The Attica Visitors Center, a volunteer service that for 10 years has helped thousands of persons who have visited inmates of Attica Correctional Facility, is seeking cash donations to continue operating.
The center provides advice, assistance and refreshments, plus baby-sitting and transportation services. Last year, more than 23,000 visitors were assisted.
The group performs these services with a part-time staff of four, plus one volunteer. The current budget of $50,000 to $60,000 a year is raised from area and national church groups, inmates and the profit from vending machines in the prison's visiting room.
Corrections officials from Commissioner Thomas A. Coughlin to Prison Superintendent Walter Kelly have praised the service, but their encouragement does not include any funding.
The Rev. Ellen Hurwitz was appointed director of the Visitors' Center, succeeding Caryl Wolff of Perry, who resigned in January "simply to rest and recover from what for seven years had been a demanding and sometimes punishing schedule of activities," according to the Rev. Robert R. Spears Jr., the retired Episcopal bishop of Rochester, who is active in the group supporting the center.
In her initial message to the Visitors Center supporters, Ms. Hurwitz described the difficulties sometimes encountered by New York City-area visitors.
"They usually have to wait three or four hours either in our comfortable waiting area or on the hard benches at the front gate before they are called to see their loved one."
She described two difficult situations experienced by visitors:
"One Sunday, a woman and her 5-year-old came from New York City to discover that her brother had been transferred," Ms. Hurwitz wrote. "That same day, another New York City woman and her two children were denied a visit because she had lost her ID picture in transit.
"Her frustration, anger and pain were so hard to see, especially as there was no way we could intervene. . . . If we had not been there, these two women and their children would have had to wait in the cold and rain until their bus came at 3:30 p.m.
"This year, the funding that we usually receive from the Inmate Welfare Fund has gone down from $16,000 to $8,000," she wrote. "On our bare-bones budget, that means delay in paying the part-time salaries. . . . We have no money for emergency loans, no transportation to Buffalo, Rochester or Batavia, and our van has holes in the floor. Our needs are great."