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Officials Move 150 Inmates While Continuing Talks with Cuban Captors

August 26, 1991

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) _ Talks with Cuban prisoners holding 10 hostages went on around the clock after 150 inmates were transferred out in a step officials said would make it easier to run the prison during the standoff.

The standoff involving Cubans fighting deportation to their homeland entered its sixth day today with no end in sight, authorities said. They continued to withhold food for both hostage-takers and hostages.

″There was additional dialogue between staff and Cuban detainees, as well as contact between medical staff and the inmates, but it was routine,″ Roger F. Scott, warden of the Talladega Federal Correctional Institution, said at a briefing this morning.

Scott did not elaborate on the substance of talks or the type of medical help provided. Earlier, authorities had said that medical staff had been allowed to look at hostages and pass medication through a grille in a door leading to the besieged section of the prison.

Prison officials on Sunday decided to move 150 inmates out of the prison.

Scott said reducing the number of inmates to 812 would make it easier to manage the prison, which has operated at a higher security level since the takeover began. He wouldn’t say where the inmates were being taken.

In units unaffected by the standoff, prisoners were allowed to leave their cells only to shower and take brief exercise breaks.

The high-security unit seized Wednesday holds 121 Cubans and 18 non-Cuban inmates along with the 10 hostages, who are prison staff members.

Thirty-two of the Cubans were scheduled for deportation to their homeland the day after the uprising began.

A prayer vigil for the hostages was held Sunday in Anniston, 20 miles from here.

At the Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church a solemn crowd sang hymns and prayed for the hostages, their families and their captors. Two hostages, prison guards Mary Hogan and Jerry Walsh, belong to the church.

″May our prayers be for the lives of these people held against their will,″ said the Rev. Richard Donohoe. ″It is a time of crisis. It is pain - some of our own are separated from us.″

Donohoe met with family members of some hostages on prison grounds Sunday. He said only that family members ″are coping and we are praying.″

Scott said the three women and seven men held hostage are believed to be unharmed. Prison officials have met with six hostages and received reports on the four others from their captors.

Scott would not comment on how the lack of normal meals might be affecting the hostages. Prison officials have said the Cuban detainees kept snack items in their lockers, but Scott said there are no indications that food was stockpiled in advance of the takeover.

″We plan to continue communicating with the Cuban detainees ... in hopes of reaching a peaceful resolution,″ said prison spokesman Ed Crosley.

The Cubans were among 125,000 who came to the United States in an exodus from the port of Mariel in 1980.

The Cubans at Talladega were ordered deported for crimes committed in the United States, including murder, robbery and sex and drug offenses.

More than 30 of the 121 Cubans at Talladega participated in anti- deportation riots in 1987 at federal prisons in Atlanta and Oakdale, La.

Since then, the Talladega prison has been the final stopping point for Cuban inmates bound for Cuba.

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