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News in Brief

CT: On June 1, 2000, a mattress fire at the Northern Correctional Tnstitution, a control unit in Somers that includes the state's

death row, left three prisoners and four guards injured. The guards were treated for smoke inhalation, one prisoner suffered burns and two others were treated for smoke inhalation. Fifty prisoners in the One East housing unit were temporarily moved to a different section of the prison.

Nicaragua: On May 30, 2000, the legislature granted amnesty to 110 of the country's 300 women prisoners to celebrate mother's day. Congressman Nelson Artola said: "We gave them their freedom because most were pushed toward crime by poverty and unemployment."

Brazil: On May 13, 2000, eight men armed with pistols and machine guns stormed a Sao Paulo jail and freed 144 prisoners. One policeman was shot in the legs and a guard was shot in the head during the attack. Police said the only prisoners who were not freed in the attack were eight in the jail's segregation unit. 19 prisoners were recaptured shortly afterwards.

TX: On May 31, 2000, Robert Earl Carter, 34, a former Texas state prison guard, was executed in Huntsville. Carter was convicted in 1992 of murdering six people, including his 4 year old son Jason Davis, an adult and four other children aged 5, 6, 9 and 16. Carter committed the murders because he was upset his ex wife would seek child support for Jason.

NJ: On May 18, 2000, the state DOC settled a federal discrimination suit filed by Sunni Muslim prison guards who challenged the DOC's ban on beards. Under the settlement, guards with religious exemptions for growing a beard no longer need to receive third party certification of their religious beliefs.

FL: On May 6, 2000, Colombia Correctional Institute prisoner Raymond Wigley, 39, was beaten and strangled to death. Prisoner John Blackwelder, 45, told prison guards he had killed Wigley and led them to the body. No reason was given for the murder.

OR: On May 20, 2000, Matthew Thompson, a prisoner on death row, was convicted of spitting phlegm on a prison guard's face

while being transferred to disciplinary segregation from death row. Thompson was convicted of felony assault by Marion County judge Albin Norblad who sentenced Thompson to 25 months imprisonment, to be served after he is executed. District attorney Stephen Dingle said "By prosecuting everybody, including a death row inmate, it will act as a deterrent to inmates

who are serving lesser sentences."

VA: On April 11, 2000, Richmond jail guard Alvin Blake, 27, was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of bringing heroin and marijuana into the jail and distributing it to prisoners.

AL: Citing staffing shortages, the Alabama Department of Corrections banned all live media interviews with prisoners in late May, 2000. DOC commissioner Michael Haley claimed media visits were consuming large amounts of staff time. When asked, Haley could not cite how many media interview requests the department actually receives.

Italy: In April, 2000, mafia leader Vincenzo Curcio escaped from the Turette maximum security prison in Turin. Curcio was convicted of committing one murder and arranging seven others. Curcio used dental floss to cut through the bars of his cell, climb down bedsheets to the ground floor of the prison and then climb over the prison fence to freedom. The prison's bars are made from ductile iron, which has no carbon, which makes it very soft and easy to cut. Prison officials said that when the prison was built in the 1970's they were more concerned with guerrillas attacking the prison from the outside than prisoners escaping from the inside.

Iran: In April, 2000, the government pardoned 25,000 parolees that had already served their sentences and commutted the sentences of another 27,000 prisoners. The move is unprecedented in the history of the Islamic Republic, whose prison policies have been characterized by brutality and repression, including mass executions. The amnesties were granted by supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to celebrate various religious and national holidays.

TX: On February 22, 2000, Wilton Wallace, 46, was sentenced to four years in prison after being convicted in federal court of beating Missouri prisoner Toby Hawthorne. The attack took place in the privately operated Brazoria county jail. Hawthorne's beating and that of other prisoners was televised nationally. The incident has been extensively reported in past issues of PLN.

FL: In May, 2000, two wildfires forced the two day evacuation of 1,450 prisoners in the Everglades Correctional Institution. No one was injured by the fires, nor was the prison damages.

WA: The Department of Corrections assigned a team of 12 employees who worked .for six months to devise "The best way to pick up a ringing phone." DOC manager Cynthia good said the DOC has suffered. from "a kind of negative image" with "customers" and is trying to improve its public relations fascade. Among the 18 recommendations the team made for DOC employees who answer telephones are: answer the phone by the third ring, employees identifying themselves, taking complete messages and responding to phone calls within 24 hours.

