GOING UPSTATE | Auburn, New York

a multi-site exhibit hosted by the Seward House Museum and Auburn Public Theater

March 1-30, 2024

Exhibit Gallery Guide

Seward House Museum

Auburn Public Theater

Café 108

Exhibit Objects, Images & Passages at the Seward House Museum

DOCCS Recruitment Flyer | ATTICA, New York

Courtesy of Haven Worley, Alisa Chen, and Cameron McCabe (2023)

“My uncle works in the moderate security area at Attica. The hours and conditions of work for COs is an abomination, they are really genuinely not favorable. The prison is the only employment option for these men and women. A parallel development along with the inflation of the prison industrial system is the collapse of community farming. Thousands of family farms have been closed down by agribusinesses, high throughput technologies. Farms formed the bases of the economies, closing down surplus of labor being taken up by the prison.” – Chris, Attica resident, to Kristin Doughty (2019)

Groveland C.F. 2014 | SONYEA, New York unidentified incarcerated person

Courtesy of Groveland Correctional Facility Superintendent Shawn Cronin and Kristin Doughty (2019)

The shop owner jumped right into conversation about the town, with a clear sense of pride: We had a Shaker colony outside of town. You’re never born a Shaker, because the men and women never associate with each other, never. Mr. Letchworth went to Europe to find out the treatment for epilepsy. Epilepsy is still a hard thing to control, so what did they know in 1910? Not a great deal. But he purchased the Shaker colony and turned it into an epileptic hospital for the state of New York, which served thousands and thousands of patients through the years and it was a wonderful place. They had their own stores, their own movie theater, their own bowling alley, their own Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish churches… It was a community that people loved to be in, and Dr. Mario Cuomo destroyed it all. He put those people out, and turned it into a state prison, which was disastrous for everyone in the area, just a total disaster. – UR student Dekovas Finley fieldnotes, Mt. Morris (2021) 

Erie Canalway Historical Marker | FAYETTEVILLE, New York 

Courtesy of Joshua Dubler (2023)

“The way that I see it is, if you look at the school as an institution, then the prison is coming into the school. Because if you look at certain teachers that are old-school, that have their kids walk in a line and your hands have to be behind your back and, you know, stand against the wall to go to the bathroom and stuff like that, what I see is what I see when I go see my husband [in prison]. And so that is an institutionalized kind of behavior. So, do we want to institutionalize our students? No. Because that’s what we’re doing is we’re getting them to practice and getting them used to being in an institution so that when they go somewhere else, they already know the drill, right?

The new teachers that are coming on board and the new administrators and the new way of thinking is, you know, we are nurturing, we are restorative instead of being punitive.” – Wanda Labrador to UR students Amina N’Gambwa and Natalie Ziegler, Rochester (2019)

Sweatshirt | ROCHESTER, New York

Courtesy of W. Labrador & K. Allah (2024)

“Many years ago, the facility that housed my husband did not allow non-food packages. They were a “TV Facility” and it was an either-or situation for the incarcerated people. During one of our trailer visits, I brought a brand-new sweatshirt for my husband. It was the only way I could give it to him. When I arrived home, I found a Prison-Issued sweatshirt in my bag. My husband exchanged it for the new one as he needed to return with the same number of clothing articles upon re-entering the prison.

Later, when he called me, he said “Just throw out the old sweatshirt I gave you.” I could not bring myself to throw it out, so throughout the years, I used it as a pillow cover, sitting on my bed. The sweatshirt came with us when we moved to a new house, where it was re-purposed again. It covered the back of my desk chair. I took comfort in looking at it, knowing that its owner would be home one day. It took almost 30 years for this to happen.” – W. Labrador & K. Allah to Kristin Doughty and Joshua Dubler, Rochester (2024)

Elmira Junior Enforcers Hockey Jersey | ELMIRA, New York

Courtesy of Jesse Johnston and Kristin Doughty (2023)

“At one point we were a really thriving city with lots of businesses, but then the flood of 1972 came in and destroyed them and the businesses never recovered—Elmira never recovered. It’s been 50 years and we still haven’t recovered. So that’s really where the rapid decline of Elmira was, otherwise it’d still be a thriving city. The prison replaced the workforce. There are so many COs in our community. 

