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News in Brief

Afghanistan: On October 10, 2003, 41 prisoners tunneled out of the Khandahar jail through a 30 foot tunnel. Some, but not all, the prisoners were members of the Taliban. Taliban commander Mullah Sabir told media that the group, which is fighting the American occupation of the country, paid prison officials $2,000 in bribes for each prisoner who escaped. Five prison employees were also missing after the escape. Prison officials would not comment.

Alabama: In November, 2003, the state Department of Corrections imposed a limit of $30 on the amount of money visitors to state prisons could bring with them to prisons. Prison vendors, many of whom are blind and receive government priority in contracts as a result, have complained that prison sales are off up to 60% as a result. Prison officials claim the limit was imposed because prison employees were spending too much time making change and dealing with money. Apparently a problem that cannot be resolved with the use of change machines or debit cards as it has been elsewhere in society.

Alaska: In October, 2003, Phillip Solomon, 44, was charged with allowing the escape of a Fort Yukon prisoner he had been hired to guard. Lacking funds to hire full time jail guards, police pay villagers $13 an hour to guard prisoners in the village holding cell until the prisoners are transported to permanent facilities. The unidentified prisoner was awaiting transport to Anchorage for violating his drunken driving manslaughter parole. Solomon is accused of unlocking the cell door on June 7, 2003, and allowing the prisoner to walk out and escape. The prisoner was recaptured six hours later.

Arkansas: In February, 2004, the Arkansas Department of Corrections issued a reprimand to an unidentified teacher at the Grimes Unit prison in Newport for using units of cocaine and methamphetamine to teach his prisoner students math skills. Questions included such brain twisters as: "Jim Bob is cooking crystal meth in his back yard&" The teacher then gave the formula for manufacturing methamphetamine and asked the math question "How many Sudaphedrine pills must he mix with 2.8 quarts of ammonia?" The teacher claimed he learned the methods and measurements from his prisoner students.

Brazil: On November 10, 2003, over 80 prisoners escaped from a prison in Sao Paulo through a 390 foot tunnel dug into the prison by outside accomplices. 48 prisoners were recaptured as they emerged from the tunnel and sewers. At least 8 prisoners died when the tunnel collapsed and some 30 were believed to have actually escaped with more possibly dead in the sewers and collapsed tunnel.

California: On November 26, 2003, David Travers, 46, a Soledad prisoner being taken to the Monterey County Courthouse in Salinas to stand trial for possessing drugs in prison, slipped from his restraints and escaped from his prison transport after pretending to be ill and getting the guards to stop the prison van. One of the guards shot the fleeing Travers twice, critically injuring him, before he was recaptured by police. Travers was already serving a sentence of 25 years to life after being three struck on 1995 convictions for indecent exposure and having prior convictions for child rape.

Connecticut: In December, 2003, the Department of Corrections placed prison guards Gary Piscottano, Randy Sabattini, Walter Scappini and Mark Vicenzo, on administrative leave while it investigated claims that the four guards are members of the Outlaws motorcycle club. Guard union officials denounced the allegations as baseless and note that no DOC policy prohibits membership or affiliation with motorcycle clubs or criminal enterprises.

Connecticut: On February 9, 2004, Gregory Webb, 41, a guard at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury pleaded guilty to charges that he had oral sex with a female prisoner at the facility and then lied to investigators about it. Ironically, news reports noted that Webb faced five years in prison on the perjury charge and one year in jail on the rape charge. The former being a crime against the government, the latter a crime against a prisoner.

England: Harold Shipman is a doctor who was convicted of killing 15 elderly patients and who is suspected of killing at least 200 more. Dubbed "Dr. Death" by the British media, Shipman is employed in the infirmary of the Frankland prison as an orderly. One anonymous prison staffer commented: "This man has spent his career secretly killing people. Just imagine some poor guy's face when he looks up from his wheelchair and sees Dr. Death pushing it."

Georgia: In October, 2003, Captain James Camp, an employee of the DeKalb county jail in Decatur, resigned after being accused of making obscene telephone calls to a jail nurse. Camp had previously been investigated for similar complaints.

Hawaii: On October 8, 2003, Myles Manlinguis, a guard at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility in Honolulu was indicted on witness intimidation charges for allegedly threatening a child prisoner at the facility in order to change his testimony. In September, 2003, guard Lia Olione was indicted for allegedly raping a female child imprisoned at the facility as well.

Louisiana: In August, 2003, Frank Bauer Jr. 68, was returned to Louisiana to face charges of aggravated rape and indecent behavior with a juvenile. He had escaped from the Rapides Parish jail in 1982 while awaiting trial on the charges. Bauer was arrested and returned after registering as a sex offender in Arizona.

