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49 Years After Attica: Decarcerate Now!

49 Years After Attica: Decarcerate Now!

Date: September 1, 2020 — September 30, 2020


We are men! We are not beasts and we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such. The entire prison populace—that means each and every one of us here—has set forth to change forever the ruthless brutalization and disregard for the lives of the prisoners here and throughout the United States.

—L.D. Barkley, spokesperson for people incarcerated at Attica, killed by New York state troopers on September 13, 1971 after Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered troopers to retake the prison.

To commemorate the 49th anniversary of the Attica Prison Uprising, the Decarceration National Network invites you to join with incarcerated people, their families and activists in September to demand the release of people subjected to excessive prison terms in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the midst of the worst pandemic in U.S. history, governors around the country continue to show ruthless disregard for the lives of incarcerated people. They refuse to grant clemency, they reject requests to release elders and medically vulnerable prisoners, and they discount the urgent calls for decarceration by public health experts. The spread of COVID-19 inside prisons, where social distancing and other prevention measures are virtually impossible, has infected more than 150,000 incarcerated people and many have suffered preventable deaths.

The racist violence of the prison industrial complex is a continuation of police violence in the streets. To mark the anniversary of the Attica uprising against the brutality of imprisonment, we call for actions across the country that highlight the following broad demands:

    • Clemency Now! – Governors should use their executive power to release incarcerated people;
    • Mass Decarceration through All Possible Means – Enact new policies and utilize existing authorities to increase opportunities for parole, elder parole, medical parole, re-sentencing, sentence reductions, no new prison admissions, no incarceration for technical violations, and release people who are past their release dates;
    • Abolish Extreme Sentencing – End life imprisonment including life without parole and virtual life sentences of 50 years or longer; and
    • Safety For All People In Prisons and Jails – Implement safe non-punitive COVID quarantine conditions, health and mental health services, enforcement of safety mandates for correctional staff and maintain visits with loved ones.

Help us make our impact stronger by hosting an #AtticaUprising49 decarceration event!

The Sentencing Project can provide direction and messaging support for organizations across the country to mark the 49th year since the Attica Prison Uprising to demand decarceration and challenge life imprisonment.

Examples of actions:

  • Host public dialogues (i.e. a virtual forum or panel discussions)
  • Develop social media posts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
  • Engage traditional media (LTE, op-ed, press release)
  • Organize advocacy activities (letter writing, virtual rally, car protests to honk and wave)

Email Morgan McLeod at for assistance.

The Decarceration National Network includes The Sentencing Project, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Chicago 400 Alliance, Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform, New York’s Release Aging People in Prison and the Osborne Association, Coalition for Effective Public Safety from Massachusetts, Ohio Justice Policy Center, South Carolina’s Hearts for Inmates and Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform.