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News in Brief

AZ : On April 1, 1998, former Perryville prison warden Thomas Sullivan was convicted by a Maricopa county jury of raping three girls, ages 8-16. A 16 year Arizona DOC employee, Sullivan was arrested in March, 1996, when DOC employees reported the allegations to superiors. One of his victims, now in her 20's, is a state prison guard who told police Sullivan molested her when she was 10 and they had an affair when she was 16. Before being convicted Sullivan had sued the ADOC for wrongful termination because he was fired after being arrested.

AZ : On March 17, 1998, Jack Bearce, a state prison guard at the Florence prison, was arrested for smuggling drugs into the prison. Bearce had a balloon filled with drugs when arrested. Bearce has been charged with promoting prison contraband and possession of dangerous drugs. He was released on bail pending trial.

CA : On February 27, 1998, medical employees from state prisons picketed the California Department of Corrections health care services office in Sacramento to protest unsafe working conditions. The medical technical assistants and nurses want to be allowed to use pepper spray and batons to deal with their prisoner patients.

CT : On March 3, 1998, Rebecca Messier was charged with conspiring to bribe state prosecutor Sandra Tullius to modify the prison sentence of her husband Joseph Messier. Joseph, a former state prison guard, is serving an eight year prison sentence for raping two girls. Joseph approached an unidentified prisoner about bribing Tullius. The prisoner promptly reported the inquiry to police and pocketed $7,000 of Joseph's money. Rebecca was arrested after giving $8,500 to an undercover investigator.

CT : On March 31, 1998, Robert Shukis, former deputy warden at the Janet York Correctional Institution in Niantic, the state women's prison, was sentenced to six months in jail after being convicted of fourth degree sexual assault. The charges stem from Shukis having a sexual relationship with a prisoner who was his secretary. Cunnie Daniel, a prison guard at the same facility, was sentenced to one year in jail for coercion. Daniel was convicted of having sex with a prisoner that resulted in the victim having a baby. In Connecticut it is illegal for prison employees to have sex with prisoners, even if the prisoner consents.

GA : The state DOC has enacted a new policy imposing a $4 "administrative processing fee" each time a prisoner is found guilty of violating prison rules. The policy went into effect April 1, l9g8.

IL : On March 6, 1998, Wallace Weicherding was among four white supremacists arrested by the FBI for conspiring to rob banks, murder civil rights lawyer Morris Dees, kill judges and poison water supplies. The men possessed rockets, machine guns and bombs. Weicherding was fired from his prison guard job at the Graham Correction Center in Hillsboro in 1993 for giving Ku Klux Klan propaganda to fellow IL DOC employees. He filed a lawsuit over his firing, which was dismissed. See: Weicherding v. Riegel , 981 F.Supp. 114 (CD IL 1997).

NM : In January, 1998, former E1 Paso, TX, county prosecutor Timothy Byrne was convicted in federal court of luring a 15 year old New Mexico boy across state lines to Texas to have sex with him. Byrne met the boy through an internet chat room.

PA : In January, 1998, Jesse Tharp, a BOP guard at the U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg, was indicted in federal court on five counts of having indecent contact with two children on federal property outside the prison. The victim's ages and sex was not disclosed but the grand jury indictment charges Tharp with having indecent contact with a child under the age of 8 and a child under the age of 5.

Turkey: On January 14, 1998, 260 political prisoners, members of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), ended a 55 day hungerstrike at the Erzurum Special Type Prison. The prisoners demanded an end to isolation and permission to take part in recreational activity. Hundreds of prisoners in other prisons in Turkey took part in solidarity fasts to support the PKK prisoners. The strike ended when the government agreed to the prisoners' demands.

TX : In January, 1998, a Nolan County jury acquitted prisoner John Gauna in the stabbing and beating death of Wallace Unit prisoner Rene Guerra in 1995. Prisoners Adolfo Garza, Salvador Hernandez, Luis Ortis, Frank Ramirez and Humberto Paura have been convicted in Guerra's death, which occurred during a "gang related disturbance," according to prison officials.

TX : On February 13, 1998, former Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) guard Barbara Blythe was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison for helping her common law husband, parolee Mark Harris, rob a bank and spend the proceeds in a Las Vegas gambling spree. During the robbery Harris shot a bank guard in the head and left him in a vegetative state. Blythe met Harris while he was imprisoned at the French Robertson Unit where she worked as a guard.

TX : On February 9, 1998, former Wallace Unit (Colorado City) guard Robert Santibanez pleaded guilty to a third degree felony charge of deadly conduct for firing 11 shots into a rural home and two pick up trucks. As part of his plea bargain Santibanez was sentenced to a 10 year probated prison term and ordered to pay $1,665 in restitution and $1,000 in court costs. The TDCJ fired Santibanez after his arrest.

VA : On March 24, 1998, Loudoun county jail guards Ardon Nichols III, Anthony Johnson and Carlos Olave were indicted on state charges of forcible sodomy, abduction, indecent exposure, adultery, fornication and unlawful sexual intercourse arising from allegations the defendants forced women prisoners at the jail to have sexual intercourse and perform oral sex . All three men were released on personal recognizance bonds.

WI: On February 11, 1998, 12 guards at the Green Bay Correctional Institute suffered minor injuries in a scuffle involving 12-15 prisoners. No reason was given for the confrontation.

WA: The Clallam Bay Correctional Center was placed on lockdown status from February 8-12, 1998, due to a number of fights among prisoners that occurred in dining areas. Rebellions by prisoners in the Intensive Management Unit left no space to further isolate combatants The lockdown affected the IMU and close custody units of the prison during which a search for weapons was carried out.

WA : With more than 500 crime related bills introduced in the 1997-98 legislative session alone, a statewide panel of police and prosecutors asked legislators to slow down. The panel complained that legislators were enacting poorly written laws that weren't needed, weren't understood, couldn't be enforced and which cities and counties lack the funds to carry out. It is unlikely the request will be heeded, especially in an election year.

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