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News in Brief

AL: On May 15, 1996, chain gang prisoner Abraham McCord was shot and killed by guards after he allegedly attacked another prisoner with a bush axe and disregarded a warning shot.

AR: The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports that prisoners doing time in the Cross county jail in Wynne used police vehicles, went drinking, took trips and used sheriff Ronnie Huey's deer hunting camp. Huey denied any misconduct.

Argentina: On April 4, 1996, two commandos of the People's Revolutionary Organization shot Jorge Berges 10 times with a pistol and five times with a shotgun, killing him. Between 1976 and 1983 Berges had been a police doctor responsible for overseeing the torture and murder of political prisoners and detainees by the Argentine police. His duties consisted of ensuring that victims lived long enough during torture to divulge any information they might have. He also enriched himself by selling the babies born to prisoners who were later murdered and disappeared. In addition to delivering the infants he falsified the birth certificates to allow their sale. In 1985 Berges was convicted of sundry war crimes and sentenced to six years in prison. His sentence was commuted after he had served two years as part of a general amnesty to all police and military war criminals. In a final irony, after being shot Berges was taken to three different hospitals in Buenos Aires, including one run by the police and one run by the military, and was turned away by hospital staff because "his wounds aren't serious enough"; "he's not a member of the military"; and "we have a lack of bed space." Justice finally caught up with Berges.

Argentina: On May 6, 1996, more than 100 HIV+ prisoners in three Buenos Aires province prisons began a hunger strike to demand the release of terminally ill AIDS prisoners. Prison officials told the media that judges, not the prison system, were responsible for the release of terminally ill prisoners.

AZ: In June 1996, Maricopa county sheriff Joe Arpaio moved 200 women detainees into his tent jail, proclaiming himself "an equal opportunity incarcerator." He said women on chain gangs was next.

AZ: On June 1, 1996, the DOC banned all smoking within state prisons. The DOC claimed that the reason for the ban was the increasing number of lawsuits filed by non-smoking prisoners exposed to carcinogenic second hand smoke.

Chile: Since April 30, 1996, more than 45 political prisoners in the maximum security prison in Santiago (a control unit prison modeled on Marion and Stammheim) began a hunger strike to protest bad conditions. The prisoners' demands include improved medical care and better visiting. The prison service has said it will not meet the prisoners demands.

Costa Rica: Thousands of prisoners in Costa Rica are promoting the creation of a political party that would have as its presidential candidate the leader of the commando that kidnapped the entire Costa Rican supreme court in 1993. The political party, which is called the Party of Those Deprived of Freedom (PPL), is seeking to participate in the next elections, scheduled for February 1998. Danilo Rojas, a law student advising the prisoners, says the PPL will defend the interests of prisoners and other marginal populations. Supreme Elections Tribunal president Rafael Villegas told local press that "there is no impediment to prevent the prisoners from organizing their own political party, except for those whose civic rights have been suspended by judicial resolution."

D.C.: On July 10, 1996, three CIA mail clerks were charged with stealing more than 100 VISA, Master Card and Diner's Club credit cards intended for use by undercover agents abroad. The clerks, who earned $26,000 a year, went on a nine month, $190,000 spending spree.

D.C.: While in town for National Police Week ceremonies, Boston cops Barry Macguire, Mark Atlee and Mathew Shea walked out on an $18 restaurant tab. When the manager chased them, Macguire pulled a gun and told him, "You better get out of here or I'm going to blow your brains out." Macguire's criminal record, prior to becoming a cop, included arrests for shoplifting and trespassing.

MA: On June 19, 1996, retired cop James Mills, 68, was indicted for overbilling the state for more than 15,000 hours of work allegedly done on public defender cases. According to the indictment, Mills was paid more than $368,000 by the Committee for Public Counsel Services in 1995 and $197,000 in 1994 for services he did not perform.