Argentina: In May, 2000, the government fired numerous high ranking prison officials after an investigation showed guards allowed prisoners out of the prison on robbing excursions and that prisoners ran a chop shop dismantling stolen cars for parts inside the prisons vocational training area with assistance from prison officials. One federal judge who investigated prison corruption was dismayed to learn prison officials had offered a prisoner early release if he killed the judge. In addition, guards at the prison were often drunk or absent from their posts and regularly smuggled contraband into the prison.

TX: Death row prisoner Michael Toney attempted to auction off five seats to his execution by putting the seats up for bid on internet auction house eBay. The posting was later removed by eBay. Texas prison officials say they wouldn't have allowed any buyers to attend Tony's execution.

TX: On June 9, 2000, Juan Soria, 33, a death row prisoner in Huntsville, attacked William Westbrook, 78, a volunteer chaplain at the prison. Soria pulled Westbrook's arm into his cell, tied a sheet around it and slashed it with a razor blade. Westbrook had surgery to repair the cuts to his wrist.

OH: In 1999, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DORC) spent $20.8 million on staff overtime. Bart Martelli, a nurse at the Orient Correctional Institution earned a base salary of $52,463 plus $61,854 in overtime pay. Ohio's highest paid state employee in 1999 was Jeko Nedelkoff, a psychiatrist at the Oakwood Correctional Facility in Lima who was paid $208,539.

WA: In March, 2000, the state of Washington was hit with a $17.8 million verdict in a suit filed by three developmentally disabled adults who were physically and sexually abused by caregivers in a state run group home. The verdict is the largest ever against the state of Washington and one of the largest personal injury verdicts in state history. On June 15, 2000, it was discovered that the state attorney general's office had failed to file the notice of appeal to appeal the verdict. The screw up has raised a firestorm of controversy as media and politicians alike sought explanations for the blunder. Attorney General Christine Gregoire defended the competence of her office, but noted she had hired outside counsel to prosecute the appeal, if a court allows it.

NJ: On May 8, 2000, Morris county jail guard Michael Nowacki, 48, was arrested on charges of attempting to lure an 11 year old girl into his car by offering her a flower.

Russia: On May 26, 2000, the Russian legislature approved an amnesty for 120,000 minor offenders, about 10% of the nation's prison population. Designed to relieve prison crowding, the amnesty marks the 55th anniversary of the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany. The amnesty applies to all prisoners who have tuberculosis, are war veterans, disabled, over 55, pregnant women and juveniles.

WA: On June 1, 2000, the Stafford Creek Correction Center in Aberdeen was locked down after 130 prisoners refused to return to their cells. The prisoners were protesting the lack of gym, library and job facilities at the prison, which opened April 7. The protest lasted three hours and ended without violence by prison officials. Ten "ringleaders" were rounded up and sent to the Intensive Management Unit in Shelton.

Brazil: On June 6, 2000, 1,500 prisoners at the Piraquara prison in Curitaba rioted to demand the release of 20 prisoners from segregation; that their sentences be reduced and that various prison employees who neglect prisoners and abusive prison guards be fired. The entire prison was largely destroyed during the uprising. One prisoner died of a heart attack and one guard was seriously injured when he jumped from a 15 meter roof to flee rioters. The rioting ended, and 12 prison employee hostages were released unharmed, when prison officials agreed to the prisoners' demands.

Israel: On May 31, 2000, over 500 Palestinian prisoners ended a monthlong liquid only hungerstrike after prison officials agreed to allow more family visits, to release five prisoners from isolation, to allow higher education in prisons and to allow prisoners to make phone calls home for special ocassions such as weddings and funerals. Hundreds of protesters and demonstrators outside the prisons supported the prisoners' struggle. A key demand by the prisoners, which was met, was that young children be allowed barrier free visits with their imprisoned parents.

WI: On April 19, 2000, David Hatch, 35, a prisoner at the Racine Correctional Institution in Sturtevant hanged himself to avoid being sent to the state's "supermax" prison in Boscobel.

PA: On June 2, 2000, former Pittsburgh district justice Gigi Sullivan pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor for shoplifting a pair of jeans, a watch, hair dye and other sundries from the PX on McGuire air force base in New Jersey. Sullivan had already pleaded guilty to shoplifting charges in Pennsylvania for the theft of clothing from a department store. Sullivan faces state charges stemming from her use of cocaine and heroin in her chambers before court proceedings and for protecting drug dealer Donald Geraci.

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