Ironically enough, before I was a pastor I was a bartender and I worked at the local legion, and the COs would have these massive parties for retirement and whatnot, and there were so many of them it really showed how many COs there were in our area. So it’s an interesting dynamic. It [the prison] provides so many jobs, and they are decent, good paying jobs. You don’t even need a college degree to get it.”  –  Methodist pastor to UR student Catherine Ramsey, Elmira (2020)

Birthday Card | ALDEN, New York

Courtesy of Kerry and Thomas Gant (2016)

 “Often, such a heartfelt note is the only gift a husband can send to his wife or partner from behind bars. In an environment where access to resources is severely restricted, including the scarcity of cards, these tokens of affection become even more precious. With current limits on packages and stringent mail restrictions, the act of sending a birthday card becomes a significant and cherished gesture.” – Kerry Gant to Kristin Doughty and Joshua Dubler, Brockport (2024)  

Family Reunification Program Denial letter | ALDEN, New York

Courtesy of Kerry and Thomas Gant (2016)

Family Reunification Program Approval Letter | ALDEN, New York

Courtesy of Kerry and Thomas Gant (2017)

“Family Reunion Program offers a precious opportunity for individuals to spend crucial time with their families, yet its access is often obstructed by arbitrary reasons. Thomas’s denial stemmed from a distressing incident involving his young niece innocently bringing a plastic key in a children’s jewelry box during a visit. Prison guards alleged it was a handcuff key and arrested his sister on the spot. Although swiftly resolved with Thomas and his sister cleared of any wrongdoing, this isolated incident was later unjustly used to deny him FRP privileges with his wife, Kerry, years later. It took an additional year to rectify the situation, a delay that underscores the systemic challenges faced by incarcerated individuals in maintaining familial bonds.” –Kerry Gant to Kristin Doughty and Joshua Dubler, Brockport (2024)

Rock | ROCHESTER, New York

Courtesy of Jose DiLenola (2023)

“I released this stone out of Attica Prison from a D-block area where the 1971 massacre took place. When I first saw it I wondered how long it had been there. Perhaps since the prison was built…92 years ago. I imagined all the (in)humanity it had witnessed passing by, all the suffering and abuse that took place here. I freed it because I want to believe that one day (as I wrote on the stone) Attica will cease to exist. I want to hope that we as a society will live in a world where such places are no longer tolerated, and most certainly not needed.” – Jose DiLenola, exhibition feedback, Rochester (2023)

Typewriter | ROCHESTER, New York

Courtesy of Jesse Johnston (2023)

“For someone like me, getting a typewriter is not easy. These hefty chunks of clear plastic don’t come cheap. This one in particular cost me around 300 dollars. Although that may not sound like a lot of money to most, for someone like me, who only makes 21 cents an hour, it means nearly 2 years’ worth of saving, not to mention paying for all the maintenance that comes with owning one of these. … That typewriter was certainly very busy during the lockdown I went through! I should also add that these things really piss off a bunch of people because they are so loud on the galleries. There is a feature on them that allows you to type about two and 2/3 pages before ‘printing.’ I know my bunky HATED it!”– UR student Jesse Johnston to Kristin Doughty and Joshua Dubler, Rochester (2023)

Crystals from Ascension Outpost | ATTICA, New York

Courtesy of Jaenelle Huxlin and Ivette Sierra (2023)

“Its energy in this town is a serious problem.” He went on to explain that in addition to of course having a huge impact as the most powerful employer and economic machine in the town, he could relate to the energies—the metaphysical ones—on a deep level.

