News Column

The BEST Center Offers Multimedia Prison History Seminar

July 8, 2014



BATAVIA, N.Y., July 8 -- The State University of New York'sGenesee Community College issued the following news release:

From colonial times to modern day incarceration methods, GCC is pleased to offer the opportunity to explore the history of New York State Corrections in a multimedia program that includes a slide and video presentation, live music and finally a tour of the infamous Attica Correctional Facility in Wyoming County. The two-day seminar is being offered Thursday and Friday, September 4-5, 2014 by The BEST Center at Genesee Community College and will be led by Michael "Max" Szemplenski, who spent 30 years working in New York State corrections. Enrollment is limited to 20 and participants must register by August 20, 2014 to meet prison facility clearance requirements.

"This will not be a boring, talking-head lecture," Max Szemplenski said. "From Johnny Cash songs to documentary video with rarely seen footage - this seminar will be more like a variety show with excellent information on a very serious subject." The program will include notable prison songs with vocals by Sherry Szemplenski, Max's wife, and Jeffrey Fischer, a guitarist and choir director of S. Joachim and Anne Parish in Attica. "I can't talk for two and a half straight hours, so we break up the program with the slides, video, live music and even some interactive trivia."

Crime and punishment in America has undergone a fascinating evolution. In Colonial times, morals were imposed on offenders who had "sinned." Early rehabilitation programs utilized Quaker principles of "inner peace" or the strict Inmate Silence model imposed at New York's second oldest prison in Auburn. More modern methods developed following the 1971 inmate uprising at the maximum security Attica Correctional Facility. The 1980s saw massive jail expansion. In the seminar, participants will learn what brought that about as well as new court ordered programs of the 21st century.

New York is home to a number of infamous corrections facilities that include Auburn, Sing Sing, Elmira, Clinton and Attica. Follow the development of these prisons and learn more about Attica, the site of the deadliest prison riot in the United States. It erupted September 9, 1971 following a tense summer of peaceful protests about prison conditions. State police stormed the prison four days later under orders from then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Forty-three people were killed and full details of exactly what happened during the siege continue to be pursued. Through pictures and video, you'll see the building of Attica before being led on a guided tour of the facility.

During his 30+ year career in NYS Corrections, Max Szemplenski has worked at a number of correctional facilities. He began in 1973 at the Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center, following in the footsteps of his father who also worked at various NYS prisons. In the 1980s, Max worked as an academic teacher and correction counselor at the Attica Correctional Facility. An avid history buff, Max is currently completing a manuscript, "Green on the High Iron." Although this sounds like a railroad themed story, it is actually a memoir about his varied and rich experiences behind prison walls including his encounters with "Faces of Evil" on more than one occasion.

Don't miss this insider's view of NYS Corrections as well as the unique opportunity to go behind the walls of one of the country's best known prisonsand still get out in just two hours. Seminar fee is $54. To reserve seats go to www.genesee.edu/best/ or call The BEST Center at 585-345-6868.

For more information, contact Marketing Communications Associate Director Donna Rae Sutherland at (585) 343-0055 ext. 6616, or via email: dsutherland@genesee.edu.

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