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News in Brief

AL: On June 30, 1997, Jerrick Snell, already sentenced to 20 years in prison for cocaine possession was resentenced to life in prison after he told judge Lawson Little to perform oral sex on him when Little walked past his cell. Little ordered Snell gagged and returned to court. Lawyer David Hogg was hastily appointed to "represent" Snell and later said 'I never had a chance to talk to Mr. Snell. He was brought in gagged" with duct tape wrapped around his head and mouth several times. Neither the judge nor prosecutor would comment.

AZ: On July 15, 1997, the Arizona supreme court struck down as unconstitutional the Constitutional Defense Council, a legislatively created group whose main role had been to find ways to violate the rights of state prisoners despite federal court orders to the contrary. The court unanamously held the council violates a state constitutional requirement that only the executive branch, i.e., the attorney general, can file suit on behalf of the state. Not only was the Council unlawful, it also illegally spent tax money.

AZ: Maricopa county sheriff Joe Arpaio announced he was introducing four German shepards, at $8,000 each, with small cameras and microphones mounted on them in order to patrol fences at the jail. Arpaio said the dogs were trained to look for contraband, escapes, fighting and assaults on guards. Arpaio, who claims to be the toughest, if not the brightest, sheriff in America, is better known for the reign of brutality that prevails at his jail.

CA: On May 30, 1997, after a six month trial a federal jury in Los Angeles convicted twelve alleged members of the Mexican Mafia (MM) of various felonies, including murder, attempted murder, extortion, racketeering and drug trafficking. Prosecutors claimed that since 1975 the prison based MM used threats and violence to control parts of the Southern California drug trade. The government's case relied primarily on former MM member Ernest "Chuco" Castro, a government informant. One defendant was acquitted.

FL: In July, 1997, Michael Myers, serving an 18 year sentence at the Martin Correctional Institution for raping his grandmother, was found strangled to death in his cell. Prison officials did not notify Martin County sheriff investigators for almost 30 hours after it was discovered. The death is being treated as a homicide.

GA: On March 6, 1997, a Rockdale county coroner's inquest ruled the death of state prisoner Gary Smothers, 45, was caused in part by "lack of medical review during medical isolation." Smothers died in isolation four days after Christmas from pneumonia and a lung abscess. DOC officials claim that nurses examined Smothers two days before he died and found his lungs clear. Rockdale county coroner Stephen Boyle, who called for the inquest, said "as a surgeon who takes care of a lot of people with pneumonia," he found it "inconceivable" that Smothers' lungs would have been clear two days before he died.

IA: On July 1, 1997, the state DOC began charging prisoners in its custody $5 a month in "rent" for being in prison. DOC officials estimate it will raise about $340,000 a year from the 6,600 prisoners in Iowa prisons. Prisoners who work in prison generally earn between $7.50 and $15 a month in Iowa.

IL: On July 7, 1997, legislation was signed into law making it a felony for correctional workers to have sex with people in custody, on probation or on parole.

NC: The Bob Barker Company is the foremost distributor of prison supplies and reports that in the past year more than 100 counties across the country have started clothing jail prisoners in black and white striped outfits. The striped suits cost $1 more per set, $12 each, than solid color uniforms. Phased out by most counties in the 1930's a company representative said sheriffs switching to striped uniforms "want to make a political impact." Some jails report released prisoners wanting to buy the striped outfits as souvenirs.

NJ: On July 28, 1997, 200 out of 1,000 prisoners in the Middlesex county Jail staged a hungerstrike to protest the jail's limit of one 2 oz. hamburger at lunch. No prisoners were quoted in news reports. Jail warden Rudolph Johnson said "We are not going to be blackmailed by these people. There is no legitimate reason for them to need more than one hamburger for lunch." On May 23, 1997, 15 prisoners barricaded their cell pods after guards took new sheets and towels from their cells and replaced them with old linen.

