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News in Brief

WA: Dan Hughes, the city maintenance supervisor of West Richland used a work crew from the Coyote Ridge Correctional Center to fix the irrigation system, clean a forklift and paint a fuel tank at his home in 1992 and 1993. The prisoner work crew was under contract to do maintenance projects for the city. City officials have stated that Hughes will not be disciplined unless he is prosecuted. The State Auditor's Offices stated that Hughes' conduct violated state law on the use of prison slave labor. The Benton County prosecutor has not responded to PLN's inquiry of whether criminal charges would be filed against Hughes.

D.C.: On May 22, 1995, a federal jury ordered the city's Department of Corrections to pay a total of $1.425 million to six employees who were sexually harassed by DOC employees. It was the first time a government agency has been successfully sued on a class action basis for sexual harassment. The illegal conduct included demands for sexual favors and reprisals against those who refused or complained.

MI: As part of a growing national trend, the Michigan DOC has announced plans to ban smoking in all of its prisons by June, 1997. The plan to ban smoking will be implemented in a series of steps with smoking first being banned in segregation units. Past issues of PLN have reported smoking bans recently implemented in Texas and Oregon. One PLN reader in Texas reports that marijuana is cheaper and more readily available in Texas prisons than tobacco. Single cigarettes are being sold for $3.20 apiece.

France: On April 22, 1995, eight political prisoners of the Basque Guerrilla group ETA went on hungerstrike to protest being kept in isolation. The prisoners, held at the Fresnes prison near Paris, have demanded access to the prison's gym, library and workshops like other pretrial detainees. Supporters of Basque independence have held a series of demonstrations supporting the prisoners across France.

South Africa: On April 27, 1995, president Nelson Mandela celebrated the nation's first anniversary of majority rule by reducing the sentences of tens of thousands of prisoners. The sentence cut takes 25% off the sentence of all prisoners serving less than a six month sentence. The remission was also applied to anyone charged before December 6, 1993, with weapons possession Aassociated with political conflicts of the past, irrespective of their political affiliation.

Venezuela: On April 27, 1995, a gang fight took place in the Sabaneta jail in the city of Maracaibo. At least three prisoners died and five were injured during the fight. Prison guards regained control after a two hour siege and released visitors that had been taken hostage by the prisoners.

MO: On May 5, 1995, Ted Heflin, superintendent of the Kansas City Municipal Corrections Institution was found in contempt of a 1993 court order prohibiting the early release of circuit court prisoners without the sentencing judge's permission. Heflin was sentenced to six days in jail and fined $500 by circuit judge Anthony Romano who said AHe does what he wants. I think he's so wrapped up in this so-called overcrowding policy that he doesn't care about anything else. Heflin will serve his sentence in the county jail.

France: On April 20, 1995, Magistrate Francois Sottet freed 26 foreign prisoners after Paris police refused to allow him and an attorney to inspect cells below the main courthouse building in Paris. The jail has long been condemned by human rights advocates as a Adungeon where immigrants are held pending deportation and criminal charges. Sottet went to the jail to investigate the beating of a Moroccan detainee who appeared in his court beaten so badly he could not stand, with a broken arm and bruises. The detainee said he had been beaten by other detainees who wanted to steal his jacket and money. Police lawyers filed appeals to the release orders. Recent controversies at the jail include a detainee hanging himself, eight policemen being suspended earlier in April for beating a prisoner and a guard charged with raping an Algerian transvestite prisoner.

MI: The DOC lost or settled 69 lawsuits in 1994, which cost the department (i.e. taxpayers) $3.6 million. This was an increase from 51.7 million paid the year before.

CA: The Los Angeles city council has agreed to pay $3.6 million to settle a class action suit against its police department brought by 55 citizens mauled by police dogs. Councilman Nate Holden commented that Athe dogs are not there to do anything more than seek out the criminal and not to eat them once you find them. AIf our dogs are eating these people,... it is going beyond the law. The suit was filed by the ACLU, NAACP and two law firms.

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