A participant in the 1971 rebellion at New York's Attica State Prison said last night that the prisoners who were indicted after the revolt would not be defeated in the courtroom.
"They are not going to kill us in court. The same determination we had at Attica we have now," Roger Champen told an audience at the Undergraduate Science Center.
In early September 1971, 1200 prisoners revolted at Attica prison, taking 32 guards as hostages. After four days of negotiations without settlement, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller authorized 1000 National Guardsmen to enter the prison. 28 prisoners and nine hostages were killed in the Guard attack.
The State of New York has spend $3 million in tax money to indict sixty participants in the Attica revolt on 1300 separate counts. Some of those indicted are in danger of receiving the penality.
"The state holds the prisoners responsible for everything that happened. Not one officer was indicted," Champen said. Although the National Lawyers Guild has volunteered to defend the Attica prisoners, Champen called for donations to cover over $500,000 in defense costs. "The authorities perform lobotomies on prisoners and call it behavioral modification. Prisoners have no rights," Champen said.
In an exchange with Champen, Kathryn Moos '75, who was in the audience, charged that three Harvard professors had received funding from the Justice Department to perform experimentation in "psychosurgery" on prisoners in Massachusetts correctional institutions.
Champen further emphasized that the conditions at prisons reflect inequality in society. Most prisoners are non-whites and the National Guard and hostages at Attica were all white, Champen pointed out.
"I was convicted when I was born. If I was bitter, I wouldn't be talking," Champen said.