NY: On June 11, 1997, Onandaga county settled a lawsuit with 12 former jail prisoners who were suspended for hours from their cell bars with wrist and ankle shackles by jail guards. The county agreed to pay the 10 men and two women $3 million. The shackling was ordered stopped in 1994 by a state court judge as a partial settlement to that suit.

OH: on June 26, 1997, 30 to 40 youths at the Training Institute of Central Ohio, a maximum security juvenile prison, rebelled, injuring six guards and causing property damage. The youths were protesting a new prison rule that required them to have parental permission to attend Islamic church services. State police were sent in to subdue the youths.

OH: On June 27, 1997, Southern Ohio Correctional Facility guard Brian Kelly was charged in state court with conspiring to smuggle drugs into the Lucasville prison.

OR: Jail officials in Linn county have banned underwear for male prisoners claiming prisoners flushed their briefs down the toilet, clogging sewer lines.

SC: On June 19, 1997, Richard Foster was released from the Richland County jail after someone faxed a letter to the jail, purportedly from Georgia law enforcement officials, stating Georgia had "no criminal interest" in Foster and no detainers lodged against him. In fact, Foster was wanted in Georgia on gun and assault charges. The fax was sent from a Kroger grocery store in Augusta, Georgia. The jail supervisor who released Foster was demoted from captain to sergeant.

TX: In August, 1997, Victor Igwe, a state parole officer, was charged with molesting two girls in custody at the Children Protective Services Shelter in Houston where Igwe worked as a parttime counselor. Igwe was arrested at work in the TDCJ parole division office. He was suspended from work without pay pending a review of the charges.

TX: In July, 1997, Ernesto Lopez was returned to Texas DOC custody from Mexico after 35 years on the run. Lopez was convicted of killing a 12 year old girl in 1956. In 1962 Lopez escaped from prison by sawing through his cell bars and climbing a fence. Lopez was free longer than any other Texas escapee in history.

TX: On June 24, 1997, Keith James escaped from the maximum security Stiles Unit in Beaumont by stacking tool boxes to climb over a 12 foot razor wire perimeter fence. James then stole a pickup truck from a nearby oil refinery and fled the area. James was serving a life sentence for murder.

TX: San Antonio district attorney Lynn Ellison routinely dismisses felony charges against defendants arrested for bringing prescription drugs across the border from Mexico if the defendant "donates" up to $2,500 to a drug task force. John Bull, a defense lawyer who represents people charged with illegal prescription drug possession said "It just goes to show justice is for sale in South Texas."

UT: In July, 1997, Utah State Prison guard Donald Malloch was charged with possessing heroin and cocaine with intent to distribute the drugs to prisoners. Malloch was arrested in a sting set up after a prisoner snitch fingered him as a drug smuggler into the prison.

WA: Okanagan county sheriff Jim Weed asked a judge to evict Carol Louie from the local jail because she was pregnant and the jail lacked prenatal facilities. Judge David Edwards agreed and ordered Louie furloughed from the jail when she goes into labor until she is released by a hospital. The child was ordered sent to state Child Protective Services upon birth. Louie was already pregnant when sentenced to two years in jail in February, 1997, for drunk driving.

WA: On July 31, 1997, Lechaun Baker escaped from the King county (Seattle) jail by using the name of an already released prisoner to board a bus that took him from the jail to a minimum security facility that he walked away from. Baker was being held without bail on attempted murder and robbery charges. The escape was discovered by the jail several hours after it occurred. The jail then waited three hours before notifying police.

WA: On June 11, 1997, federal judge William Dwyer ordered the state to transfer Laura Mccollum, the state's only female civilly committed sex offender, out of the otherwise all male civil commitment center in Monroe. Dwyer also ordered the state to implement a treatment plan for McCollum that does not involve group therapy with male sex offenders. McCollum claimed that being confined with over 50 male sex offenders, who she claimed exposed themselves, masturbated in front of her and touched her, was "unethical, clinically inappropriate and cruel." The state is appealing.

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