PRISONS: The Siege of Cherry Hill

The Massachusetts State Prison, a cramped compound of blackened granite and dilapidated brick buildings in the Charlestown section of Boston, is the oldest, most disreputable prison in the U.S. It was built in 1805, has been damned for 80 years as a verminous pesthole, unfit for human habitation.

In the past two years the prison has been the scene of 16 disorders, including riots and attempted escapes. Last week, in the 17th and most spectacular try, four armed convicts held five guards and six fellow prisoners hostage, and kept the combined forces of...

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