Cuban Prisoners Riot in Lousiana

20 Hostages Held in Federal Penitentiary

OAKDALE, La.--Cuban prisoners in a federal detention center here yesterday rioted and took more than 20 hostages after they found out they might be sent back to Cuba. They demanded that they not be deported, authorities said.

The center was surrounded by hundreds of law officers after the riot left 23 people injured Saturday night.

"They're still asking the same thing. They don't want to go back to Cuba and they'd like not to be prosecuted for what they're doing," said Luenette Johnson, a spokeswoman for the center, which is run by the Bureau of Prisons and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Meanwhile, 17 Cuban inmates in Laredo, Texas, escaped from a medium-security detention facility early yesterday by climbing through a steel roof grating. Authorities recaptured all but three of the escapees within hours.

An armored car and busloads of officers in riot gear helped ring the 48-acre Federal Detention Center outside Oakdale, a town of 7,000 in rural south-central Louisiana.

FBI negotiating teams were sent to the site, said U.S. Rep. Clyde Holloway (R-La.).

The Cubans seized 28 guards and staff members but released a few who complained of medical problems, said J.R. Johnson, warden of the complex, built in 1985 as a minimum-security holding center for illegal aliens. Johnson did not say how many people were released.

"They want information on what will happen to them in the future," the warden said. He said officers had no plans to go inside as long as the inmates assured them that hostages would not be hurt.

"They're very, very patient," the warden said of the inmates. "We are ready for a long haul."

"We have assurances that the workers are still safe and that there have been no fatalities," Johnson said, adding that released hostages said they were treated well.

Some inmates, including Cubans, were allowed to leave the detention center Sunday afternoon and were transferred to another facility, authorities said.

Greg Leo, an INS spokesman in Washington, said a regional agency head was on the scene, but could not say whether INS officials planned to meet with the inmates.

Holloway and three reporters talked with some inmates by radio from a building at the entrance to the compound.