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News in Brief
Belize: On June 24, 1996, Cook County circuit court judge Frank Edwards pleaded guilty to marijuana possession while vacationing in Belize City. He was fined $1,000. Edwards sits on Chicago's Special Narcotics Court.
CA: Five Sacramento jail guards face disciplinary action for staging mock executions in June, 1996, of at least three prisoners. The prisoners were strapped into a chair designed to restrain unruly detainees and told it was electrified and they were about to be electrocuted. The same five deputies were also under investigation for subjecting a black reserve deputy to racially offensive behavior.
CA: On August 12, 1996, a fight began in the Peter Pitchess Detention Center's North County Correctional Facility's maximum security section. Sixty to seventy prisoners were involved in what media called "a racially charged melee" that left 27 prisoners injured, seven with stab wounds. The disturbance was quelled by sheriff deputies using stun grenades.
CA: On August 20, 1996, Pedro Quezada was mistakenly released from the LA county jail. Accused of murder, Quezada is the third murder suspect since July, 1995, to be mistakenly released from the jail due to a clerical error. Quezada turned himself back into police custody the next day.
Canada: Beginning in September, 1996, the Canadian Correction Service announced it would distribute bleach kits so prisoners can sterilize syringes. The bleach kits will accompany condom distribution to 14,000 federal prisoners as part of a harm reduction strategy designed to reduce AIDS transmission.
CO: In July, 1996, the DOC transferred 218 prisoners to Texas prisons in an effort to ease overcrowding.
CO: On August 15, 1996, William Tonacchio, a guard at the Centennial Correctional Facility in Canon City, was arrested as a suspect in more than 20 bank robberies that netted more than $200,000 since 1992. Dubbed the "Fatman Bandit" by the FBI, the 250 pound Tonacchio was positively identified from bank photos by his ex-wife and his own two teenage children.
El Salvador: Responding to protests by prisoners over crowding and conditions [See: October, 1996, PLN] politicians have proposed building more prisons and stiffer sentences. Proposals include using coffee warehouses and school buildings as prisons. Some legislators have proposed privatizing prisons and "we could install factories and put in a maquila," said one legislator, referring to sweatshops that make clothes for export.
GA: The DOC is investigating the "disappearance" of about 200 prisoner made patches worn by Olympic security team members identifying them as police. The patches, which cost pennies to make by prison slave labor, were sent to Atlanta after the Olympics ended because law enforcement officials were selling them for as much as $100 each.
IA: At least four sheriffs announced they planned to carry out a new state law allowing them to charge prisoners as much as $65 a day for "room and board" in county jail.
IL: On September 1, 1996, thirty prisoners at the Pontiac Corrections Center protested new phone restrictions and the elimination of three free stamps a week for prisoners. The prisoners tore out cell toilets and sinks, lit fires and tried to break through cell walls. A prison tactical squad crushed the rebellion with clubs and mace. A prison visitor reported seeing thirty prisoners chained to a fence in an outside yard, having been left outside since 1AM the night before. The prison had been on lockdown since January, 1996, with prisoners confined to their cells for 23 hours a day. Designed for 1,258 prisoners, Pontiac held 1,713 the day of the rebellion.
IL: The Wackenhut Corporation's subsidiary, Correctional Food Service Management, was awarded a $38 million, four year contract by the Cook County (Chicago) sheriff's department. The contract requires CFM to provide 11 million meals a year to 10,000 prisoners and staff in county jail facilities.
NC: After Davidson County jail prisoners complained of overcrowding, bad conditions, erratic sleeping arrangements and not being treated like human beings, sheriff Gerald Hege responded by painting cellblocks pink with blue teddy bears. "It's kind of hard to get hostile in a pink room with blue teddy bears," Hege said. Prisoner Jerry Reid commented that "the guys are going to feel like sissies." Hege's past accomplishments include eliminating televisions in the jail and replacing orange jumpsuits with black and white jumpsuits.
NJ: On August 1, 1996, a fight between Sunni Muslims and Five Percenters (a Muslim sect) in the recreation yard of the NJ State Prison in Trenton resulted in eleven prisoners injured and one stabbed. A dozen homemade weapons were confiscated. The prison was locked down after the incident.
NM: Navajo Nation leaders announced plans to build a 2,000 bed prison that would include jewelry, beading and weaving industries. Navajo DOC Director Wilbe Antone said it would be the first American prison to specialize in Native American prisoners and would also offer Native American religious ceremonies.
Panama: In late July, 1996, Panamanian TV stations broadcast footage showing dozens of naked prisoners running across a courtyard in the Modelo prison near Panama City while guards beat them with sticks and clubs. Prison director Ricardo Reynolds defended the beatings claiming the prisoners had killed two other prisoners minutes earlier. Built in 1930 to hold 250 prisoners, Modelo now holds 1,800; 80% of whom are still awaiting trial.
SD: South Dakota State Penitentiary sergeant Mark McClure resigned in September, 1996, after police began investigating the disappearance of $3,100 from a benefit fund for a prison worker with leukemia. McClure was in charge of administering the fund and was indicted on October 10, 1996, for stealing the money, according to police.
TX: On August 21, 1996, prisoners at the Federal Correction Center (a state facility despite the name) in Eden began a sitdown strike to protest poor quality food and clothing and little access to hobby crafts. According to small media reports, at least six prisoners were shot by guards attempting to smash the strike. In a separate incident, nine prisoners and three guards were injured in a recreation yard escape attempt from the same prison on the same day.
TX: On July 2,1996, Hardin County district attorney Bo Horka was sentenced to three years probation and fined $5,000 after being convicted in federal court of misprison, which is failing to report a felony. Horka lied to federal prison officials when he told them he needed Eric Marroquin, a Texas businessman serving a 25 federal sentence for mail fraud, released from BOP custody to testify in a capital murder case. Horka submitted weekly reports to the BOP saying Marroquin was being held in the county jail. In reality Marroquin stayed in Horka's home and was allowed to see his wife and children and roam the community. The state bar declined to suspend Horka's license to practice law.
WA: In September, 1996, Pierce County opened up a $6 million, 500 bed temporary jail facility in a parking lot. The temporary jail is designed to reduce overcrowding until a new jail is opened in four years.
WA: On July 11, 1996, former Snohomish County prosecutor Eric Lind was charged with seven counts of first degree theft for taking $44,521 in unearned bonus payments from the law firm that employed him. Lind gained notoriety for prosecuting Charles Campbell on three murder charges.
WI: In August, 1996, Kettle Moraine Correctional Facility guard Donald Faul was charged in Sheboygan county with three counts of sexually assaulting two male prisoners and two counts of mistreatment of prisoners. In one incident Faul intentionally lost a "dirty" urine specimen and told the prisoner "You owe me big time buddy." Afterwards, Faul came to the prisoner's cell, rubbed is leg and said "Hi, princess." In another incident Faul gave a prisoner a card depicting a penis with "thinking of you" written on it.
WI: The state has filed suit to recoup several hundred thousand dollars in fraudulent attorney fees charged by six attorneys in the Wisconsin Public Defenders office. Thomas Awen agreed to repay the state almost $100,000 he over billed for work in 301 cases for which he charged the state $405,000 over a three year period. Jeffrey Kravat had his law license revoked and was sentenced to four months in jail, five years probation and $74,200 in restitution for his fraudulent overbilling. According to the attorney generals office, these lawyers and at least two others submitted bills showing they frequently worked more than 24 hours a day.
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