Convicts holding at least six hostages presented 12 handwritten demands today to a newspaper columnist called in to help resolve the five-day stalemate at the state prison here.
"It is extremely delicate, I can't tell you how delicate it is. We're dealing with life and death," said Philadelphia Daily News columnist Chuck Stone.
Stone met with three-time killer Joseph Bowen for 45 minutes. He said he promised not to reveal the substance of the demands--written on a piece of paper titled "Negotiations."
"I cannot reveal the substance of the demands. I gave my word," Stone said.
Bowen has been identified by authorities as the leader of an aborted escape attempt Wednesday night that led to the taking of 38 hostages in the prison kitchen.
The convicts released 29 other inmates Saturday but kept three guards and three civilian kitchen employes as well as several other inmates who might have been involved in the initial hostage-taking, authorities said.
Until today, the only demand made by the convicts was for heat and for medication for the hostages.
"We're more optimistic than we've ever been before," said Corrections Bureau spokesman Kenneth Robinson.
Officials "absolutely" want Stone included in negotiations on the 12 proposals Monday, said Judy Smith, a corrections spokesman in Harrisburg.
"We'll be working on the concerns all night," said Stone, who has about 20 times arranged for the surrender of suspects to police. "All I can say is they're not extravagant. I find them reasonable," Stone said.
Stone said the negotiations broke off when the convicts said they thought one of the hostages was ill and they wanted to check on him. Two of the hostages are diabetics and another has a bad heart.
Officials said Bowen is a 35-year-old convicted killer who has been out of jail only three or four days in the last 17 years. He is described by the judge who sentenced him as "the worst" who ever came before him.
Relatives of the hostages and their captors were allowed into the prison complex today, but Correction Bureau spokesman Kirk Wilson said he thought only Bowen's relatives had spoken directly to the inmates in the kitchen and the rest were merely waiting for the standoff to end.
Fifteen relatives were escorted from the prison shortly after nightfall, but neither they nor prison officials had any comment for reporters.
Officials have acknowledged the inmates have a handgun and may have armed themselves with kitchen knives. At a briefing today, Robinson was asked about persistent, unofficial reports that the hostage-takers have more than one gun.
"Yes, we think so," Robinson said. "We believe that they have more than one weapon but we can't confirm what weapon it is."
Stone, a former assistant to the late congressman Adam Clayton Powell (D-N.Y.), frequently has mixed activism with journalism. He has marched in as many civil rights demonstrations as he has covered and has counseled as many hard-luck cases as he has written about.
He has worked as a radio and television commentator, often on race-related matters, and as a college lecturer. He is outspoken, often attacking and praising blacks and whites, "anyone or any organization, depending solely on how he, himself, sees the subject," Chicago Defender writer Terry Turner once wrote of Stone in 1965.
Stone, who rarely uses his full name, C. Sumner Stone, was an editor of the Washington Afro-American.