THE SIEGE in Atlanta continues, but the stalemate at Oakdale, La., has been broken, fortunately without bloodshed. One Cuban detainee was killed on the first day of the takeover in Atlanta last week, and one hostage was injured, but considering the length of the protest at both institutions and the large number of hostages taken, the crisis so far has been managed with patience and resolve and a controlling concern for the safety of the hostages.
Under the terms of the agreement signed at Oakdale, every Cuban held there will have his case reviewed individually before a decision is made on repatriation. So-called "excludables" are entitled to this kind of review already -- most of the prisoners have already had one -- but now there will be more public attention focused on the process and perhaps a greater inclination to lean in favor of the applicants.
Who are these people with criminal convictions that got them prison sentences and who would have been deported long since if Cuba had been willing to take them back? More than 200 Mariel Cubans have been convicted of homicides in this country; 130 of them are still serving sentences in state and local prisons. Oakdale and Atlanta held 661 dangerous drug felons, 445 convicted burglars, dozens of rapists and weapons offenders and 14 kidnappers. They have been in custody for a reason: the protection of the public. Two years ago, the Immigration and Naturalization Service decided not to hold in custody every Mariel Cuban scheduled for deportation because of a criminal conviction, but that decision was reversed almost immediately under pressure from public officials, particularly those in Florida.
Are there some people in these institutions who should be given another chance and allowed to remain here? Most probably there are. In fact, the Justice Department had been regularly reviewing these cases and paroling into the community those offenders who have strong family ties, good job prospects and no history of violence. That will continue. But the majority are serious lawbreakers. The hostages, not the detainees, have been the victims in this prison dram