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News in Brief

Bolivia: On June 4, 2001, prisoners at the Palmasola jail became fed up with a gang of prisoners who called themselves the "smurfs" who beat, assaulted and extorted other prisoners and their visitors at the jail. Taking matters into their own hands, a mob of prisoners killed three and wounded three of the gang members. Armando Megamatsu Justianino, William Mendez and Bismarck Steven Guzman were beaten to death and Ciro Perez Cusi, Henry Garcia Huanca and William Oporto Miranda were severely beaten and stabbed. Since 1997, 15 prisoners have been killed by other prisoners at the jail. Government officials are at a loss to explain why the jail is so unsafe.

CA: On May 11, 2001, 270 prisoners at the High Desert State Prison brawled amongst themselves. According to Chuck Spirk, administrative assistant at the prison, fighting broke out among black, white and Hispanic prisoners and was quelled by 120 guards who fired 39 rounds of ammunition, pepper spray, tear gas, rubber and wooden projectiles to restore order. B Facility, where the brawl occurred, was placed on lockdown pending an investigation. Seven prisoners received knife wounds and other injuries. No staff were injured.

Chile: On May 26, 2001, 26 prisoners burned to death in a fire in the Iquique jail, 1,125 miles north of the capital of Santiago. The jail is severely overcrowded, holding 1,700 prisoners in space designed for 1,000. Police claim the fire was set by prisoners to protest conditions. Prisoners' relatives claim prisoners threw notes out of the prison saying the fire was accidentally caused by an electrical short circuit. The town fire chief said the fire was an accident but didn't specify the cause.

Chile: On May 29, 2001, legislation was enacted abolishing the death penalty and freeing up to 1,400 prisoners, mostly foreigners who would be deported and minor offenders. The legislation was part of the Catholic church's Jubilee 2000 campaign. The death penalty was replaced by a minimum 40 year prison term, or 20 years imprisonment if executive clemency is granted. The new law effectively commutes the death sentences of 57 Chileans awaiting execution. The last official execution occurred in 1985. During the U.S. backed dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, 197390, police and military forces murdered thousands of political opponents through extrajudicial executions.

Colombia: On June 3, 2001, guerrillas of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, the country's largest Marxist guerrilla group, reached an agreement with the government to release 42 sick policemen and soldiers it has been holding as prisoners of war in exchange for 15 FARC prisoners held in government prisons. The FARC holds more than 400 government policemen and soldiers that it has captured in battle. Until now the government has refused to an across the board prisoner exchange.

FL: On May 14, 2001, Hernando county jail guard Nikki Richardson, 23, was arrested and charged with being a principle to sexual activity with a minor. Prosecutors claim that on May 10, 2001, Richardson arranged for jail prisoner Demetrious Elliott, 26, to be released from his cell so he could have sex with an unidentified 17 year-old female prisoner. Richardson stood watch while the prisoners had sex in a shower and later asked the girl, "Was it good?" The prisoners arranged the tryst while on sick call at the jail by reading each others lips while separated by plexiglass. Elliott, awaiting trial on drug charges, has been charged with unlawful sexual activity with a minor, Richardson was charged as a principle.

Jail officials would not comment on why Richardson helped arrange the encounter. Jail officials learned of the tryst after Elliott bragged about it to other prisoners, who promptly informed the authorities. When confronted by a jail nurse, the 17 year-old, who was not charged, confessed all. The jail is operated by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America, which suspended Richardson.

GA: On April 2, 2001, Murray Jordan, 64, a producer for the reality television show Cops , was arrested on drunk driving charges by Atlanta police after making an illegal turn and failing a sobriety test. Jordan had a blood alcohol level of .136. Jordan, who works for Langley Productions, which produces Cops for the Fox Network, was in Atlanta to meet with police to set up a filming of the show.

IL: On June 6, 2001, an unidentified 29 year-old prisoner being held on traffic charges overpowered Vermilion county sheriff's deputy Myron Deckard, 72, and killed him. The prisoner was being taken to Vermilion county from a neighboring jail after he failed to appear in court on a traffic violation. The suspect is in custody again.

