The "guests" at the federal prison camp at Allenwood, Pa., long considered one of the nation's "country club" prisons, have gone on a hunger strike.
Federal officials said yesterday that the strike - which they prefer to call a food boycott" - began Tuesday and in-volves "a majority" of the camp's 514 inmates, most of whom are so-called "white-collar" criminals.
"It's all been very peaceful," said a spokesman for the bureau of Prisons. "The prisoners have a whole laundry list of grievances, including complaints about the laundry. They've given it to the [prison] administration."
Other listed grievances concern the minimum-security prison's medical services and commissary, the spokesman said. He said most of the grievances seem "petty," but he declined to give details "because we don't want to negotiate this thing in the press."
Allenwood attracted national attention during the Watergate era when it became the prison for a number of federal officials and politicians who were convicted on charges stemming from the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington and the subsequent cover-up.
Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy, who is still serving a six-year sentence at Allenwood, is acting as a spokesman and "negotiator" for the striking prisoners, according to an anonymous telephone call made yesterday to The Washington Post. But federal prison officials would neither confirm nor deny that report.
Allenwood has been called a "country club" because it has a no walls, fences, gates, cells or bars. Indeed, a federal official conceded yesterday: "You could walk away from the place if you want to.
The camp is located on the southern fringe of the Allegheny Mountains near Williamsburg, Pa. It is surrounded by 4,250 acres of rolling, green hills. It has tennis courts and other athletic facilities, amenities such as verandas with umbrella tables.
The prison spokesman said the prisoners work hard. "They work with 1,100 head of cattle. They have to cultivate thousands of acres of land a "slightly rougher population" including some organized crime figures who are serving short sentences for "not very serious offenses."
Meanwhile, officials continue cooking hot meals that can be stored easily "because you never know when the crew [strikers] might come back on board," the bureau spokesman said.