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Burger urges 'drastic change' in US prisons

Stepping up his crusade for prison reform, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger this week called for transforming ''warehouses'' for human beings into ''factories with fences.''

There must be a ''drastic change'' in the US prison system the Chief Justice said in a speech prepared for delivery Dec. 16 at the University of Nebraska. ''Just more stone, mortar, and steel for walls will not solve or even improve these dismal conditions,'' he said of the rise in crime and prison populations.

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Chief Justice Burger went so far as to outline for lawmakers how they should draw up new legislation. He admonished Congress to set tough standards before passing a bill, proposed by Sen. Robert Dole (R) of Kansas, that would give states $6.5 billion for prison facilities during the next seven years. The bill should require the ''conversion of prisons into places of education and training and into factories and shops for production,'' said Burger.

He also lobbied for repealing laws that limit prison industry production.

The Nebraska speech is one in a series that Burger has delivered on penal reform, a longtime interest of his.

For the past 25 years Burger has been visiting prisons and penal officials in the United States and in other countries during vacations. He has closely examined Sweden, known for its progressive prison system, and in his speech he praised a Soviet Union juvenile prison for offering ''a compassionate helping hand'' as well as discipline.

On the entry wall to the Soviet prison, said Burger, were words translated to say ''You are here because you need help. We are here to help you. We cannot help you unless you cooperate. If you don't cooperate we will make you cooperate.''

Prisoners should be ''induced to cooperate,'' by a system of rewards and penalties, the Chief Justice said.

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