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News in Brief:

CA: On January 16, 2001, Michael Bowers, 37, rammed a tractor-trailer into the state capitol where it burst into flames. Only Bowers was killed in the incident. An exconvict with numerous trips through local prisons and jails, Bowers had a history of mental illness.

CA: On February 16, 2001, Brice Johnsen, a guard at the Wasco State Prison, was arrested, at his divorce lawyer's office in Bakersfield on suspicion of possessing explosive devices and prohibited weapons. Bakersfield police searched Johnsen's home and found tear gas grenades, a 37mm tear gas launcher and tear gas rounds for it, which are all illegal to possess. Prison officials stated that items did not belong to the prison system. Police also found armor-piercing bullets, manuals on making bombs and silencers, and magazines for automatic weapons. Johnsen's estranged wife, Linda, 37, had reported the explosives in their home after Johnsen kicked her five-year-old son with his steel-toed prison boots. Johnsen is being investigated on child endangerment charges in that incident. The couple had been married six months.

CO: In January, 2001, federal court judge Daniel Sparr sentenced Joseph Torrez, 34, and Harry Pollard, 54, former Huerfano County Correctional Facility in Walsenburg to two years in federal prison after they pleaded guilty to beating prisoner Daniel Murphy. The Huerfano county jail is operated by Corrections Corporation of America, a private, for profit prison company. Murphy was handcuffed and shackled when he was beaten in March, 1998. The FBI launched an investigation after Murphy wrote them for help. The jail remains under investigation for other cases of brutality.

FL: On January 23, 2001, MiamiDade County jail guard Levette Vangates was convicted by a federal jury of obstructing justice and violating the civil rights of prisoner Novelette Hamilton by beating her on June 21, 1995, in a jail holding cell while Hamilton was being arraigned by video. The same jury acquitted guards Rena Symonette and Brigitta Mas in the beating.

FL: On January 24, 2001, Wayne Starkey, 35, was arrested and charged with burglary for climbing into a guard tower to break into the Volusia County Corrections Facility in Daytona Beach. Starkey told jail officials he had climbed into the tower to search for mail from his girlfriend, a prisoner at the jail. Starkey said her letters to him had not been delivered.

FL: In late January, 2001, Rodrigus Patten, 20, was charged with the murder of Dr. David Hoyer, 56, a psychiatrist on January 3, 2001. Hoyer was conducting a mental health evaluation of Patten when Patten attacked him. Patten told jail guards Hoyer had suffered a heart attack. Hoyer died in a hospital three days later. Patten was in jail awaiting trial on carjacking, kidnapping and robbery charges.

IN: On February 15, 2001, John Hester, 51, a foreman at the meat processing plant at the Correctional Industry Facility in Pendleton was charged in Madison county with seven counts of bribery stemming from smuggling tobacco into the prison to sell to prisoners in 1999. Hester, whose wife is also a guard at the prison, allegedly began selling tobacco to prisoners shortly after beginning to work there in 1997. In 1999 prisoner Bruce Strunk told prison investigators that Hester offered to sell him loose tobacco, which is banned in Indiana prisons, for $100 a can. Strunk worked in the prison's meat processing plant. According to Strunk and investigators, Hester would insert plastic bags filled with tobacco into the rectums of cows about to be slaughtered. Strunk, who worked on the "kill floor", would then retrieve the tobacco. The prison stopped slaughtering cows in 1999, shortly after the scheme was uncovered.

MA: On February 13, 2001, Suffolk House of Correction (Boston) guard Jonathan Cross agreed to a six-month suspension for spending 350 hours of his work time on a phone sex chat line. The phone bill was only $349.51 but sheriff officials said Cross should have been working.

NY: On August 30, 2000, Rikers Island jail guards Michael Connors, 36, Richard Gordon, 34, Grindl Hawkins, 36, and Danielle Rutledge, 31, were arrested on charges of smuggling heroin, cocaine and marijuana into the jail in exchange for bribes ranging from $75 to $800. Ollis Woods, 39, a cook at the jail, and prisoner Christopher Anderson., 23, were also arrested on drug smuggling and bribery charges.

NY: On November 15, 2000, Paul Cote, 34, a Westchester county jail guard in White Plains was arraigned on two counts of first-degree assault stemming from his assault on Zoran Teodorovic, 47, a mentally disabled, homeless jail prisoner. Teodorovic punched jail guard Mark Reimer, who had ordered him to clean his cell. Reimer subdued Teodorovic, at which point Cote began kicking and stomping him in the head. Teodorovic has been in a coma ever since. Reimer reported the attack and has cooperated with prosecutors. Teodorovic was in jail awaiting trial on criminal trespass charges after being unable to post $150 bail.

