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News in Brief

Brazil: On March 11, 2000, 17 prisoners armed with knives overpowered four guards at the Mata Grande Penitentiary in Rondonopolis and forced them to open the cellblock of a rival gang. The armed prisoners then proceeded to kill 13 and wound 3 of their rivals. Three hours later police stormed the prison and regained control. This was the fourth uprising since the prison opened in November, 1999. The dispute was allegedly over control of the drug trade in prison.

Canada: On March 6, 2000, 90 prisoners at the Regina Correctional Institution in Saskatchewan lit fires, broke windows and refused to return to their cells to protest a ban on tobacco smoking in the jail.

Colombia: On April 1, 2000, an unknown number of Marxist guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) stormed the jail in Cucuta, a town near the Venezuelan border, with small arms fire. Prisoners inside the jail took part in the fighting and after an hour of intense combat 74 prisoners escaped, taking a guard with them as a hostage. Two guards were wounded and four prisoners killed in the firefight. A car bomb was used to blast a hole in the prison wall. Most of the escapees were captured guerrillas belonging to the FARC and the ELN.

Colombia: On March 8, 2000, 200 guerrillas of the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) stormed a prison in El Bordo using homemade missles and machineguns. After overpowering prison guards the guerrillas freed 92 prisoners and then fled. Prison officials did not state how many of the escaped convicts were FARC members. The FARC has repeatedly demanded the release of some 400 of its members being held in government prisons in exchange for the 350 police and soldiers it holds captive. To date the Colombian government has refused any exchange of prisoners.

Colombia: On February 20, 2000, Hernando Prada, a prisoner convicted of murder, pulled a knife and hijacked the plane that was transporting him to a different prison. Prada was being escorted by two armed prison guards. Prada forced the plane to land at a small airstrip in the town of E1 Tornillo and fled with one of the guards as hostage.

Dominican Republic: On March 18, 2000, a propane stove in La Victoria prison in Santo Domingo started a fire that killed 11 prisoners and injured 28 more. A prisoner's propane stove ignited a bed sheet in a former dining hall now used to house 370 prisoners. The prison was built to hold 800 prisoners in 1952 but now houses more than 3,000.

FL: On December 21, 1999, Josie Clark, 51, and Wendy Calderone, 32, hijacked a helicopter at gunpoint that they had chartered at the Keystone Heights airport. The women were apparently attempting to free Clark's husband, Ronald Clark, 31, a prisoner on death row at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford. Within three miles of the prison the women had second thoughts and ordered the pilot to return to the airport. The women were arrested later that evening and charged with armed kidnapping in state court and air piracy in federal court.

GA: On January 13, 2000, former Cherokee county jail guard Donald Ware was sentenced to one year probation and a $1,000 fine after pleading guilty to a federal civil rights misdemeanor. Ware stood on the back of Christopher Stone, a pretrial detainee, and sprayed him with pepper spray while Stone was handcuffed to a chair.

GA: On March 7, 2000, Fulton county (Atlanta) jail guard Patrick Brown, a 9 year employee, was arrested in a police sting operation where he took $3,000 to help a prisoner escape from the jail. Brown was turned in by the girlfriend of an unidentified prisoner. Brown was also charged with helping another prisoner successfully escape from the jail and bribery. Jail captain Zandra Williams was suspended as part of the investigation. Brown would allegedly alter prisoners' release dates in the jail computer to ensure their early release.

IL: State prison guards at 10 Illinois prisons tested positive for illegal drug use more often than prisoners at the same prisons. 2.5% of the 3,506 state prison guards randomly tested for illegal drug use had positive test results. At Danville, 5.5% of the tested guards had used illegal drugs, compared to 4.4% of the tested prisoners in Danville. State representative Cal Skinner called for more drug testing of prison staff, which is bitterly opposed by the guards' union. Roberta Lynch, the guard union's deputy director, said that testing more than the 20% of Illinois DOC employees now allowed under the current labor agreement would divert resources from prison understaffing and purported prisoner violence against guards. "For a state representative to be focused on the tiny minority of employees who use drugs rather than focusing on the overwhelming majority of employees... who confront these problems everyday... I just think it's a disgrace," Lynch said. Of course, the same logic applies to the resources prison officials direct at the tiny minority of prisoners who use illegal drugs.

NE: On February 24, 2000, Aaron Finney pleaded guilty to being a habitual criminal. He then disappeared from the courtroom.

