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News in Brief

AK: In December 2000, Jeffrey Wiseman, 44, a guard at the Palmer Correctional Center in Palmer was charged with theft and fraudulent use of a credit card stemming from his theft of jail prisoners' credit cards and using them to buy goods. When confronted by police Wiseman confessed to the thefts.

AK: On December 31, 2000, a prison guard at the Ketchikan Correctional Facility shot and killed prisoner John Ebling, 38, who was trying to escape. Ebling had climbed two fences and was trying to leave the prison. After ignoring orders to stop and rubber bullets, tower guards opened fire with live bullets, killing him at the scene. Ebling was imprisoned on an attempted murder conviction in 1999.

AL: On January 31, 2001, six prisoners escaped from the maximum security St. Clair Springs prison. The men, three of whom were serving sentences of life without parole, escaped by climbing over two chain link fences topped with razor wire and using a wooden broom handle to lift, and crawl under, an electrified 5,000 volt "lethal fence." Proving once again that high tech measures are usually neutralized by low-tech countermeasures. On February 1, 2001, the escapees were recaptured in Tennessee. After his arrest, escapee James McClain was asked what they did while on escape. He replied "We just partied, drank and got highjust had a good time."

Brazil: On December 18, 2000, judge Francisco Pereira was sentenced to 35 years in prison and removed from the bench for ordering the 1997 murder of prosecutor Manoel Alves Pessoa. Pereira's bodyguard, Edmilson Pessoa Fontes (no relation to the deceased), carried out the murder. Fontes was a prisoner on work release at the time of the murder and he told police that Pereira had promised to help him with his legal problems if he killed Pessoa. Pereira and Pessoa had been enemies for years.

Brazil: On December 18, 2000, prisoners ended an uprising at the Taubate House of Custody and Psychiatric Treatment near Sao Paulo by releasing 22 hostages. The uprising left at least 9 people dead and started when a prisoner opened fire with a revolver during visiting hours, provoking a fight with other prisoners. In the confusion, 22 guards and visitors, including 4 children, were taken hostage. The hostages were released when prison officials agreed to transfer ten prisoners to other prisons.

Brazil: On December 26, 2000, 22 prisoners escaped from a maximum security prison in Hortolandia after six men on three motorcycles opened fire with machine guns on the prison's guard towers. The guards fled for cover allowing the prisoners to scale the prison walls with sheets and makeshift ladders where waiting vehicles carried them away. No one was injured in the escape.

Brazil: On December 27, 2000, riot police stormed a women's prison in Sao Paulo to end a 22-hour uprising by prisoners. Seven guards who had been taken hostage were freed. Two hostages suffered minor knife cuts, one was kicked in the face and a prisoner was injured while trying to climb over a razor wire fence. The rebellion started after a failed escape attempt when 470 women prisoners took the guards hostage to demand better food and the release of prisoners who have already served their sentences.

CA: On June 8, 2000, an unidentified female parolee sought a restraining order in Ventura county superior court against California Department of Corrections (CDC) parole officer Roger Webster, 50. The woman claims that Webster is her parole officer and has repeatedly forced her to have sex with him under threat of being returned to prison if she refused. She also claims Webster has threatened to kill her. The restraining order would forbid Webster from coming within several hundred feet of the parolee. In May, 2000, Webster was arrested on charges of "forced oral copulation under the color of authority" and having sex with a "confined consenting adult." In 1978 Webster was fired, but never prosecuted, by the Pacific Grove police department for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. He was then promptly hired by the CDC.

CT: On December 18, 2000, Donald Pace, 42, a lieutenant at the Cheshire Correctional Institution, was charged with third degree robbery, third degree assault and sixth degree larceny stemming from his shoplifting a camera, a Sony walkman and a Maglite flashlight from a local Big Kmart store. When confronted by store security guards Pace attempted to run away and struggled when caught. Pace was shoplifting while on duty, in uniform and driving a state DOC vehicle. He was on his supper break at the, prison when the incident occurred.

FL: In November 2000, Hillsborough county (Tampa) judge Florence Foster declined to send Paul Hamill, 41, to prison saying "He's a small, thin, white man with curly dark hair, and I suspect he would become a sexual target in the Florida state prison system. I've been told they can't protect people like that. I'm not going to send a man like that to a Florida state prison. That is cruel and unusual punishment." Instead, she sentenced Hamill to treatment center and two years probation as a sanction for violating his probation on a cocaine conviction. Prosecutors objected to the sentence but wouldn't discuss the case when contacted by the Tampa Tribune.

LA: On December 23, 2000, the Fifth circuit court of appeals reversed the murder conviction of renowned prison journalist Wilbert Rideau. Rideau, 58, has been imprisoned since 1961 for killing a woman and wounding two others in a botched bank robbery. The court held that the grand jury that indicted Rideau was racially biased because blacks were excluded from serving on it. The court instructed the state to reindict and retry Rideau or release him. The state has appealed the order. Since 1976 Rideau has edited The Angolite and codirected the Oscar nominated documentary The Farm: Angola, USA. Hopefully Rideau's long overdue release from prison takes place soon.

MA: On December 6, 2000, Suffolk county (Boston) jail guards Eric Donnelly, 33, and William Benson, 49, were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of beating jail detainee Leonard Gibson, 18, in 1999. Gibson has Tourette's syndrome, symptoms of the disease include involuntary physical movements and verbal outbursts. Donnelly and Benson accused Gibson of being a fake and told him they would "beat the Tourette's out of him." Both guards are free on bail while awaiting trial on civil rights charges.