NY: On December 18, 2000, Clement Jones, 39, a jail guard at Rikers Island since 1987, was charged with attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault stemming from his shooting of Claude Andre, 26, four times with a .38 caliber revolver. Andre was a tenant in Jones' basement and three months in arrears on his rent. Jones was released on bail pending trial.

NY: On January 10, 2001, Steven Burnett, 33, a Seneca county jail guard was charged with 24 felony and misdemeanor counts stemming from the forcible rape of female jail prisoners. Prosecutors claim Bennett used force in raping some of the prisoners and gave tobacco to others in exchange for sex. Brunett's activities came to light after one victim reported her rape to jail officials, seven more victims came to light during the ensuing investigation. Burnett was suspended with pay pending termination.

NY: On February 3, 2001, Dana Shehee, a captain at the Rikers Island jail was eating at the Hong Kong Kitchen in Queens when two men robbed the restaurant and its patrons. Shehee used his pistol to shoot and kill one of the robbers, Steven Longuefosse, 23. The other robber escaped.

NY: As a publicity stunt, the sheriff of Chautauga county (who wasn't even named in media reports) announced jail prisoners will be dressed in zebra striped overalls, pink underwear and orange tennis shows. The sheriff has already banned basketball at the jail and said "It bothers me that jail isn't tougher."

OH: In January, 2001, the maximum security Toledo Correctional Institution opened in Toledo. Upon opening it was discovered that more than half the walls (i.e., all the living units) at the $97 million prison lacked insulation. The result is cells too cold for human habitation. R.W. Sidley Precasting, the maker of the walls, received $4 million for its work and will be required to fix it. The lack of insulation has delayed plans to move some 1,000 prisoners into the facility.

OH: In late January, 2001, Richard Love, 37, a guard at the Orient Correctional Institution, was charged in Circleville municipal court on one felony count of conveying drugs into a detention facility. Acting on a tip, investigators stopped Love as he was entering the prison on January 20, 2001. Love then gave them his lunch pail, which contained 121 grams of marijuana.

OH: On February 2, 2001, a van carrying three guards and two prisoners from the Warren Correctional Center to the Ohio State University Medical Center slid off a snow covered patch of I71 near Mt. Sterling. Prison guard Wayne Mitchell, 54, was killed in the crash. Guards Richard Lake, 40, and Douglas Scrivner were injured with broken bones. Prisoners Jacob Reeder, 57, and Thomas Neville, 60, were also injured. The wreck occurred after snowstorms hit the state.

OH: On February 5, 2001, Bruce Franken, 40, a pharmacist at the Orient Correctional Facility was charged in Franklin county municipal court with raping his girlfriend and stealing large quantities of drugs from the prison pharmacy. Franken's pharmacy license was suspended in September, 2000, for the theft of hundreds of doses of 34 medications including Viagra, steroids and antibiotics. (It is unclear why a prison pharmacy would stock Viagra.) His ex girlfriend said that she reported the rape "because he was obsessed with sex. He couldn't get enough of it, and it was driving his entire life." Franken was also a weightlifter and is accused of illegally using the steroids he stole to increase his body mass.

OH: On February 10, 2001, Thomas Moore, 49, a guard at the Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe was arrested at the prison and found to have a half-pound of marijuana and $1,000 in his possession. He was duly charged with possession of marijuana and conveying marijuana into a penal facility.

OR: On March 1, 2001, the Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla was locked down after an uprising on February 28, 2001, by prisoners. Two guards suffered minor injuries before locking themselves in an office. Substantial property damage to one housing unit occurred before guards retook the unit. No reason was given in the media for the uprising.

OR: On March 1, 2001, Lee Knoch, 23, escaped from the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario while serving a sentence of life without parole for murder. He was recaptured in Pocatello, Idaho, when a homeowner found him in his house and beat him with a shovel and held him until police arrived.

PA: On February 7, 2001, John Fye, 30, was choking on food in his cell in the Beaver County Jail in Beaver when two, publicly unidentified, jail guards entered his cell and joked about him. One guard said "let's see if he's still breathing." Fye was then kicked twice and given a "wedgie" by having his underwear pulled up with extreme force. Fye suffered a broken rib and a torn rectum in the assault. A jail nurse witnessed the attack and both guards were suspended with pay. Fye was being held in the jail on an arrest warrant for missing a traffic court case in Maryland.

