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News in Brief

Azerbaijan : On January 8, 1999, 11 prisoners at the Gobustan prison camp rioted and took 28 guards hostage. Government officials agreed to the prisoners' demand of being flown out of the country. When the prisoners and their hostages boarded a bus they believed was going to take them to an airport, security forces opened fire, killing all the prisoners. Two soldiers were killed and 21 injured in the fighting. The prisoners included several members of the military imprisoned for their role in an attempted coup in 1996.

CA : On October 27, 1998, Merced county booking clerk Kelly Jeann Wills was arrested and charged with stealing money from prisoners booked into the jail. An investigation began after a prisoner complained the money he had with him at the time of his booking was not returned to him upon release. In a sting operation, a sheriff's department operative was booked into the jail with $126. Investigators found the money was not logged in on the operative's property sheet. Wills was detained and search at the end of her shift that day and found to be in possession of the $126.

Canada : On November 27, 1998, the reputed leader of Quebec's Hells Angels was acquitted on charges that he ordered the 1997 killings of two prison guards. One of the victims was shot as she drove home after her shift while the other was targeted as he drove a prison bus. The case against Maurice "Mom" Boucher hinged on testimony of informant Stephane Gagne, 28, that apparently left the jury unconvinced that "Mom" ordered the killings.

Columbia : On December 31, 1998, three political prisoners escaped from Picota prison, on the outskirts of Bogota, by hiding in a garbage truck. The escapees were Hugo Toro Restrepo, Fredy Llanos Moncayo and Luis Acosta Mejilla. All three were members of JEGA, a Marxist urban guerrilla group. Restrepo and Moncayo were serving sentences related to the 1996 kidnapping of Juan Carlos Gaviria, brother of former Columbian president Cesar Gaviria.

FL : On October 6, 1998, six employees at a federal halfway house were indicted on federal corruption charges. The workers were employed by Spectrum Programs, Inc. which runs the Spectrum Community Corrections Center in Miami on contract for the Bureau of Prisons. The employees were charged with implementing a systematic bribery scheme where prisoners were forced to pay bribes in order to leave the halfway house for work, furloughs, etc. The employees also took bribes to alter drug test results.

IL : In December, 1998, Madison county jail superintendent Dannie Sipes resigned after admitting he stole more than $70,000 from money that should have been deposited in jail prisoners' trust accounts. County prosecutor William Haine said he would not charge Sipes criminally if Sipes resigned immediately, cooperated in an investigation and repaid the stolen money

LA : On Jnauary 24, 1999, prisoners Roy McFall, Jerry Davis, Donald Wooley and Darrell Crider escaped from the Lousiana State Penitentiary in Angola. The escapees were armed with two smuggled handguns and took a prison maintenance worker hostage before driving off the prison grounds in a truck. Three of the escapees were recaptured within a few hours. McFall shot himself in the head and died, vowing he would never return to prison. All four men were serving life sentences for murder.

MS : In January, 1999, death row prisoner, and self proclaimed serial killer and white supremacist, Donald Evans was stabbed to death by black death row prisoner Jimmie Mack. No reason was given for the killing and prison officials would not speculate if there was a racial motive.

MT : On September 7, 1998, 36 prisoners were transferred to the Montana State Prison from the Cascade county jail after demolishing a jail cellblock. The uprising started as a fist fight between three prisoners that escalated into an uprising when guards ordered prisoners to return to their cells. No one was injured in the incident.

NJ : On October 1, 1998, Leon Martin, a vocational instructor at the state prison in Trenton was arrested on drug charges. Martin had an ounce of cocaine and a "large amount of cash" in his possession when arrested at the prison. Prison officials claimed Martin was supplying 65 prisoners at the prison with drugs.

NY : On December 1, 1998, professional misconduct charges were filed against Dr. David Weinstein, a dentist at the Albany jail. State regulators claim that Weinstein placed more than 260 prisoners at risk of HIV and hepatitis by using dirty dental drill bits between 1995 and 1998. While Weinstein treated some 2,000 jail prisoners in this period, health officials are contacting only those prisoners who had teeth extracted. New York leads the nation in the percentage of its prison and jail population which is HIV positive.

OK : On December 11, 1998, Pittsburg (Oklahoma) County Commissioner Bill Webber was indicted on nine felony counts of using prison labor on private property, embezzlement by a public official and attempted perjury by subornation. Webber, 55, who denied any wrongdoing, had been investigated by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections in 1995 and 1996 and cleared of allegations that he improperly profited from the labor of state prisoners in his jail. "There have been so many complaints against him," said Fellow Commissioner Oben Weeks, "a lot of people quit making them because they didn't think anything would ever be done."

OK : On December 11, 1998, two former Tulsa, Oklahoma, jail nurses were ordered to stand trial on charges of second-degree manslaughter and preparing false evidence. Charles Guffey, 39, died Oct. 14, 1997 of a ruptured ulcer, ten days after he first complained to jail staff about severe abdominal pains. Witnesses said nurse Charlene Crawford refused Mr.Guffey treatment, telling jail workers to return him to his cell to allow "inmate justice" to take its course. Charged along with Crawford was former nursing director Troy Desonia.

OK : Parents of Oklahoma juveniles whose children are in state custody due to "abuse or neglect" are ordered to pay part of the imprisonment cost of their children. State officials say that collections under the 3-year-old law rose to nearly $211,000 last year. Parents are charged from $109 up to $1,000 or more for every month their child is in custody. The court-ordered payments leave some parents stunned. "Most of the time, their mouth drops open and their eyes get bulged, or they say, 'Oh, my God,"' says Tulsa County District Court bailiff Dave Craig.

Palestine : On January 24, 1999, 64 political prisoners held by Yasser Arafat's Palestine Authority began a hunger strike to protest their 17 months of imprisonment without a trial or charges.

TX : On December 22, 1998, 24-year old Michael Phillips, who worked as a trusty at a Texas prison, went for a little drive. A secretary at the Holliday Unit Transfer Facility alerted authorities when she noticed the keys to her 1996 black Mustang missing. While cleaning the secretary's office, Phillips had apparently swept the keys into a trash container, then carried it outside, retrieved the keys, scaled a fence to the employee parking lot and drove away. He was apprehended four days later by a Pasadena, Texas, police officer who spotted Phillips still joy riding in the stolen Mustang.

TX : On November 24, 1998, Charles Keith Alexander, 36, was indicted in federal court on 9 misdemeanor civil rights charges. While employed as a cook supervisor at the federal prison camp in Bryan, Alexander sexually assaulted four women prisoners over a two year period.

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