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News in Brief

Brazil: On October 22, 2000, 420 prisoners at the Nelson Hungria prison in Contagem rioted and seized control of the prison to protest overcrowding and bad conditions: The prisoners took two policemen and 16 prison guards hostage.

CA: In July, 2000, Wackenhut Corrections Corp. announced it had received a 5 year, $140 million contract to house pretrial detainees for the U.S. Marshalls service at the Western Region Detention Facility in San Diego. The jail holds 616 prisoners. With this deal, Wackenhut now houses about 5,300 prisoners, INS and pretrial detainees for various federal agencies.

CA: Illustrating a "get soft" on rich criminals ten southern California cities now offer upscale jail cells for "non violent" prisoners willing and able to pay $76 a day for a private cell with cable TV, video library and exercise bike. Pasadena police chief Bernard Melekian says the luxury cells generate revenue and free up jail beds, presumably for the poor.

FL: In midOctober, 2000, the Gainesville police arrested Sylvia Akridge, 36, and her husband Alan, 36, on marijuana growing charges. Police found 52 marijuana plants in the couple's home as part of an elaborate growing operation. Sylvia Akridge is employed by theFlorida DOC as a "senior drug interdiction specialist". As part of her job, Akridge would search prisons for drugs. DOC spokeswoman Debbie Buchanan told media she didn't know if Akridge was supplying drugs to prisoners or just selling it to non prisoners. Buchanan claimed the arrests were not prison related.

FL: To get pedophiles off the streets for Halloween, state DOC officials in Pasco county ordered every child molester on parole or probation to report to the county commission auditorium in New Port Richey for mandatory "counseling" on October 31, 2000, between 6:30 and 9:30 PM. The DOC. plan was thwarted when defense attorney Bob Attridge filed a motion claiming the "therapy session" was in reality an illegal mass detention. The DOC contented itself by telling its convicted child rapists not to answer their doors on Halloween and to turn off their lights to discourage trick or treaters.

FL: In October, 2000, 131 prisoners at the Madison Correctional Institution staged a 4 hour work strike to protest bad food, unfair disciplinary hearings and tobacco limits. Prison officials used 100 guards to move the protestors to the Florida State Prison in Starke. The prisoners were charged with inciting a disturbance.

FL: On August 28, 2000, Pensacola prosecutor Curtis Golden announced he would not prosecute unidentified jail guards who beat Escambia county prisoner Mark Bailey to death on January 5, 1999. The week before, county judge David Ackerman had ruled that Bailey died as a result of excessive force by the jail guards who bet him. Golden claimed he couldn't determine when, where or how the fatal injuries occurred or who administered them. (It doesn't appear that he was trying too hard to find out either). Golden told media that civil court would be the proper forum for legal action as Bailey's family has already filed suit. Sheriff Jim Lowman was relieved by Golden's decision. "We've had several corrections officers in anxiety for months" he told media.

IA: On September 18, 2000, Marvin Stewart, 76, robbed a Council Bluffs bank of $100. Stewart, an exconvict, told tellers he would be in his car in the parking lot smoking a cigarette. Stewart told arresting officers he robbed the bank because he had no family and wanted to return to federal prison

IL: On October 28, 2000, DOC secretary Donald Snyder announced he would reimburse the state $6,888.26 for using DOC cars and planes to attend political fundraisers for various state politicians.

IL: In November, 2000, US Penitentiary Marion prisoner Joseph Tokash, 54, was convicted by a federal jury of two charges of possessing a weapon in prison. On two separate occasions, xray exams revealed that Tokash was concealing knives in his rectum. One was a 5 inch steel knife, the other was a 32 inch piece of heavy sharpened plastic. Tokash, serving a 15 year sentence as an armed career criminal, was previously sentenced to 37 months after being convicted of possessing a weapon at the federal penitentiary in Lompoc, California.

LA: In September, 2000, DOC secretary Richard Stalder announced that typewriters would be banned in all of the state's prisons, supposedly to "improve security."

NE: On September 23, 2000, at least nine Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) detainees being held in the Hall County jail in Grand Island damaged and exposed electrical wires and used them to start fires in the jail. Nine detainees, all of whom were awaiting deportation at the time, have been charged with first degree arson. The jail dormitory the prisoners were held in at the time had 45 prisoners in it when the fires were started. All 45 were hospitalized for treatment, mostly for smoke inhalation.

NJ: On September 23, 2000, an unidentified DOC prison guard shopping in the Cumberland Mall in Vineland called police to report an "escaped convict." The "escapee" turned out to be the manager for Spencer Gifts, a mall store. The manager was dressed in the store's orange "prisoner" costume to promote Halloween sales. The costume sells for $27.99. The New Jersey DOC then sent out national telexes alerting police to the costume and warning them not to be fooled. Spencer Gifts agreed to warn its customers that they ran some risk in wearing the costume. PLN reviewed the costume at The promo plug reads "This year, be the convict out on work release! This jumpsuit is sure to be a big hit out in population. One standard size fits most adults."

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