ALBANY — Advocates for prison reform and the closing of the Attica Correctional Facility have ended a 140-mile march from Harlem to Albany in one of the first of many lobbying efforts expected to be aimed at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo as the state budget is crafted.
The Alliance of Families for Justice left Harlem on Aug. 26. On their way to Albany, where they arrived Wednesday, they encountered a critic who doused them with a garden hose and others who taunted them with vulgarities. They left Harlem with 300 people, group leaders said.
But they also said they experienced an outpouring of support from churches of many faiths that provided places to sleep, meals and promises to lobby their Assembly and Senate members for change.
“We could tell from people’s faces they were horrified,” said Soffiyah Elijah of Brooklyn, executive director of the group, combating what they say is abuse of prisoners. “You could tell you touched people’s souls.”
The group is among a few prisoner advocate organizations seeking to close the historic Attica prison, the site of a deadly riot in 1971. Despite the closure of smaller prisons under Cuomo as the prison population declines, there has so far been no movement in the Legislature or the administration to close the Wyoming County prison.
“We take criminal justice reform very seriously and will continue to advance further reforms this session,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi.
Azzopardi noted Cuomo has closed 24 state prisons, helped pass legislation to take most defendants under 18 years old out of adult courts and issued an order empowering a special prosecutor to handle cases of lethal police confrontations.
Spokesmen for legislative leaders didn’t respond to requests for comment.