A Harvard student spent the night in Walpole state prison last Thursday as a member of an observation team to prevent reprisals against inmates who have been demanding prison reform.
Joseph E. Sandler '75, assistant director of Phillips Brooks House's prison reform committee, said yesterday that his experience as an observer showed him "the brutality and violence generated" by prison conditions.
Walpole state prison has been in turmoil since last December when Superintendent Raymond Porelle ordered a seven-week "lockup" of inmates while a search was made for weapons and other contraband.
Another student, Kenneth P. DeAngelis '74, also a member of the PBH prison committee, has been involved in the Walpole activities.
DeAngelis said yesterday that he is working with the Prison Rights Project, a Federally funded group that is bringing the prisoners' complaints to court.
That Confined Feeling
Sandler said that since the inmates and guards are sealed in the cell block together over night, the guards felt as confined as the prisoners, and this feeling contributes to the guards' resentment of the inmates.
He said that he saw no violence while in Walpole and spent the night talking to the guards and prisoners.
Inmates and prison officials are currently negotiating on a multiplicity of issues, Phyllis Ryan, a spokesman for the Ad Hoc Committee on Prison Reform, organizers of the observer teams, said yesterday. She said that the prisoners consider the observers helpful in protecting them.
During the "lockup," Sandler said, "prisoners were confined to five-by-nine cells for 23 to 24 hours a day, and woman and children visitors were needlessly stripsearched."
The superintendent's action resulted in a prisoners' work strike and the involvement of the ad hoc committee, which comprises several Boston-area groups including the Black Caucus.
Sandler said that this group had demanded and received the resignation of Porelles who had ordered the "lockup." He added, however, that the resignation was a result of pressure applied by the guards "who are more responsible than the prisoners for bringing in most of the drugs and weapons."