NJ: On February 28, 2000, South Woods State Prison prisoner Sebastian Tortorici was charged with recruiting Zoltan Czikora, a guard at the prison, to hire a hit man to kill the ex girlfriend Tortorici was convicted and imprisoned for attempting to kill in 1998. An informant told the FBI about the plot, who then approached Czikora. Czikora used the Internet and a state Division of Motor Vehicles employee to locate the victim's home. Czikora then gave the FBI agent posing as a pitman a map and directions to the woman's home. When arrested by the FBI Czikora immediately agreed to tape a conversation with Tortorici in which he told Tortorici the murder had been carried out as planned. FBI agents then arrested Tortorici in the prison.

NJ: On March 9, 2000, Union county jail Lieutenant Richard Wixon, 51, was arrested and charged with sexual assault and official misconduct stemming from his sexual assault and groping of female prisoners at the jail. Prosecutors claim the attacks involve multiple victims and occurred between 1991 and 1999. Wixon would allegedly extend privileges to prisoners who agreed to his advances.

NJ: On September 10, 1999, Lagreta Moore, 38, a guard at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton was indicted in Mercer county superior court on official misconduct charges. Prosecutors claim Moore had a sexual relationship with a prisoner at the facility.

NY: On February 23, 2000, an 11 year guard at the Mount McGregor Correctional Facility, Robert Fifield, 35, pleaded guilty to felony charges of attempted cocaine possession. Fifield was arrested in a police sting operation set up by an unidentified prisoner at the facility. Fifield had agreed to sell and distribute cocaine in Warren county but police wouldn't say if that included the prison. Also arrested on bribery and misconduct charges was Mt. McGregor guard Gary LaBruzzo, 47. LaBruzzo is accused of taking $50 from a prisoner's relative to bring food and cigars into the prison for the prisoner.

NY: On March 9, 2000, former Broome county jail guard Marc Uvanni, 33, was given three years probation after he pleaded guilty to sodomizing two female prisoners at the jail. Uvanni was labeled a sex offender under New York's sex predator law and ordered to pay $1,155 in fines and court costs.

OH: On February 8, 2000, Cuyahoga probation officer Jeffrey Kellon, 33, was found guilty by a jury of raping a 15 year old girl on five separate occasions.

Peru: On February 28, 2000, 1,500 prisoners at the Lurigancho prison in Lima rioted to protest bad living conditions, slow court proceedings and repressive laws that affect prisoners. On February 29, 2000, police and army troops with helicopter gunships stormed the prison, killing at least one prisoner and injuring 47. Women prisoners at the Santa Monica prison in Lima had started a hungerstrike on February 24, 2000, on these issues. Police also stormed that prison on February 29. Prisoners across Peru have started hunger strikes, protests and riots on these issues.

UT: On March 23, 2000, Fred Van Der Veur, head of Utah's prison operations, announced his retirement effective immediately. Van Der Veur's retirement came after an anonymous letter informed senior prison officials that during a conference of the Utah Correctional Association in Park City, Van Der Veur had urinated from a hotel balcony rather than wait in line to use a restroom. Newspaper accounts depict Van Der Veur as a reformer who for 30 years worked to bring progressive reforms and programs to the Utah prison system.

VA: On February 18, 2000, Kevin Van Vleet, 27, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being convicted in Williamsburg-James City county circuit court of sexually molesting 5 and 7 year old brothers. Van Vleet, a guard at the Sussex II prison in Waverly at the time of his arrest, was convicted of aggravated sexual battery, indecent liberties with a child and assault and battery.

VA: On February 18, 2000, Richmond county jail guard Alvin Blake pleaded guilty in Richmond circuit court to two counts of drug trafficking. Blake was videotaped bringing heroin and marijuana into the jail after jail prisoners informed police of Blake's activities.

VT: On February 28, 2000, South Burlington jail guards Thomas Charnley, Scott Camley and Mark Leclair were charged in Franklin county court with assault. Prosecutors claim that the guards beat, kicked and stomped a handcuffed and shackled Edward Carrasquillo, a federal detainee being held at the jail on drug charges. The attack was in retaliation for Carrasquillo taking a prison nurse hostage and attacking Charnley with a sharpened toothbrush during the incident. A guard who witnessed the attack reported it to prosecutors. The accused deny the allegations.

WA: Announcing the imminent opening of the Stafford Creek Corrections Center, an Aberdeen newspaper told locals that numerous guard positions had to be filled. The newspaper stated that the minimum hiring requirement for prison guards was a valid driver's license, but a high school diploma or GED would be "helpful."

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