Attica: The Bars That Bind Us takes a unique look at the human costs of working and living in a large men's maximum security prison. Director Teresa Miller, a law professor at The State University of New York at Buffalo, has spent the past 17 years studying, writing, teaching about and working within New York state prisons. With the help of local filmmakers and students, she has collected unprecedented interviews and rare footage that tell the compelling stories of inmates and their family members, correctional officers, the warden, and the contemporary conditions at Attica prison in rural upstate New York.
Teri and crew members inside Attica, escorted by officer Jack Kerr.
Attica came under intense public scrutiny in 1971 when prisoners took over the prison in protest of deplorable conditions. While much has changed in the forty years hence, Attica today remains inextricably linked to the uprising, overshadowed by its lingering tensions and their consequences. With over 60 hours of footage cataloging the experience of living and working within the prison, Attica: The Bars That Bind Us penetrates the eighteen-inch-thick, thirty-foot-tall walls of Attica State Prison, and promises a sober, uncompromising look into the detrimental impact of the prison upon its long-term inhabitants.
In this “city within a city,” referred to by one inmate as a “warehouse of broken men,” substantial pressure is exerted on all who live or work at Attica to adopt a tough exterior to protect them from threats real and imagined. But years of such effort comes at a cost. Ultimately, the film explores the aspects of humanity you must deny, or boldly buck the system to maintain, in order to survive Attica.
Rather than construct inmates and guards as heroes, victims or villains, this film demonstrates that the real villain is an expansive criminal justice system that incarcerates en masse in the absence of meaningful solutions to untreated drug addiction, economic crisis, and racism.
In conjunction with the Correctional Association of New York, the oldest prison reform organization in New York State, we are working to reach the largest audience possible through a multi-media project with significant public outreach. Outreach projects include an educational website with interviews and short scenes drawn from the feature-film footage, as well as information about the filmmakers and the history of Attica State Prison.
Building upon years of volunteer efforts by a diverse group of filmmakers, a successful Indiegogo campaign will ensure that we can finish this project and make these exceptional stories available to a wide audience who, in turn, can use them in their own educational initiatives and advocacy. We still need to shoot the last few interviews, edit the film and accompanying shorts, build the website and complete many other large and small steps to post-production and distribution. That's where you come in: with your help we can make this dream a reality.
Your donations are tax deductible through our fiscal sponsor, New York Women in Film and Television. We welcome donations in any amount. We would also really appreciate it if you helped us spread the word about this important project.