“It’s like a dark cloud over there, and when people go into work they feel that and when they come out and go home, it follows them. It’s a big, dark, negative energy.”He told us that whether or not people realized it, they were being exposed to energies that impacted their daily lives. “Correctional officers engage with that negativity and use it on their families. So then their daughters and wives are treated like they’re imprisoned too.” – UR students Haven Worley and Cameron McCabe, fieldnotes, Attica (2023)

Santo Toribio Romo: Patrono de los Inmigrantes and Virgen del Migrante Candles | BATAVIA, New York

Courtesy of Ivette Sierra (2023)

“Since 2011, I’ve been pastor of a community of migrant farm workers. And I won’t say exactly where, in this general vicinity of West Rochester. It is actually from this group that the idea of Los Samaritanos came out.

One of the families in our community had an encounter with a man who had been left at the Citgo Station [in Batavia after being released from the I.C.E. facility], and he didn’t speak any English. He certainly had no idea of where he was, right? In Somewhere, USA, right? And he has to pick up money from Western Union that his brother is sending him so that he can get on a Greyhound bus.

So she encountered him at the Walmart, where somebody asked if she could help with translation, cause they were trying to explain to him Western Union is not at Walmart. There is a Western Union at Tops, which if you’re on foot and you don’t know the area, you know, it’s a nightmare. So… she took them over to Tops. And there, they discovered that you cannot pick up money at Western Union unless you have identification, while all of his identification had been confiscated and kept by the detention center.

So what they worked out was they called the brother and had him send the money to her, and then she gave it to him. And several days later, he called and said he arrived safely and all was well. But that raised the question for all of us, how often is this happening? You know. And what kind of help do people need?” – Batavia reverend to UR students Iris Zhou and Maria Favella (2020)

New Lipton MacNoodle | ALBION, New York

Courtesy of Albion town historian Ian Mowatt (2023)

In the more than three decades she has lived in Albion, Dee said the biggest change she noticed was the major decrease in the number of stores in Albion. She said downtown used to be full of small, locally-owned stores, but then brand name mass retailers like Lowes and Walmart came in and drove them out of business.

She mentioned another big change that occurred right around the time she moved here was the exodus of factory jobs from the town in the 1980’s. She said the closing of the Lipton plant, in particular, hurt a lot of people because that was where so many people got jobs right out of high school without needing any additional training. Nowadays, she said many people who were born and raised in Albion still stay, but they have to commute to Buffalo, Batavia or Rochester for work. – UR students Allison Morningstar and Sean Fang fieldnotes, Albion (2018)

Brick | ATTICA, New York

Courtesy of Attica Historical Society via Haven Worley, Alisa Chen, and Cameron McCabe (2023)

Attica had been a rail junction, he told us. 60 trains a day would visit at its peak. What’d they load up on? In his estimation, mostly building materials – bricks from the brickyard, lumber from the lumberyard, and machinery from Westinghouse, which opened a foundry there.

Around that time is when they put the prison in on account, he said, of the rail—there used to apparently be a direct connection, with food and building materials and prisoners being brought in by train. UR student Cameron McCabe fieldnotes, Attica (2023)

NY State License Plates | AUBURN, New York 

Courtesy of Rochester residents Aaron Tabon and Autumn Haag (2023)

“You know that all the license plates in New York state are made in Auburn, right?”Amanda, UR student and Auburn resident (2018)

Map of Auburn at the Equal Rights Heritage Center (sans prison) | AUBURN, New York

Image courtesy of Jaenelle Huxlin (2023)

“We all knew the prison was there, but it was not until I got older that I really thought about it. Like when I got a car. Because there’s a great restaurant, Balloons—it has some of the best food in Auburn, and it’s over there by the prison—you sit inside and you are literally facing the wall.

