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Phillips Brooks House Group Opposes Prison Construction

By Susand D. Chira

Phillips Brooks House has decided to support an open letter to Gov. Michael S. Dukakis protesting a plan to build four new state prisons, the chairman of PBH's Prison Committee said yesterday.

The letter's supporters hope to counter opinions like those of James Q. Wilson, Shattuck Professor of Government, promoting more prison construction as a humanitarian way to relieve current overcrowding, Charles W. Haynes '77, the committee chairman, said.

The letter, drafted by MassCamp, a prison reform group, charges the Massachusetts Department of Corrections with exaggerating the overcrowding problem and using "faulty methodology" in projecting increases in prison population.

The statement also urges more emphasis on community-based rehabilitation facilities that the Prison Reform Act of 1972 recommended.

'Faulty Assumptions'

Thomas Sellers, director of the Department of Correction's office of program development, said yesterday that overcrowding is a grave and immediate problem, and that the letter makes "faulty assumptions" in condemning the department's figures.

Sellers added that the 1978 state budget includes money to expand community facilities.

Haynes said yesterday that Wilson and other academics have helped a "lock-em-up mentality" in public opinion. He called the policies Wilson tends to favor "reactionary and conservative."

Wilson said yesterday that prisons are "seriously overcrowded" with people who have committed violent crimes. He called an expansion of the number of prisons "humanitarian" because it would prevent the "lack of privacy, the bestiality and the violence" in the present system.

Haynes sees the letter as part of a PBH campaign, coordinated with MassCamp, to promote public support for community-based correctional facilities as alternatives to new prisons.

PBH and other groups have held community education meetings, formed press and litigation committees and talked with state legislators as part of their program, Katherine M. Duhan '79, a member of the prison committee, said yesterday.

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