Minnesota: In August, 2003, Benton county jail prisoner Ryan Dwight Mosher, 27, died after ingesting a fatal dose of "Splash" glass cleaner. The cleaner, which clearly states it is harmful and fatal if swallowed, was given to prisoners to clean their cells. No suicide note was found and jail officials were unable to determine if Mosher had committed suicide or was attempting to "get high" from the cleaner.

Nebraska: On September 21, 2003, an unidentified female case worker at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution near Lincoln was attacked by prisoner Terrance Johnson with a mop handle and weighted sock. She suffered severe head and facial injuries and was hospitalized for two days as a result.

New York: On November 17, 2003, James Sabatino, 27, was sentenced to 11 years in prison and ordered to pay $937,860.93 in restitution for scamming Nextel Communications out of 1,000 cell phones. At the time, Sabatino was a prisoner in the Westchester jail serving time for assaulting a federal officer. Sabatino used jail phones to perpetrate the scam.

New York: On November 26, 2003, Governor George Pataki vetoed, for the third year in a row, a bill that would prohibit prison privatization in New York. He cited technical and legal issues for the veto. Prison guard unions criticized the veto as the bill had passed both legislative chambers. Private prisons do not use unionized guards and pay their employees significantly less than public prisons do.

New York: On October 9, 2003, Jerome Reyes, 33, a guard at the New York City run Rikers Island jail was charged with raping a 33 year old female prisoner and then altering jail log books to cover up the attack on August 15, 2003.

Oklahoma: On October 16, 2003, former Lee County prosecutor William Huggins was sentenced to 8-10 months in prison after pleading guilty to dismissing charges against female defendants who succumbed to his sexual demands. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dismissed charges that Huggins had attempted to hire someone to kill his wife. "I did a lot of disgusting things. I abused the power of my office," Huggins said at sentencing.

Swaziland: Prisoners in this nation have demanded that prison officials end the practice of beating naked prisoners with chains, claiming the practice spreads AIDS. Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the world with over one third of the population estimated to be infected. "The chains get bloody, and this spreads AIDS when the next prisoner is beaten," said prisoner Boyce Gama. Correctional Services Commissioner Mnguni Simeland claimed to be unaware of the beatings.

Syria: On January 31, 2003, approximately 130 political prisoners were freed unexpectedly. Some have credited the American invasion of Iraq as pressuring Syria to improve its human rights record. Among the most vocal critics of that theory is Faris Mourad, 54, among the prisoners who was released and who had been imprisoned for 30 years for activities as a member of the Arab Communist Organization. "Where is American Democracy? Where are American human rights?" Mourad asked. Other observers note that American demands on Syria have been silent on the subject of human rights and prisoners, focusing instead on Syrian support for opponents of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Texas: In August, 2003, prisoners in the Tarrant County jail in Ft. Worth used a jail shoe lowered on a rope from a broken window on the seventh floor to bring narcotics and tobacco into the jail. The dangling shoe was spotted by a guard performing a security check and the jail was locked down for 12 hours while guards searched for contraband. None was recovered.

Texas: On December 16, 2003, Jamaal Landry, 20, a guard employed by the Bureau of Prisons at the Federal Correctional Institution in Beaumont was charged in federal court with bribery after agreeing to accept $3,000 in order to bring four pounds of marijuana into the prison to deliver to prisoners. Landry was arrested after meeting with an undercover policeman posing as the brother of a prisoner and accepting the money. Virginia: In August, 2003, news reports stated that DC sniper John Muhammad was subjected to shocks from a stun belt after he refused to participate in medical tests at the Prince William Hospital. Police officials would not discuss the incident. Muhammad's attorney, Peter Greenspun, said the shock left welts.

Virginia: On November 3, 2003, a Richmond Circuit Court grand jury indicted Michael Raynor, the head of the Richmond Office of Community Corrections, with one count of forging a public document. The indictment claims that Raynor had falsified a letter placed in the file of Peter Boone, a probationer supervised by the department, stating that Boone had completed treatment when in fact he had never begun treatment. While under the office's nominal supervision, Boone allegedly shot and killed Richmond police officer Douglas Wendel in July. At the time Boone was on probation for weapons offenses and was supposed to attend monthly meetings with his probation officer. Sources told the media that Boone did not attend any of the meetings and the probation officer did nothing.

Washington: Responding to the ongoing increase in sex offenders detained at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island after completing their criminal sentences, the state announced in November, 2003, that it was spending $875,000 to buy an additional ferry boat, the S.S. Goodtime, to take workers to and from the island prison. The SCC houses around 190 prisoners and those numbers are expected to double in the next two years as the state gets more room to house them after it opens a new facility for that purpose.

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