MS: In January 2001, death row prisoners Willie Russell and Jimmy Mack used homemade zip guns to fire bullets at guards in Unit 32 (the control unit) of the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman. No one was injured in the shootings and prison officials are investigating how the prisoners got bullets. Russell was sentenced to death in 1989 for killing a prison guard at Parchman. Mack is awaiting execution for killing a homeowner in a burglary. Mack was sentenced to an additional 20 years in prison for manslaughter after he stabbed death row prisoner Donald Evans to death in 1999.

NH: In November 2000, Tom Alciere was elected to the state legislature as a Republican. Alciere has since caused controversy by making public statements that he loves it when police officers get killed and "it's unfortunate that cops do make it necessary (to kill them) when they're waging a war on drugs and I view cops as enemy officers." He also posted the comment on the internet that "Nobody will ever be safe until the last cop is dead." Alciere said he is angry about police misconduct and abuse. Alciere has, not surprisingly, come under intense pressure to resign. New Hampshire has no process to recall legislators.

NY: On January 10, 2001, Robert Konopka, 45, a pharmacist from Long Island who was jailed for violating a restraining order against a neighbor, was stomped to death by his cellmate, Derrick Smart, 19, who was awaiting trial on charges he beat his grandmother to death with a rubber mallet. Both men were detainees in the New York City Rikers Island jail. Konopka's death is the third at the jail in the last three years. The men were housed in the jail's "mental observation unit." Jail officials said they would reexamine their policy of housing violent and non-violent detainees together in the same cell.

OH: In December 2000, Dolly Wingo, 28, an employee at the London Correctional Institution was arrested when state police investigators found a pound of marijuana she was attempting to smuggle into the prison.

OH: On December 1, 2000, the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DORC) announced it was withholding $74,499 from its monthly payment to Civigenics, the Massachusetts based private prison company that operates the North Coast Correctional Treatment Facility in Grafton. The fine was imposed because Civigenics did not meet the minimum staffing level requirements called for in its 20 month, $14.9 million contract with Ohio. In essence, the DORC claims Civigenics is billing the state for "staff that were not employed." Civigenics would not comment on the issue.

OH: On December 22, 2001, Richard Hogue, Jr. 30, a Hamilton county jail guard at the Queensgate Correctional Facility was arrested and charged with three counts of pandering obscenity to a minor and two counts of using a minor in pornography. Hogue thought he was sending obscene material to a 13-year-old girl, who turned out to be an adult who reported him to police. A search of Hogue's home uncovered child pornography.

OH: On September 11, 2000, a cellblock fire at the Lebanon Correctional Institution resulted in 195 prisoners being evacuated and 2 guards were treated for smoke inhalation and another for minor injuries from a fall.

OK: On December 1, 2000, Thomas Weaver, 19, escaped from the Corrections Corporation of America run David Moss Criminal Justice Center in Tulsa by hiding in a food cart, being taken to the jail kitchen, then hiding in a trash cart which took him outside. Two CCA guards are being investigated for their role in the escape as they counted Weaver as being in his cell where Weaver had placed a dummy in his bed. Weaver was recaptured shortly after escaping when a jail guard saw a man in an orange jumpsuit running in a parking lot behind the jail. Weaver had been awaiting trial on armed robbery charges and now faces escape charges as well. CCA announced they would change their security procedures and would now search the outgoing trash carts.

OK: On January 9, 2001, Ronald Thomas, 38, escaped from a work detail at the state prison in Keyes. He drove a stolen prison van 150 miles to Garden City, Kansas. He was so lost that he called 911 from a convenience store and asked to be taken back to prison. Thomas was promptly arrested and now faces escape and vehicle theft charges.

PA: In early January 2001, federal prisoner Cheryl Koniewicz, 38, was charged with 7 counts of mail fraud. Prosecutors claim Koniewicz wrote love letters to more than 100 male penpals, telling them she loved them and would live with them when she got out of prison but that she needed money to pay fines. The penpals then allegedly sent her almost $57,000. Koniewicz is also alleged to have sent the men pictures of women other than herself.

Peru: At least five prisoners at the Socabaya prison died and 12 more were in critical condition after celebrating the New Year by binging on methyl alcohol.

Peru: On January 8, 2001, 800 prisoners rioted and seized control of the Sarita Colonia maximum security prison in Callao. The prisoners were protesting the use of military tribunals to try civilian's accused of "aggravated terrorism" and to protest lengthy sentences and the slow pace at which criminal cases are processed. After 12 hours of negotiations the prisoners surrendered after being assured they would not be retaliated against. Forty prisoners and four guards were injured during the uprising.

South Korea: On December 21, 2000, the Justice Ministry announced it would parole 1,100 prisoners on Christmas Eve.

TX: On December 15, 2000, Travis county (Austin) Community Justice Center lieutenant Nathaniel Jenkins, Sr., 48, was convicted of having consensual sex with a female jail prisoner. Jenkins still awaits trial on a similar charge involving a different prisoner. Jenkins was employed by the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, which ran the jail on contract for the county, when the assaults occurred.

VA: On December 21, 2000, Jeffrey Remington was sentenced to death for killing Brent Parker when both men were prisoners at the Augusta Correctional Center. Prisoner Michael Lenz had already been sentenced to death for his role in the killing. Parker was stabbed 68 times. At his trial, Lenz testified that he killed Parker to protect "the honor of Nordic gods" that he worshipped.

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