Thursday, 4 August 2016

John MacKenzie's Correctional History (Clinton 1976-Attica 1980)

John MacKenzie entered Clinton Correctional Facility in 1976 and immediately enrolled in the Clinton Community College Program. He earned two Associate Degrees, the first in Business Administration and the second in Liberal Arts. John graduated with high honors, making the President’s List and Dean’s List on two separate occasions.

While at Clinton John worked in the Industrial Office as a Purchasing Clerk and after completing the department's Legal Research Course, he transferred to the Law Library.* He was also active in various group functions and organizations. John volunteered his time and efforts as the IGRC (Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee) Chairman and devoted time as a Literacy Volunteer. Because of his good behavior, John was placed in the Honor Block. John was elected Treasurer of the facility’s Jaycee Organization where he utilized his business skills to organize and coordinate various functions for both the inmate population and facility staff. John also ran the inmate photo program in the visiting area and for general population.

In 1980 John was transferred to Attica Correctional Facility and was assigned as a Grounds Keeper. Because of John’s compassion and desire to help others, he became an Inmate Nurse. In October of 1984 Attica hosted the State’s first conference on 'Alternatives To Incarceration' held in a maximum-security prison. Representatives from the Division of Parole, the Crime Victims Board, legislators and religious leaders were also in attendance. John was one of only four inmates invited to participate in this unique conference. It was at this chance meeting with George Grobe, then Chairman of the Crime Victims Board that John was inspired to become active in the Victims Awareness Movement. Since 1984 John has actively pursued assistance and support for the establishment of Victims Awareness Programs in New York State Prisons.

While in Attica John continued his educational pursuits, enrolling in the Consortium College Program working toward his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration through Niagara University. John also enrolled in the New York State Regents External Degree Program. While in the Consortium Program, John was on the Student Body and was instrumental in convincing the College and Attica Administration to initiate the first Computer Science Program in the State Prison System. In addition to his regular studies, John enrolled in a Writers Workshop conducted by members of the Niagara Erie Writers Association and staff from SUNY Buffalo. It was through this workshop that one of John’s short stories (A Christmas Story) was chosen for reading over Radio FM 88 during the Christmas holidays.

John’s other activities while in Attica included participation in the Community Awareness Program and the ALFA (A Look For Alternatives) program. Both programs were designed to educate students to the realities of prison, address issues concerning the criminal justice system and to deter youth from a lifestyle and choices that might eventually lead them to prison. John became an active member of Cephas, a program designed to help in the growth and positive development of men in prison in preparation for their eventual return to society. This program has the distinction of receiving the prestigious Roosevelt Award for its contributions to the rehabilitation process.

*John was the first inmate in New York State to receive college credit for completion of the Legal Research Course offered by the Department of Correctional Services.