Officials Make First Food Delivery to Inmates, Hostages : Immigration: Prison authorities are concerned that medical problems are not being addressed. The Cubans continue to plead for media attention.
For the first time since they seized control of part of a federal prison eight days earlier, Cuban inmates Thursday were given food--another move in what has become a tense test of wills between the detainees and authorities.
Also, a day after one hostage was released for unspecified medical reasons, leaving nine still being held, officials at the Federal Correctional Institution here expressed “strong continuing concerns” that hostages and inmates have medical problems that are not being addressed.
Meanwhile, the Cubans continued to make occasional forays onto the roof of their compound, unfurling banners pleading for media attention.
“Warden, stop lying” and “Pray for us” were Thursday’s messages.
After Wednesday’s release of Kitty Suddeth, a 34-year-old prison secretary and mother of two, prison officials sent in food at the unlikely hour of 12:40 a.m. Thursday. It was the first delivery of food since the uprising began on Aug. 21.
Hamburgers, beans, rice and coffee were provided, Warden Roger Scott said.
As the two sides continued negotiating, the issue that led to the uprisings in the first place remained unresolved: deportation of Cubans who have committed crimes in this country.
The takeover here began the day before 32 of the 121 Cuban inmates were scheduled to be returned to their homeland.
Today, human rights activists plan to hold a news conference in Miami to release a report that documents cruel and inhumane conditions in Cuban jails--where some of the detainees could be sent.
Rafael Penalver, a Miami attorney, who along with Bishop Augustin Roman of Miami, helped negotiate the settlement of Cuban inmates’ 1987 siege of federal facilities in Atlanta and Oakdale, La., said the new report will show the unfairness of deporting people “to the very same jails that the (U.S.) government condemns.”
Atlanta attorney Gary Leshaw, another negotiator in the 1987 uprisings, said that unless a permanent solution is found to the deportation conflict, more uprisings will occur.
About 2,500 Cubans who were convicted of crimes in the United States are being held in more than 60 institutions while awaiting deportation or deportation hearings.
Leshaw and others speculated that the inmates here may decide to “beat the record” of the 11-day Atlanta uprising.
In order to end the uprising peacefully, Leshaw said, “The detainees need to be provided an honorable way out.” On Wednesday, the inmates demanded an end to deportations.
Ironically, the three veteran negotiators from 1987 all said Thursday that they had not been asked by the Talladega inmates to plead their case.
Instead, inmates requested that they be allowed to meet with two journalists and a Cuban-American activist.
Three visits from Cynthia Corzo, a reporter for El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language edition of the Miami Herald, resulted in the first hostage release on Wednesday.
Photographer C.M. Guerrero of El Nuevo Herald, also allowed in, described a tense scene in which one Cuban inmate, Jesus de Armas, said, “I’m in charge.”
After inmates discussed matters privately, they decided to release Suddeth, but they did not say why. Presumably, her medical condition was the deciding factor.
Guerrero said Suddeth appeared tired and shaken, hugging herself defensively. At one point, she said, “Please--my husband and two kids,” the photographer recalled.
“She looked weak, but she kept on saying she was OK.”
Guerrero said a special weapons team stood by as she left the besieged housing unit, which is surrounded by barbed wire and observed through helicopter flyovers.
The team was led by an officer who coaxed her on, saying, “Be cool. Relax. Easy,” Guerrero said.
Since she was taken hostage, Suddeth reportedly had only a can of beans and franks to eat.
Thursday, Scott said she “continues to receive further medical care and evaluation.”
At least two remaining hostages have conditions requiring “significant medical attention,” said Greg Bogdan, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. He added that officials are “concerned about the long-term psychological effect that this stressful ordeal is having on the hostages and any detainees that may not want to be there.”
Bogdan told reporters that medical personnel had been able to conduct only “superficial medical evaluation” of hostages, and noted that, “we continue to be seriously concerned about their physical and mental health status.”