It is just over a year since the first United States prison for both men and women was opened at the all-women's Massachusetts State Reformatory at Framingham.
It is just over a year since the first United States prison for both men and women was opened at the all-women's Massachusetts State Reformatory at Framingham. Since then there have been allegations of "sexual orgies, wild parties, and nude bathing" within the prison. But most informed opinion seems to think the experiment is working well.
Everybody agrees the conditions have changed since the first male prisoner was sent to the reformatory in March 1973. The first man was soon followed by other convicted burglars, murderers and bank robbers from the tough Walpole, Norfold and Concord state prisons. By October there were 55 men and 67 women in the reformatory.
Whatever the problems thrown up by the system, observers say that the women have made themselves prettier, and the behaviour of the men, even the tough types, has softened. Prison officials have rejected any suggestion that the experiment is being used as a stabilising influence - a sort of reward for prisoners in other prisons where there has been so much recent unrest.
Dorothy Chase, the 39-year-old clinical psychologist, who has been the Superintendent of the Prison since the start, believes that a mixed prison provides a more normal environment. She predicts that the programme at Framingham will eventually become the model for all other states. She believes that a mixed prison is better able to prepare men and women inmates for returning to normal life after they have served their Sentences.
SYNOPSIS: It might look like a California dude ranch or a Catskill's singles weekend camp, a college campus or a small town garden party, but this is M.C.I. Framingham, the only state prison in the country where men and women prisoners mix and mingle freely. The Massachusetts experiment has been under way for nearly a year.
The inmates - and the Superintendent likes to call them residents - are cautiously enthusiastic.
The prison first opened its doors to both sexes in March last year, and there soon followed allegations of "sexual orgies, wild parties, and nude bathing" within the precincts. These charges were strenuously denied by the authorities. They also refuted claims the Framingham was being used to reward good behaviour.
Some critics had accused the authorities of using the prison as a "carrot" to help stabilise situations in other prisons where there had been considerable unrest. Men and women prisoners live in separate dormatory-style cottages, but visiting is not allowed. There has been no trouble since the prison became mixed, and only one escape.