KY: On May 18, 2001, a lockdown at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville ended after an unidentified prisoner confessed to stabbing prisoners Lawrence Sharp, 47, and Jerry Hawes, 36. Both prisoners were treated for stab wounds and were expected to recover. No motive was given for the stabbings.

LA: On May 17, 2001, Louisiana State Penitentiary guard, Sergeant Janice Williams, 37, was arrested and charged with having sex with prisoner Damien Riley twice in a prison television room.

PA: On May 30, 2001, 3 guards and a counselor at the Bucks County Prison were charged with raping female prisoners at the jail. Captain William McMullen, 45, Sergeant Robert Gilmore, 38, and Jeffrey Budd, 43, are the guards charged with felony institutional sexual assault. Counselor Peter Doyle, 33, was also charged. Doyle had checked himself into a psychiatric facility a week before learning he would be charged. The four jail employees are accused of raping female prisoners, arranging sexual trysts with the prisoners or exchanging favors with prisoners who exposed themselves or performed sex acts. District attorney Diane Gibbons said the defendants "took advantage of their absolute physical, mental and emotional control over these inmates in order to coerce sexual favors."

MD: On May 1920, 2001, Craig Jackson, a 13 year prison guard in Hagerstown, was linked to the posting of over 400 racist stickers in York, Pennsylvania that said: "Earth's most endangered species, the white race." Jackson is the leader of the Hagerstown chapter of the National Alliance, a white supremist hate group. York has seen controversy in recent months when its mayor, a former cop, was charged with murdering a black woman during race riots 32 years ago. Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services spokesman George Brosan said the Department has been aware of Jackson's racist activities for years. "It's awful because we keep taking a shellacking on this and we can't do anything about it," Brosan said. Jackson has not had any job-related disciplinary problems.

Mexico: On May 17, 2001, over 20 prisoners at the Cerro Hueco jail in Chiapas sewed their lips shut to protest their continued imprisonment. The prisoners are supporters of the Zapatista rebels and over half the jail's prisoners have already been released as part of the rebel's conditions to hold ongoing peace talks with the government.

NY: On March 26, 2001, Christopher Simpson, 37, a prisoner in the Security Housing Unit of the Wende Correctional Facility, allegedly attacked a female prison guard, then took her baton and fought with the seven guards who responded to the scene. Simpson suffered minor injuries; the female guard was treated for head injuries; one guard had a possible broken wrist and ribs; another had a puncture wound on his arm and another had an elbow injury. State prison commissioner Glenn Goord said Simpson was likely to face criminal charges. No motive was given for the assault.

NY: On April 12, 2001, the Elmira Correctional Facility was locked down as guards used tear gas to quell a fight between 60 black and Hispanic prisoners living in I block, a housing unit at the prison. The fight initially started as an altercation between two prisoners. Three prisoners were treated for minor injuries. No guards were injured and 8 weapons were recovered.

TX: On May 19, 2001, Corpus Christi district judge J. Manuel Banales ordered 14 sex offenders on probation to post signs in front of their residences stating "Danger! Registered Sex Offender Lives Here" and to place bumper stickers on their vehicles that say "Danger! Registered Sex Offender in Vehicle!" One of the affected sex offenders, Nestor Gutierrez, 57, purportedly tried to kill himself on May 22, 2001, by taking five or six over the counter muscle relaxants. After the signs were posted Gutierrez was evicted from his apartment and quit his job. While Banales' order has gained national media attention, no one has questioned just how "dangerous" these sex offenders are if they were only convicted of misdemeanors and sentenced to probation. Presumably, if they were that dangerous they would have been imprisoned on felony charges.

WY: On May 25, 2001, Wyoming sent 72 prisoners to the Wallens Ridge "supermax" prison in Virginia to reduce overcrowding at the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins. While a new unit was opened in Rawlins, the state lacks the staff to operate it. Virginia holds 3,376 prisoners from other states.

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