Ain't No Man's Best Friend Here

by Michael Rhynes
Attica Prison Worship Group


On April 29, 2022, Attica was put on facility-wide lock-down for so-called gang warfare. It was first reported through word of mouth, then backed up by the prison alarm system, that gangs were attacking each other all over the prison.


Facility-wide lock-down means all prisoners are kept in their cells 24 hours a day. We were fed cold food in our cells. Normally all men who wanted a hot meal would be allowed to go to the mess hall.


Prisoners are allotted two showers a week. From April 29, 2022, thru May 9, 2022, we were not allowed to take showers. Showering is a precious act to an incarcerated individual. It gives us respite from the daily accumulation of psychological smut that clings to our bodies.


We are supposed to receive at least one hour of recreation per day. For 10 days we humans were caged in kennels like dogs without handlers to walk us.


To add insult to injury we were shook-down and searched by a special unit dressed like SWAT without the helmets or weapons. What made them even more frightening is they had no names, just numbers. Numbers don't possess an ounce of humanity. Hence, the reason why prisoners’ names are replaced with identification numbers.


After the lock-down was rescinded, reports from all around the prison recounted how men were brutalized by irrational “numbers” wearing black uniforms.


For the first time in almost 40 years I saw a dog. I was kind of glad to see something other than cruel humans. Until I was ordered to strip down to my underwear. I was then ordered to pick up my mattress, and to keep it pressed to my chest. Then I was told to back out of the cell. I was then commanded to walk down the housing unit in front of all the men in the housing unit. Just like they were made to walk in front of me.


When I reached the front of the housing unit, I was ordered to turn right. I was told to unfold my mattress, place it at my side and walk through a machine that could detect weapons. I was commanded to turn right, drop the mattress and extend my arms to my sides. To be honest, I was scared to death, it felt like I was being fitted for a cross. The next thing I felt was a dog's nose sniffing up my ass.


Going back to the cell I didn't think about anything. Until I made a phone call on May 11, to a friend. I told my friend what occurred. My friend said, “I am sorry.” I said, somewhat defensively, "Sorry for what?” My friend responded with, “I am sorry you were humiliated.” I brush my friend's empathy off with an invisible shrug.


On May 14 I went to Quaker worship service. Two outside volunteers were there along with another inside member. It was like homecoming week. I hadn't seen my community members in 2 1/2 years, because of Covid.


Before we Quakers at Attica went into silent worship, we did what we call community sharing. As we sit in a circle a member checks in about their life since the last we worshipped together. Since it’s been two and half years there was a lot to say, but not enough time to say it.


It became my time to share. When I got to the point where I encountered the dog, I broke down and started to cry. At that moment I realized all the years I've been humiliated at the hands of the state and the nose of a mutt.