July 24, 1978 12:00 PM

Ever since that night in 1974 when she was kidnapped from her Berkeley, Calif. apartment, Patty Hearst has been a kind of captive. Even when she was out on bail or appeal, her life was restricted by the fears of her bodyguards. Two months ago she began serving a seven-year sentence for bank robbery, and once again she has adjusted to life as a prisoner. Rising at 6 a.m., she crosses the campus-like grounds of the U.S. medium-security prison at Pleasanton, Calif. to reach her job as a dishwasher and waitress. Her official pay is two cents an hour and, as she joked to a recent visitor, “the tips are lousy.” Ten pounds slimmer than when she entered the prison, Patty, 24, complains of the bland institutional food. As one of 300 women inmates, she shares a cramped 9-by-12-foot room with a prisoner from Alaska. Patty reads a lot, including the Bible, but does not watch television. She has made no attempt to spruce up her quarters. “I don’t think of this as my home,” she told the Atlanta Journal last week. “I just think of it as someplace I’m forced to be. I’m here in body but not in mind.”

But the nightmarish past returns to haunt her. The Hearst family and friends, still bitter about the sentence (“a second kidnapping,” her sisters call it), report that Patty wakes up at night screaming, and that even songs she remembers from her abduction make her cringe. During her first night at Pleasanton a guard rousted her out of bed and ordered her to clean a prison office. A collect call home and a plea from the Hearsts that she be treated “just like everyone else” corrected the situation at once, but on the way back to her room Patty nearly fainted. “What has happened to Patty is so bizarre,” says younger sister Anne, 22, “that she has to blank it out of her mind, or else she’ll go completely crazy.”

Like other inmates, Patty is allowed visitors three times a week in the prison’s common room. “If I didn’t have people coming to see me I don’t know what I’d do,” she says. Among her recent visitors: Bing Crosby’s widow, Kathryn, and the president of the bank Patty was convicted of robbing—the father of a girlhood friend. Though she has had no problems with other prisoners (including Manson family members Sandra Good and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme), she is regarded inevitably as the prison’s headliner. (Last spring, while still free on bail, Patty and her parents visited the King Tut exhibit in Los Angeles, where they spotted Cher. “She was standing there, looking at me,” Patty later told a friend. “And I, of course, was staring at her. After all, she was the celebrity.”)

Although Patty will not be eligible for parole for 14 months, sympathizers across the country are working for her early release. Patty allows herself to look ahead only cautiously. “I was 19 when all this happened,” she says with a wry smile, “and now I’m not nearly so naive.” Rumors persist that Patty will marry her recently divorced former bodyguard, San Francisco policeman Bernard Shaw, 30. Beyond that, Patty’s plans could hardly be simpler: She wants to settle down, raise a family, perhaps breed German shepherds. But not even such dreams can be counted on. “It’s pointless for her to plan for the future,” says a close friend of the Hearsts. “After all, her past was taken away, her future is uncertain, and she lives in the eternal now.”

You May Like