But in general we don’t talk about it unless you have family working there. Or when visitors come. They ask questions about it.” – Alaina, Auburn resident, to Kristin Doughty (2018) 

I-90W toward Albion and Attica | BATAVIA, New York

Image courtesy of Ivette Sierra (2023)

“Normally, if you don’t have friends, if you don’t have any ‘ins,’ you’re not going to know where you’re going when you are transferred. You can’t stand up on the bus unless you want a ticket. They don’t have windows except for these little slits right here. Sometimes you can get away with a quick stretch of your shackles. You might take a peek. And I would personally find a sign like that. These little tiny pieces that I’m trying to piece together in my mind like, ‘Where am I? Am I going to be able to call home to someone?’ Like, ‘Hey, guess what? I’m an hour away.’ Or ‘Shit. Don’t even bother coming.’” – UR student Jesse Johnston, exhibition feedback, Rochester (2023)

Corcraft Hand Sanitizer | ROCHESTER, New York

Courtesy of Stacey Lawkowski Darbey, Stacey Davis Sadler, Julie Meyer Rao (2023)

“We’re hearing from local governments that acquiring hand sanitizer has been a real problem. NYS will immediately begin producing hand sanitizer ourselves—100,000 gallons per week. We’ll provide it to government agencies, schools, the MTA, prisons, & others.” – Governor Andrew Cuomo on Twitter (2020)

Exhibit Images & Passages at Auburn Public Theater

“Upstate Counties Send the Most People to Prison Per Capita” | New York

Prison Policy Initiative (2022)

“New York City, by far the largest city in the state, has an imprisonment rate of 185 per 100,000. This is undoubtedly high, but it is much lower than many other cities across the state. The city of Rochester — the fourth most populous city in the state — with an incarceration rate of 1,051 per 100,000 city residents, is more than 5 times the rate in New York City. Syracuse — the fifth most populous city — has 864 people in state prison per 100,000 city residents, while the city of Albany has an incarceration rate of 917 per 100,000. Other, even smaller cities like Poughkeepsie and Schenectady experience disproportionate incarceration as well.” – Emily Widra and Nick Encalada-Malinowski, “Where People in Prison Come From: The Geography of Mass Incarceration in New York,” Prison Policy Initiative (2022)

“Attachment 5: Examples of Weapons Confiscated by DPS” | ROCHESTER, New York

Security Commission Report, University of Rochester (2016)    

“In 8th grade health, prison guards came into the school, and told us not to break the law, because of how terrible the prisons are, how dangerous it is. They brought in a big board of improvised weapons to show us how awful it is on the inside. Of course that’s all designed to make us scared.” – Joe Orman, Auburn resident, to Kristin Doughty (2017)

Swaby’s Tavern | AUBURN, New York

Image courtesy of Shane Bombace (2023)

When Theo asked how similar they thought their perspectives on the prison are to most folks living in Auburn, they explained that for those born and raised here, “it’s just there… like any other business” and “you don’t think too much about it other than that.” Rich and Anne explained that the prison “is part of their culture… it’s part of the background,” as, for many people in Auburn, “their whole families have worked in Auburn.” Anne’s cousin and uncle worked in the prison and her father was chief of police, and “he always had a close relationship with whoever happened to be the warden at the time.” Anne admitted, “I don’t remember even when I was first aware of it. – UR student Mandela Gonzales-Palmer fieldnotes, Auburn (2023)

“Attica…By Choice” | ATTICA, New York

Image courtesy of Janaelle Huxlin via Cameron McCabe (2023)

“For the most part, everybody stays. Those that leave, 90% of them come back. Why do you need to go far away for college when there’s a college 10 minutes down the road or 20 minutes this way? It would defeat the purpose of you leaving because you’re going to come back and settle here anyway. They don’t really raise you to branch out and stretch your wings. You go to Buffalo, ride to Syracuse, that’s great, but trying to go too far is not really encouraged. For the most part, they try to stay. Move away, start your life, everything’s great, then one day it’s like, “Oh, yes. It’s time to move back to Albion.”– Porshia, Albion resident, exhibition feedback, Rochester (2023)

Main Street | WATERTOWN, New York

Image courtesy of Kristin Doughty (2019)

It definitely did not feel like they all had relations with friends or family in the prison system. More likely than not every customer had some relation with Fort Drum instead. This brings me to think that Fort Drum replaced any economic need that the Watertown prison ever had, and I would expect the other correctional facility to potentially close as well.– UR student Shane Bombace fieldnotes, Watertown (2023)

