The Justice Department, which went to court in December to stop an epidemic of brutality in New York City’s jail system, may need to scrutinize New York State’s prisons as well. That seems fairly obvious from two recent articles published by The Times and The Marshall Project exploring a case of prison guards who beat an inmate nearly to death within view of witnesses at the infamous Attica prison in western New York in 2011.
The three guards should have gone to prison. Instead, the Wyoming County district attorney let them plead guilty to a misdemeanor — which means they will do no jail time — and allowed them to resign from their jobs, which means their pensions will remain intact. The case has drawn back the curtains on the insular communities that surround Attica, where prisons dominate the economy, the guards’ union dominates local politics and prosecutors may be unwilling to bring to bear the full force of the law.