NM: Beginning July 1, 1996, prisoners held in the Bernalillo county jail will be charged $64 a day for their captivity. They will be forced to pay either in cash or community service. That jails typically hold only those too poor to afford bail means that the process of criminalizing poverty continues.

NY: On July 17, 1996, fifteen current and former city cops were arrested by federal agents on charges that they had fraudulently evaded paying income tax on their salaries, bilking the government out of $1.7 million in taxes. The investigation is continuing and more than 700 city employees may be involved in the scheme. The accused ring leaders, cops Barton Adams and Frank Sambula, charged other cops between $900 and $2,000 to prepare fraudulent tax returns.

OH: On July 23, 1996, former Orient Correctional Institution prison guard Karl Roark pleaded guilty to one charge of aggravated drug trafficking. Roark was arrested in 1994 after accepting 35 grams of cocaine from an undercover cop. The sting was set up after an OCI prisoner said Roark had threatened him with disciplinary action to get drugs. Roark was fired by the Ohio DOC.

OK: Ray Little is the warden of the 500 bed minimum security prison in Ft. Supply. What is unusual is that Little served a four year sentence for robbery in Attica and was there during the height of the 1971 massacre. He won a basketball scholarship to Phillips University after his parole, and from there decided on a career with the Oklahoma DOC.

PA: The city of Philadelphia has agreed to pay $2,440,000 to settle 38 claims by people falsely arrested and framed by city cops. The cops planted false evidence, beat confessions out of suspects and then lied about it in court (i.e., business as usual). The biggest payment, $250,000, went to Joseph Morris, who spent three years in prison on fabricated charges. So far 137 convictions have been reversed and ten cops have been convicted or indicted on corruption charges. Nothing has been said about the judicial and prosecutorial collusion that allowed these abuses to go on for so many years.

Scotland: On June 10, 1996, more than 50 prisoners in Perth prison went on a work strike to protest deteriorating access to visits resulting from overcrowding. The prison was locked down for several days until officials said they would open more visiting spaces.

Switzerland: At the World AIDS Conference in Vancouver, Canada, the Swiss prison service reported a successful AIDS prevention program whereby the prison system provides sterile syringes for its prisoners. In a 100 woman prison, 5,000 syringes were distributed in one year. A prison official was quoted as saying, "The number of syringes distributed indicates we have met the demand." The prison needle exchange program is considered an overwhelming success in preventing the spread of AIDS and will continue.

TX: Former U.S. customs intelligence analyst Roel Buentello was sentenced to two years in prison on May 20, 1996, after pleading guilty to accepting a bribe and disclosing confidential information.

WA: Nathaniel Brown is credited with causing more than $250,000 in flood damage at the Spokane county jail. Brown is accused of plugging the toilet in his cell on June 14, 1996, and then flushing it repeatedly. The resulting flood caused damage on five floors, shorted out electrical equipment, ruined computers and set off sprinklers, which in turn caused more water damage. No reason was given for the flooding. Brown was charged with vandalism by indignant county officials.

WA: On July 13, 1996, Shelton prison guard Teresa Shannon was shot in the head and killed as she drove home from work at the prison. Police arrested Shannon's former lover, Cindy Bokofski, who was also a prison guard at Shelton, and charged her with violating a no contact order obtained by Shannon. Police claimed Boskofsky had stalked Shannon and indicated murder charges would soon be filed against her. A sign of the times: In the past 15 years no Washington guards have been killed by prisoners but at least two have been killed by fellow guards.

WA: On July 25, 1996, Sean Driver escaped from the McNeil Island Corrections Center by driving off in a prison van after his work supervisor gave him the keys and told him to fetch a water container. Driver, who had been serving time for car theft, was recaptured on July 31, 1996, in Kennewick after police received a tip.

WI: In June, 1996, state appeals court judge Harry Snyder was arrested for drunk driving. Prior to being appointed to the appeals court by Governor Tommy Thompson, Snyder was a circuit judge and Republican party assemblyman.

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