Philippines: On December 10, 2000, in the midst of his impeachment trial, president Joseph Estrada commuted the death sentences of all 1,064 convicts awaiting execution. Estrada announced the commutations during a "mass for national enlightenment, reconciliation and peace" in Bacolod City. The sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. Some 200 political prisoners were also ordered released by Christmas.

SD: In January, 2001, South Dakota Penitentiary prisoner David Kropuenske, 28, was charged with attempted murder, weapons possession and aggravated assault stemming from his December 24, 2000, attack on an unidentified prison guard with a sharpened toothbrush. In separate charges, prisoners Christopher Hill, 24, Anthony Red Cloud, 26, and Lester Tail, 21, were charged in Minnehaha county with "sliming" charges of allegedly throwing feces and urine at prison guards.

TX: In February 2001, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials announced they were suspending publication of The Echo, a monthly newspaper published by Texas prisoners and censored by prison officials. The suspension is suppposed to be temporary and a result of security problems at the Huntsville prison where the paper was edited. Officials say the newspaper will resume publishing when it is moved to a different prison. The Echo has published monthly since 1928.

VA: On December 10, 2001, Darrel Spencer Jr., 22, a Blue Ridge Regional Jail employee was convicted of harassment and sentenced to serve six months in jail. In August, 2000, Spencer had emailed a female coworker a video of himself masturbating.

VA: On December 20, 2000, the state bar revoked the law license of Wise county prosecutor Lane B. Scott for using his position as prosecutor to coerce women accused of crimes into having sexual relationships with him. Scott served as county prosecutor from 1996 until 1998 when court reporter Rhonda Clay filed a motion to have felony drug charges against her dismissed by claiming Scott had offered to have the charges against her dismissed if she had sex with him. The Bar found that Scott's activities with other female defendants violated numerous rules of professional conduct.

VA: On January 24, 2001, state parole officer Arthur Brown Jr., 31, pleaded guilty to charges of twice raping a female parolee under his supervision. Virginia criminalizes sex between prisoners/probationers and state and local criminal justice employees. On December 7, 2000, the unidentified victim called police to report an oral sex encounter with Brown in her home. She provided police with semen she had collected from Brown and stored in her refrigerator. She also provided a tape recording of the encounter.

VA: In January, 2001, Red Onion State Prison guard Michael Carico, 24, pleaded guilty to stalking and threatening a woman who refused to date him. Carico pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charges and was sentenced to one day in jail and a year of probation. Carico called the woman more than 20 times asking her to date him. When that failed, he offered her money to have sex with him, starting with offers of $500, which increased, to $6,000. (Apparently prison guards in Virginia are well paid.) The woman reported the incidents to police. Six months earlier, Carico's brother Timothy pleaded guilty to murdering his girlfriend.

WA: On January 9, 2001, the Washington DOC announced it would close its dairy farm operation at the Monroe Correctional Complex and its farm at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Howard Yarbrough, head of the DOC's Correctional Industries program, noted that both farms have consistently lost money. Asked why they weren't closed earlier if they were money losers, Yarbrough responded, "It wasn't an issue to the extent that it is right now. We were looking to close it all along, but it was accentuated with the budget cut." Some 70 prisoners are currently employed at the MCC dairy farm. Yarbrough said it would take a year to completely close the dairy. Around the country prison farm operations have been closed because they are not economically viable, even using lowly paid prison slave labor.

WA: On February 16, 2001, Tracey Skinner, 27, a former guard at the Snohomish county jail in Everett, entered a guilty plea to one count of official misconduct stemming from his ordering a female jail prisoner to strip naked and shower in front of him. By pleading guilty Skinner agreed to undergo an evaluation for sexual deviancy, follow up with recommended treatment and have no contact with the victim. The charge would then be dropped. Skinner has since moved to Illinois.

WA: On February 28, 2001, Western Washington was rocked by a 6.8 earthquake. Robert Kleest escaped from the Pierce county (Tacoma) courthouse while being arraigned on child rape charges. Kleest was apparently the only prisoner to escape due to the earthquake. He was recaptured a few days later in Colorado on an informant's tip.

Yugoslavia: On November 7, 2000, prisoners at the Pozarevac, Nis and Sremska Mitrovica prisons rioted to protest bad conditions and to demand an amnesty as a result of the change in government when Slobodan Milosevic was overthrown. Numerous prison buildings were burned, shots fired by guards and female prisoners reported being raped by rioting male prisoners who broke into women's sections of the prisons.

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