Manson May Get Rough Treatment
Wednesday, April 28th, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Apr. 28 — Inmates at San Quentin’s Death Row know that condemned killer Charles Manson is moving in soon and, says one prisoner, they may give him a rough time.
“Due to the publicity he has received, some may want to test him right away,” says a convict who wrote a letter of advice to Manson. “He cannot afford to show weakness, even if three come at him, but should show he simply doesn’t want to fight.”
The five-page letter, neatly single-spaced typed, was sent to the chief defense attorney in the Sharon Tate murder trial, Paul Fitzgerald, for Manson. Fitzgerald asked that the name of the writer, sentenced to death in 1969, not be disclosed.
Manson, 36, leader of a hippie-style clan, was convicted of murder-conspiracy and sentenced to death along with three women followers for the murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others.
Although Manson made a brief trip to San Quentin after being sentenced, officials there say he didn’t have time to meet other convicts. Manson visited overnight to meet a legal technicality — that he be turned over to state officials. He was returned to Los Angeles the next morning to stand trial on other murder charges. He will be moved to San Quentin when that trial ends.
Fitzgerald said Manson expressed no reaction to the letter.
In the letter, the convict warned that Manson would face ostracism among the more than 90 Death Row inmates because “hippies are outcasts” there.
“The comradeship here is just about like it is out there,” he said.
“We have prejudices, likes, dislikes etc.; and… we reflect the views of your society out there…Hippies are outcasts, much like the black man and the chicano.”
Manson’s notoriety also will hurt, the convict said.
“There has been a tremendous amount of publicity up here about the trial, and most of it bad; the chanting in court, charging the judge, and things like that…Perhaps most difficult to understand is that the guys up here on the Row are human beings, even if we have been condemned. Therefore, preconceived notions have been formed…They will all know him before he even arrives, or at least his name.”
He added, “It has been over the news enough that Manson wanted to get a race war going. In some minds he may well be considered as a racist.That is a problem.”
The convict paints a portrait of a prison caste system in which long time residents “test” newcomers. Executions have been halted pending a Supreme Court decision on the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Manson, he said, “can make it on his own if he doesn’t come in with that tough guy attitude — but he must at the same time not show weakness. If he shows either,he is in trouble.”
His advice to Manson — “For the first few days after arrival, just play it cool…Don’t strike up a conversation with anyone.”
He warned against arguing legal points with other convicts — many hone upon law in prison — because “It can get into some pretty heated arguments at times, and with the wrong person, it could be dangerous.”
He urged Manson to follow orders. If asked by a guard to leave his cell, he shouldn’t refuse because if he does, “there will be another officer at the rear of his cell opening up a little window with bars on it, dropping tear gas on him.”
This, he said, could infuriate his cell neighbors because, “Gas spreads, and he might find himself confronted with some pretty hostile inmates because he couldn’t follow a simple order.”
The letter ends with a rare glimpse of the life of another famous inmate — Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, who is kept in isolated quarters apart from other prisoners.
“He is well liked over on the row he is on now,” the convict says of the convicted assassin of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
“…We’re all caged like animals, and he was and is caged apart like some special, overly dangerous kind, like maybe a cobra, and the guys resented his being caged up with no one to talk to, no nothing.
“Many don’t like what he did to Kennedy, but they resent that extra hell he has to live through every day, realizing their own hell is not nearly as great as his.”