Clipped From The Courier-Express
Lewisburg Prison Declared Most Violent WASHINGTON (AP) - Lewisburg federal penitentiary is one of the most dangerous in the nation, filled with violent young inmates and policed by a demoralized guard force, according to a board of inquiry. After eight inmates were slain by other inmates over a two-year period, giving the institution in Lewisburg, Pa., the highest murder rate of any federal prison, Prisons Director Norman Carlson last May appointed the six-man board to examine conditions there. The Lewisburg penitentiary "is considered one of the most difficult to manage" in the federal prison system because it holds many of the toughest criminals in the nation, the board said. "The one factor that stands out above all others as a viable explanation for the recent homicides and assaults ... is the increase in the' number of young, aggressive, immature and criminalistic inmates," the report said. Most of the 1,500 inmates are serving lengthy sentences for serious or violent crimes, one-fourth had been arrested before they were 14 years old, and nearly half have served at least two previous prison terms. Almos't 50 per cent are under 30. the prison staff has failed in dozens of ways to exert control over the inmates, the board concluded. Top officials tolerate poor staff performance, overlook lax enforcement of regulations and seldom tour the institution, the board found. Some guards are afraid to patrol domitories and "tend to stay at their desk in the hallway," the board said. Although the inmate population is 60 per cent black, there are only 17 black staff members, "far below the goal of 33 per.cent established for all Bureau of Prisons facilities," the report continued. "Inmates consider the small number of minority representatives on the staff as detrimental to their welfare. Successful minority recruitment is critical." The report said members found low morale'iamong prison employes and said administrators should use "salesmanship" to inform staff members of policy changes and court decisions affeoting their work. "The local press also contributed to the poor morale," the report said. "The daily newspaper that services the 'Lewisburg area has been very critical of the penitentiary and its operation, giving the institution and its employes a poor image in the community," the report continued. "The administration at Lewisburg has made several attempts to work with this local newspaper in ah effort to improve public relations but with little success," the board said. "Although this is a difficult project, it is something that must be continued as the public image of the facility is important to the morale of staff." After reviewing the eight murders which occurred between March 1974 and May 1976, the board said it was significant that six took place in housing units and five were related to homosexual activity. Tor example, one victim "was known as a homosexual and a persistent gambler" and investigative reports show he "probably was killed for making advances to the homosexual partner of another individual," the report said. Several prison procedures create the potential for more violence, the board found. The report noted that ice machines in building corridors are open to inmates only three hours a day "when there was a wild stampede of men rushing down the corridor in an uncontrolled scramble tor ice ... This creates a situation where a major incident could easily occur." The presence of contraband in the ®« flwrrier fxprm Tuesday, August 10,1976 Page Nine dormitories "is almost overwhelming," and inmates "confirmed that weapons were readily available," the report said. The chairman of the board of inquiry was J.D. Henderson, director of the bureau's north central region. The board noted that some improvements, such as placing guards in inmate living quarters, are being planned. But members urged top-level personnel changes at Lewisburg and a switch to a unit management system in which staff teams are each placed in charge of small groups of inmates. Carlson reviewed the board report last month and on July 29 he announced he would implement the unit management system. He also said Charles Fenton will replace Floyd Arnold as the Lewisburg warden, effective Sept. 1. Fenton has been warden of the penitentiary in Marion, III. Arnold will be transferred to.'. La Tuna, Tex., as warden of the. ,' correctional institution there. ..