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News in Brief

Canada: On May 10, 1995, a government panel investigating why more than 11,000 Canadians, most of them hemophiliacs, contracted AIDS and hepatitis in the 1980's, announced that it had traced the illness to blood products made with blood from Arkansas state prisoners, many of whom later tested positive for the HIV virus. The Canadian government owned Connaught Laboratories purchased large quantities of blood from American prison systems in the 1980's.

AZ: Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio is notorious around the country for his punitive treatment of jail detainees, which includes canceling coffee, smoking, sexually explicit magazines, housing prisoners in tents, etc., at the jail. Arpaio's latest stunt has been to spend $150 from the jail's canteen fund to buy Newt Gingrich's ten part video lecture series. The series will be piped into the detainees cells via a cable TV system he installed. The series deals with democracy (what does Newt know about this?) and free enterprise (does he talk about his book deals?).

TX: At a June 11, 1995, National Sheriff's Association (NSA) convention US attorney general Janet Reno announced that the Department of Justice will give the NSA, in conjunction with the American Correctional Association (ACA), a $150,000 grant to provide state and local jails with educational and skill building television programming, a move that could replace normal cable and broadcast television. The programming will be in subjects such as alcohol and drug abuse, parenting skills, anger management, etc. Initially eight ACA and NSA representatives will form an advisory board who will select eight prisons to be used as part of a pilot project on replacement TV programming. Who knows, they might take some hints from Sheriff Arpaio.

Rwanda: The government has announced it will no longer arrest any but the most serious suspects in last year's ethnic massacres. The nations prisons, built to hold 5,000 prisoners, have held more than 35,000 since July, 1994. In March, 1995, 74 prisoners were jammed into a small cell in the Kigali jail when 24 suffocated. The majority of the prisoners are suspected of taking part in the 1994 massacres that left more than 500,000 people dead. The International Committee of the Red Cross has announced it will pay to build a 5,000 person prison to help alleviate the overcrowding crisis in Rwanda. The Red Cross said many of the detainees are held while the judicial system has collapsed and is unable to administer justice, release the innocent, etc. Other UN Organizations will assist in building temporary prisons.

FL: Jerry Melvin, a Republican state representative has introduced legislation requiring prisoners to pay up to $60 a day for their incarceration. This is proof that bad ideas never die. A 1979 Florida law requiring similar payments was found unconstitutional by a federal court. The program spent $89,000 to collect $3,100 in the four months it was in effect.

NY: A federal jury has awarded $111,000 to two gay men beat up by three federal DEA agents. The DEA agents beat the men while shouting anti-gay slurs at them in 1988. The vicious attack ended when a passerby stopped to take photos. The agents then arrested the victims and charged them with assault.

Germany: On May 21, 1995, Peter Struedinger and another prisoner at the prison in Celle took a guard hostage and escaped from the rnaximum security prison in this city. The prisoners demanded $140,000 and safe passage. They were given the money and embarked on a cross country chase before being recaptured later that day. This marked Struedinger's second escape from the same prison, eleven years to the day. On May 21, 1984, he took a guard hostage with a homemade shotgun and fled in a car driven by a prison official with a bomb around his neck. He stayed free for a day that time.

GA: Movie fans may recall films such as West World and Sex World where clients would get the full experience associated with that theme. Welcome to Prison World, but this isn't a movie. The Academy Training Center charges its customers to experience Aan authentic incarceration experience. The 3,000 Sq. Foot facility includes a cell block, solitary isolation cell, padded cell, intake area, etc. Opened in January, 1995, the guard/instructors are moonlighting cops, prison guards and military personnel. They will arrange specific and authentic scenarios around themes such as prisons, county jail, POW camp, brig, etc. Most sessions last 3-4 days. Alas, they don=t use real prisoners, so clients have to put up with other clients as their fellow Aprisoners.

DC: Three district of Columbia cops, John Harrnon, Troy Taylor and Dwayne Washington, are facing sentences of 49 to 55 years in federal prison after accepting $2,000 in bribes from FBI agents posing as drug dealers. The cops all agreed to escort drug dealers in and out of the city in exchange for the bribes. The cops refused plea bargains of less than ten years in prison. Federal Judge Thornas Hogan said the mandatory sentences he would impose were Aoverly long, overly harsh and tragic.

Japan: On May 27, 1995, the government announced it had executed, by hanging, three convicted murderers. Fifty six prisoners remain on death row. Japan does not allow witnesses at executions and gives no advance notice. Prisoners' relatives often learn of the execution only when they are told to retrieve the prisoner's bodies after executions.

GA: Governor Zell Miller announced that over 300 illegal aliens in state prisons would be paroled and deported, saving $6 million and freeing up much needed prison space. Only prisoners convicted of nonviolent offenses are eligible for release. The parole board will release the prisoners which will be turned over to federal immigration officials and deported to their native countries.

NY: Ramzi Yousef is the accused leader of the plot to bomb the world trade center in 1992. Held in total isolation in the Metropolitan Correctional Center his lawyers filed a motion that his conditions of confinement be improved. At the May 31, 1995, hearing, judge Kevin Duffy scolded jail warden Rick Reish for taking Yousef's watch, Koran, coffee creamer, toothpaste and mouthwash. The judge stated that the case had international ramifications. Reish claimed the items were taken because they were dangerous. Duffy was angered at the BOP lawyer's inability to explain the dangerousness of the seized items and ordered Reish to take the stand. Reish said Yousef's watch, purchased from the jail commissary, was taken because could be used to make a bomb timing device. Duffy asked Exactly what would he connect the timing device to? Reish replied that coffee creamer was Avery flammable. Duffy ordered the items returned.

IL: A fight between rival gang members in the Cook County (Chicago) jail on May 28, 1995, left two prisoners dead and 26 injured. The detainees fought with makeshift, knives, broom handles and other weapons. The cause of the fight was not disclosed.

AZ: The Edna McConnell foundation offered the state of Arizona $100,000 to study alternatives to prison. Fife Symington, the state's governor refused to accept the money saying he wanted no part of keeping lawbreakers at large.

MA: Albert Lewin was acquitted of killing a Boston police detective in 1990. In April,1995, a jury awarded him $225,000 in damages after finding he had been beaten by three jail guards while awaiting trial. Lewin was acquitted after two policemen were charged with perjury in the case and illegally seized evidence was suppressed. The city will pick up the tab for the guards.

IL: Leonard Kurz, a former Chicago cop, was sentenced to only 8.6 years in prison on April 26, 1995, for committing three armed robberies while in uniform and on duty in I988.

Vietnam: During the American attack on Vietnam the South Vietnamese government took over a prison originally built by the French on Con Son island and turned it into a notorious torture and murder camp. Communists and other opponents of the puppet regimes were held for years in notorious Atiger cages on the island. PMC Jinwon, a South Korean company, recently announced plans to build a $298 million tourist resort on the island. The resort will have several hotels, golf courses, shopping centers and be able to accept cruise ships. No mention is made of whether the prison will be part of the island Atours.

NJ: On June 22, 1995, governor Christine Whitman signed a a 3 strikes law into effect. The NJ version of the law mandates imprisonment for 35 years for any felon convicted of a first degree felony for the third time, prisoners will be held until they are at least 70 years old and can convince the entire state parole board they no longer pose a threat to society. The bill also extends the sentences imposed on numerous categories of those convicted for the third time of committing less serious crimes.

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