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News in Brief

Morocco: On November 24, 1994, the Moroccan Human Rights Organization reported that the head of Morocco's delegation to a UN anti-torture conference was Kadouri Yousfi. Yousfi now heads the Moroccan national security apparatus but in the 1970's and '80's he was warden of the infamous Derb Moulay Cherif jail in Casablanca where thousands of prisoners and detainees were regularly tortured. The group said that sending Yousfi to the anti-torture conference made it skeptical of the willingness of the US backed regime of King Hassan II to stop torturing its citizens.

Mexico: On December 11, 1994, 17 prisoners in the CeReSo prison in Cuidad Juarez escaped by digging a tunnel 80 yards long from a prison cell to an orchard outside the prison. Prison officials learned of the escape after the prisoners were seen running down a city street. They then found a hole in the wall leading to the tunnel. The tunnel was elaborate, having electrical wiring and an air compressor that supplied oxygen. In May, 1994, four prisoners broke out of CeReSo after receiving automatic weapons from men posing as attorneys. On December 18, 1994, sixteen prisoners escaped from the Nuevas Casas Grandes prison near Ciudad Juarez by tunneling out of prison. Police said the prisoners built their tunnel from a workshop area close to the wall and exited just outside the prison wall. The tunnel was six feet deep and 33 feet long and had electrical wiring and lights. The two escapes do not appear to be connected.

FL: Gulf County (Pensacola) Sheriff Al Harrison was charged in federal court on December 15, 1994, with coercing women prisoners into having sex with him. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, 10 counts of violating the civil rights of five female prisoners. The sex acts allegedly occurred in the county jail in Port St. Joe between December, 1989, and February, 1994.  Harrison was released on his own recognizance pending trial on January 23, 1995; he denied committing the sex acts. State officials are also investigating complaints that he demanded sex from Sheriff's Department employees as well, including one who committed suicide after reporting that Harrison had demanded sex from her.

Mongolia: On December 23, 1994, Amnesty International released a report stating that more than 30 prisoners starved to death in Mongolian jails and another 60 died of untreated illness and mistreatment in the past year alone. An AI spokesperson said AIt seems starvation is acute, especially during pre-sentence detention. When prisoners arrive in labor institutions they are already so malnourished it is difficult to improve their conditions. Every prison sentence could become a death sentence given the present conditions in Mongolian prisons.@ The Mongolian government is aware of the problem and wants to improve its prison conditions, it has asked for United Nations assistance to train prison guards.

Philippines: Forty political prisoners went on an indefinite hunger strike on January 3, 1995, to protest the Philippine government's refusal to recognize them as political prisoners. The prisoners are mainly communist members of the New People's Army. The Philippine government denies the existence of political prisoners, claiming all prisoners have been convicted of criminal charges.

FL: On January 3, 1995, six Cuban prisoners escaped from the Glades Correctional Institution by digging a tunnel under a prison fence. The 45 foot tunnel began in the prison chapel and exited outside a fence under an unmanned guard tower. Prison guards fired at the prisoners after they popped out of the tunnel and set off electronic alarms. One prisoner was recaptured immediately afterwards, four of the others were recaptured within the next week. One remains at large as we go to press.

Guinea: On January 3, 1995, sixteen prisoners were killed in a fight at the central prison in the country's capital of Conakry. The killings began when some of the prisoners accused others of having turned them into police. Shortly after their recent arrests some of the prisoners who were killed had threatened, on Guinean TV, to name senior government officials they claimed were involved in their crimes which include a national crime spree of robbery and murder.

NY: State officials paid $121,375 in back wages and $3,000 to pay for therapy sessions to Patricia Henley. Henley was fired from her job at Austin McCormick Center, a juvenile prison, after she complained of routine brutality, beatings and mistreatment of the youths. Her complaints led to a state investigation that documented her claims and showed a clear pattern of brutality dating back to at least 1986. She filed suit in May, 1991, seeking back wages and reinstatement under the state's whistle blower law. In the settlement she waived her reinstatement claim. She was also awarded $40,500 in attorney fees.

Columbia: On January 8, 1995, communist guerrillas of the FARC entered the town jail of Mocoa, capital of Putumayo province, dressed in government military uniforms and told jail guards they had arrived to inspect the jail. Once inside the jail they overpowered the guards, opened the cell doors and freed all the prisoners, nearly 100. No shots were fired and no one was injured in the takeover. A number of the freed prisoners were captured guerrillas. At least 25 of the freed prisoners had turned themselves back in to government authorities claiming the guerrillas had forced them to escape.

NJ: In 1994 the state legislature passed a law requiring that police notify the public whenever a convicted sex offender is released or moves into a neighborhood. The law requires that all convicted sex offenders register with police who then notify the public. Michael Groff was released from prison after serving four years for sexual assault. His name, photo and address were publicized by police. On January 8, Kenneth Kerekes Sr. and his son, Kenneth Jr., broke into the home Groff was staying at intending to beat him. Instead, they assaulted and badly beat Thomas Vicari, a truck driver staying at the same house who is not a felon.  Both Kerekes were arrested and charged with burglary, harassment, conspiracy, assault and criminal mischief. Kenneth Kerekes Jr. is employed as a prison guard at the Northhampton County Prison in Pennsylvania. Federal judge John Bissell of Newark entered an injunction barring further implementation of the notification law pending a hearing on the merits.

WA: Darrell Cook was serving a 27 year sentence for rape at the Washington State Penitentiary when he notified prison officials that he had committed a murder in Seattle in 1984 which until then had gone unsolved. Cook confessed to several other rapes and burglaries as well. Asked why he confessed Cook stated that it was because of his new found belief in god. Apparently he hasn't heard of the separation between church and state. Due to his past criminal record prosecutors stated they would seek a A3 strikes" sentence of life without parole.

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