ATLANTA — Cuban convicts refused to free their 90 hostages today at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary despite the peaceful resolution of a weeklong prison takeover by their countrymen in Oakdale, La.
In Washington, Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Quinlan warned that the Atlanta inmates could be prosecuted if they threaten hostages with physical harm.
As the Atlanta prison uprising entered its second week, negotiations with rebellious Cuban inmates were at a standstill with no new meetings scheduled, authorities said.
Officials had hoped Sunday's action by Cubans at the federal Alien Detention Center in Oakdale, where inmates gave up control of the burned-out facility and released all 26 hostages, might prompt the 1,118 Atlanta prisoners to end their insurrection, which began last Monday.
Type of Inmate Differs
Justice Department spokesman Tom Stewart said Atlanta's inmates "expressed very little interest in the solution to the Oakdale riot."
"I think the type of people you find in the two cases are very different," Stewart said. "We have no way of knowing what the impact will be. It remains to be seen."
The uprisings by the Cubans, most of whom came to the United States in the 1980 Mariel boat lift, were prompted by a U.S.-Cuban accord to deport 2,500 "undesirable" refugees back to their homeland--a fate the prisoners called worse than death.
The agreement was announced Nov. 20, and Cubans in Oakdale rioted and took over the prison Nov. 21 followed by the Atlanta rebellion last Monday, in which an inmate was killed and prisoners set fire to much of the 85-year-old fortress.
Preparing to Use Force
Quinlan said at a Washington news briefing that the government "has a number of law enforcement agents at the Atlanta facility" in case authorities decide to use force.
"They are preparing for--if it becomes necessary, if any of the hostages are harmed--they are preparing to retake the prison by force," he said. "But we will not do that as long as the hostages are not harmed."
Quinlan also warned that inmates could be prosecuted if they threaten hostages.
"The mere holding (of hostages) is not (prosecutable)," he said.
"But if he held a machete to his throat for 12 hours, that kind of threat of physical violence is the kind of threat . . . it's the attorney general's call . . . whether there will be prosecutions."