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News in Brief

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 "tiger 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 "tours."

NJ: On June 22, 1995, governor Christine Whitman signed 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.

PA: On August 14, 1995, several dozen prisoners at the Coal Township prison in Shamokin rioted during lunch. Fifteen guards were injured trying to break it up. The prison was placed on a lockdown. The cause of the uprising was not reported.

CA: On August 7, 1995, a jury awarded $15.9 million to 36 people who were beaten or arrested by Los Angeles sheriff's deputies during a bridal shower. The trial lasted six months and 110 witnesses testified. The deputies claimed they were responding to reports of street fighting and were attacked by the party goers. None of the people arrested were convicted and most charges were dropped. Individual damage awards ranged from $30,000 to $3.9 million.

FL: On August 4, 1995, less than two months after the Wackenhut Corporation opened its private prison in Glades County the corporation fired its jobs trainer, Lt. William Myers, after learning he had been fired from the Charlotte Correctional Institution in Punta Gorda, FL in March for having sex with a prisoner. According to FL DOC officials Myers confessed to having sex with a prisoner named Jeremiah Knight, writing him letters afterwards and offering to pay him for sex as well. Knight reported the incident because he claimed he was afraid of Myers. Myers had previously been fired from the New Jersey DOC in 1993 after he was found violating rules by visiting a prisoner and giving him money.

Italy: A 1993 law prohibits people with AIDS from being imprisoned. One result of this has been a gang of AIDS infected robbers which has committed a series of bank robberies, been arrested then released due to their HIV status, when they pulled off more robberies. The bandits claim they need to steal in order to survive. Prosecutors are calling for the law's repeal.

South Africa: Correctional Services Minister Sipho Mzimela has adamantly refused to allow condoms to be distributed in the nation's prisons until he receives "irrefutable evidence" of homosexual activity in prisons. He admits that homosexual activity occurs in prison but said that until the prisoners engaged in it come forward he will not allow condom distribution. Mzimela is also criticized for his AIDS policies which segregates HIV+ prisoners, feeds them specially marked food and provides them with little treatment or counseling.

CO: Twenty six Colorado prisoners who have been sent to Texas prisons have field suit claiming they are being kept in a dirty, crowded converted warehouse with no privacy. They also complain of a lack of law library access, recreation facilities and other basic amenities.

IA: Thomas Farmer, 43, was the first defendant convicted under the federal "3 strikes" law. Farmer was convicted of robbing a Waterloo, IA food store in October, 1994, a month after the law was signed. This was his fourth conviction. Farmer was sentenced to life in prison plus five years. Sixteen other federal three strike cases were pending around the country as of August 15, 1995.

PA: On July 14, 1995, at least 30 guards and prisoners were injured at the Philadelphia Detention Center. More than 300 prisoners seized and held a cell block for two hours. Heat, humidity and a lack of air conditioning were cited as the reasons for the rebellion.

WA: On August 28, 1995, former King County (Seattle) jail guard Victor Calender, pleaded guilty to one count of police misconduct for having sex with two female prisoners at the jail. One prisoner testified that she consented to sex with Calender, the other testified that he forced her against a wall and fondled her. Jail workers told police that Calender frequently isolated women prisoners in a secluded jail room.

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