The Liberty Store | AUBURN, New York

Image courtesy of Hannah Witkin (2023)

“For over a century, the Liberty Store has provided a large variety of menswear items to Cayuga County. When the Goldman family first opened the doors of its small business in 1915, it advertised shoes, pants, and socks. Over the years, the Goldman family has grown the Liberty Store into a one-stop shop for individuals and businesses alike, including the Auburn Correctional Facility. This small business has evolved over the past century to meet the needs of its clients and our community—now serving jails, police, and the fire department in 30 states. The Liberty Store has become an integral part of Auburn’s landscape and still provides menswear for Central New Yorkers of all ages.” – Hon. John Katko of New York in the House of Representatives, the Congressional Record Extension of Remarks (June 29, 2017)

Sign | RAY BROOK, New York

Image courtesy of Natalie Mankoff (2023)

Martha knew that Joe worked in the prison, and she always assumed that he was a correctional officer, but when she spoke with him, she learned that he actually called himself a “Rec Specialist.”

“He told me, ‘Martha you could walk into any bar and be surrounded by corrections officers (COs). But not a single one will tell you that he’s a CO,’” Martha explained. “A lot of corrections officers also do contracting work on the side, so they will tell you that they’re a carpenter or an electrician. But they won’t tell you that they’re COs.” – UR student Anna Givens fieldnotes, Ray Brook (2022)

I-90W toward Albion and Attica | BATAVIA, New York

Image courtesy of Ivette Sierra (2023)

I sat down at a Willy Wonka slot machine next to an older lady. I was vocally confused about how to use the slot machine and confessed that it was my first time. She showed me how to use it and I asked her how often she comes to play at the casino and if she was from Batavia. She said she had lived here her whole life and so had her parents.  […]

When I brought up the ICE facility, she immediately told me that her son was a CO, but in Attica, not Batavia. I asked her how the job was for him and why she thought he ended up with it. She said that it’s a difficult job but the benefits are so good and she thinks he took the job for his family’s sake. She said that he lives in Attica now, instead of commuting from Batavia. She said that he had a better position, being a guard at the gate rather than working directly inside the prison most of the time.

She didn’t have much to say about his experience as a guard, but more about her worries as a mother. – UR student Nai’a Keith-Handschuh fieldnotes, Batavia (2023)

Attica Rodeo | ATTICA, New York

Image courtesy of Kristin Doughty (2018)

The owner of Positiv Cafe exclaimed how her father spent 32 years working for the prison in Attica and she proceeded to head to the kitchen area to go get him.

After the Academy, he spent a year at the Wyoming facility and then got transferred to the Attica Correctional Facility where he spent 32 years of his career. He explained his sentiments towards the incarcerated individuals he interacted with when he was there; he exclaimed that “they’re there for a reason.”

He mentioned that his father was a hostage to the riot and was in a coma for six months.  Because of the inmates, he “has a swimming pool to relax in.” When referring to the incarcerated individuals, he referred to them as “job security” for him as “they put a roof over my family’s head.” – UR student Ivette Sierra fieldnotes, Attica (2023)

Wasco Historical Marker on Prison Facade | AUBURN, New York

Image courtesy of Janaelle Huxlin (2023)

They told us there was a land claim in 1788-1789 that allowed NYS to acquire this area from the Onondaga tribe. The prison sits on Native land. Currently, the Cayuga Nation has its base in Union Springs. Lynn mentions that there is a small casino there that she and other people use on occasion.

The town has a lot of commemorative pieces dedicated to Chief Logan. He was originally born to the Cayuga tribe but moved and did most of his more notable work in the Midwest. He died near Lake Erie and is buried in the Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, the inscription reads “who is going to mourn for Logan?” – UR students Amina N’Gambwa and Jasmin Edjang fieldnotes, Auburn (2018)

Los Compadres Restaurant | BATAVIA, New York

Image courtesy of Ivette Sierra (2023)

She confirmed that a lot of police officers come and eat at the restaurant and I asked if officers from the ICE detention center come as well and she confirmed that they do.

