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News in Brief

AR: On January 17, 2000, the state prison system banned all tobacco products on prison property. The ban affects 12,000 prisoners and 3,000 employees.

Brazil: On January 1, 2000, riot police stormed the Presidente Bernardes Penitentiary to end a 60 hour uprising by hundreds of prisoners demanding transfers to other prisons. Two of the uprising's prisoner leaders were shot and killed by police, another four prisoners were wounded. Three hostage guards were rescued unharmed.

CO: On December 4, 1999, Bob Sylvester, the director of the Dismas halfway house in Denver, was charged in state court with racketeering, extortion and sexual assault. Prosecutors claim that Sylvester coerced the male residents of the halfway house to have sex with him or he would have them returned to prison. Sylvester is an ex convict who served time for fraud. The Colorado DOC cancelled its contract with Sylvester in 1998 citing mismanagement, filthy conditions and reports of Sylvester sexually preying on the parolees. Prisoner rights advocate Sandi Gostin-Izon noted the Colorado DOC knew of Sylvester's sexual habits as early as 1991 and continued its contract with him.

CT: On November 17,1999, prisoner Pryant Wiseman, 23, died after getting into a fist fight with another prisoner at the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown. The cause of death was unknown despite an autopsy by the state medical examiner.

Jamaica: On January 5, 2000, at least 1,000 of the nation's 1,500 prison guards called in sick to protest the two year renewal of Lt. Col. John Prescod's contract as head of the Jamaican prison system. Army soldiers ran the country's prisons during the sick out.

Mexico: In December, 1999, Raul Zarate Diaz, warden of the Tapachula prison, fell to his death while spying on prisoners having conjugal visits with their spouses. Zarate tripped and fell through a skylight, landing and dying next to a prisoner and his wife having sex. Police investigators found binoculars and a pornographic magazine on the roof where the warden had been watching.

MO: On October 29, 1999, prisoner Terry Banks, 26, walked out of the Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron in a prison guard's uniform supplied to him by his lover, prison guard Lynette Barnette, 27. The pair were arrested on December 18, 1999, in a Victoria, Texas trailer park after they were featured on "America's Most Wanted." Banks was serving a life sentence for a 1992 murder.

Nigeria: On January 4, 2000, the Nigerian government announced that as a one time gesture it would release on compassionate grounds all prisoners that had been on death row more than 20 years. Prisoners who spent 10-20 years on death row had their sentences commuted to life.

NJ: In late 1999, Burlington county jail guard Wendell Bibb, 27, was sentenced to 10 years in state prison for raping three prostitutes. Bibb would pick up the women and force them to have sex with him without payment by either pulling a gun or showing them his jail guard badge. Similar charges against Bibb in two other counties were dropped.

NM: On January 15, 2000, former Native American prisoner rights activist Timothy "Little Rock" Reed, 39, died in a car accident in Albuquerque. Hitchhikers in the vehicle with him said Reed had been drinking when his SUV rearended a car, causing his vehicle to roil over into another lane. Reed was the only fatality. Reed gained prominence, as previously reported in PLN, when the New Mexico Supreme Court declared him a "fugitive from injustice" and refused an extradition request from Ohio where Reed was sought for allegedly violating his parole.

OH: On January 5, 2000, Donald christian, 48, was charged with theft for seeking a $104 reimbursement for mileage he did not drive. Christian worked at the Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton as a drug treatment counselor at the time of his arrest. Christian had previously served three years in prison on drug charges in the 1980s.

VA: In 1999 the state of Virginia received $109 million by housing 3,500 prisoners from other states in its prisons.

VA: On December 20, 1999, Henrico county sheriff deputy Reginald Dale, 27, was charged in state court with one felony count of carnal knowledge and sodomy. Prosecutors allege that Dale had consensual sex with a woman prisoner at the jail.

WA: On June 19, 1999, Gary M. Davis was sentenced to 40 years in prison for placing a bomb that seriously injured parole officer Tom Perine in an Aberdeen bombing. [PLN, Jun. 1999] Davis pleaded guilty in Grays Harbor superior court to attempted first degree murder in the bombing. Steven Pink, the drug dealer who asked Davis to carry out the bombing and then turned him in, was convicted at trial on charges of conspiring to commit first degree murder. Pink was sentenced to 62 years in prison.

WV: In November 1999, an audit of the Northern Correctional Facility in Shepardstown revealed that $155,330 was missing from the prison's commissary account. Watches, clothes and compact disks had been bought with funds from the account and were given to prisoners for resale to other prisoners. Prison employees received a percentage of the sales. Five unnamed employees were fired over the missing funds and the lack of accurate inventories and sales receipts.

WY: Prison officials at the Wyoming State Penitentiary at Rawlins thwarted an escape attempt on October 18, 1999 when they discovered a partially completed tunnel. DOC spokeswoman Melinda Brazzale noted the tunnel was underneath a temporary housing unit located some distance from the perimeter fence, but said "they were working their way in that direction."

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