200 of the Attica prison’s inmates rioted and took control of the prison, taking 42 staff members hostage in exchange for met demands.
The riot resulted in four days of negotiations, where authorities agreed to 28 of the prisoners’ demands, until the prison eventually took back control of the inmates. By the end of the event, at least 43 people were dead, including 33 inmates and 10 correctional officers and civilian employees.
Now with black male incarceration at an all-time high, Eugene Puryear, activist and former D.C. Council candidate, said the time to act is now.
“This movement that we’ve seen come up against mass incarceration in the past few years is important, because it speaks to this deep, deep, inequality within capitalist America,” Puryear said. “It speaks to the fact that this country has decided that a whole lot of communities and a whole lot of neighborhoods are just disposable people.”
Actor and activist Danny Glover, a governing board member of the organization, is also scheduled to attend the event.
“If I tell you the truth, the real reason why I am marching is because there are too many of our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters that can’t march with us,” said Lilly Oseitutu, AFJ co-logistical lead and AFJ member. “I personally believe they should be free to march with us, but they can’t. As long as every single one of them is in a situation where they’re being abused, exploited and essentially being kept prisoner, I’m going to keep marching until they’re home with me and they can march by my side.”