 I asked her if she thought if she found that weird, she asked why it would be, and I explained how the officers are interacting with our food but the moment they leave this restaurant they are now going to interact with people like us who are detained due to their immigration status.

 Once I framed it this way she did say that it initially made her uncomfortable but she has been used to it because the owners have a restaurant in Buffalo which is extremely close to the border to Canada and she mentioned that ICE would come in their work vans and come to eat all the time so she is very used to having interactions with ICE in this setting. – UR student Ivette Sierra fieldnotes, Batavia (2021) 

Mount Morris, NY – We Remember – We Honor | MOUNT MORRIS, New York

Shawn Dunwoody

Image courtesy of Jaenelle Huxlin (2023)

“There’s a small negative impact [to the Livingston correctional facility closing] because most of the workers didn’t live immediately local but would still spend money driving through the town. Groveland is the bigger facility and since there’s still a state presence there, the impact was minimalized.

Also, most of the inmate population is from NYC, and the town runs free buses on weekends so families can visit. When they come up and see it costs a lot less to live here and it doesn’t take 7+ hours to see their family, they decide to stay.

Mt. Morris has the social services office for the county, so it’s within a walking distance to get services when the families come in. When the inmates are released, they can stay in the area. We’re having to deal with cultures that we’re not used to dealing with, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a thing.” – Mt. Morris pastor and retired correctional officer to UR students Hannah O’Connor and Samiksha Vitalraj (2019)

BLM Signs in Hallway | AUBURN, New York

Image courtesy of Mandela Gonzales-Palmer (2023)

“I’m originally from downstate. My father was a teacher who worked for the prison and took the promotion in the late ’50s. We grew up there, which if you think about it, one of the things about these rural prisons, a lot of the employees are related. Grandfathers, fathers, and sons, which is a potential problem because when you’re a little kid and you listen to your grandfather and father talk about the inmates, you get this very negative view of prison especially Black people…..Growing up as a kid, we didn’t really have much of a problem among ourselves with racism because there were no Black or Hispanic kids, so there was really nobody to get in a beef with because everybody was like you, White, middle-class. I never actually got in a conversation with a Black person until I was 16 years of age and that’s when I went to Batavia to high school. That’s kind of how the people who lived around Attica and grew up there.” – Steve, Attica resident, to UR students, Rochester (2023)

Orchard Street | AUBURN, New York

Image courtesy of Mattie Neretin (2023) 

As I was walking down Genesee St with Morgan, we walked past some guy smoking a cigar outside of some store. He looked at me and gave me a head nod and I told him What’s up. After walking a little past him, something inclined me to go back and talk to him. I told Morgan I will catch up with her and decided to walk back.

When I started walking back he looked up at me and I said, “Yo do you know where O-Block is?”

He chuckled and said, “You seen me and O-Block?”

“Well, I’m not from here. I’m from Brooklyn and just wanted to know where it’s at.”

After giving me some brief directions he states, “I’m actually about to go back to Orchard St. myself.”

I asked, “Actually I want to know why it’s called O-block and why people talk so bad about it?”

“Well my mother has lived on Orchard for over 57 years and I still live in the same house and I’m 55 years old. We were one of the first African American families that lived on Orchard, it was an all Italian neighborhood.” – UR student Jerrell Grey with Morgan Barter, fieldnotes, Auburn (2018)

Exhibit Images at Café 108

Prison City Beer Can | ROCHESTER, New York

Image courtesy of Danielle Genevro (2023)

NY License Plate | ROCHESTER, New York

Image courtesy of Danielle Genevro (2023)

Corcraft Hand Sanitizer | ROCHESTER, New York

Image courtesy of Danielle Genevro (2023)

Attica Brick | ROCHESTER, New York

Image courtesy of Danielle Genevro (2023)

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