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News in Brief
Brazil : On July 8, 2001, 105 prisoners escaped from the enormous Carandiru Prison in Sao Paulo by digging a tunnel from the prison to the city's sewer system. The escape took place in mid-afternoon with the escaped prisoners disappearing into the streets of the city. The prison lies blocks from the city's downtown and holds more than 10,000 prisoners.
CA: On June 9, 2001, Karen Fobes, 43, a guard at the High Desert State Prison in Susanville, went into a coma after suffering multiple skull fractures. An unidentified prisoner, whom she was escorting, knocked her to the ground and stomped on her face. Two other guards suffered minor injuries when they were attacked by a different prisoner when they came to Fobes' aid. Media reports did not cite the reason for the attack on Fobes nor the fate of the prisoners, except that they were transferred to a different prison.
China: On May 29, 2001, at least 29 prisoners were executed for various crimes. Fifteen prisoners were executed in Liaoning, and 14 others were executed in Chongquing and Changde. The executions are part of the government's "strike hard" anti-crime campaign. A western diplomat counted 804 executions reported in the local media in the last three weeks of April, 2001, alone. China does not publicize the number of people it executes.
FL: Prison officials announced plans in June, 2001, to install a telephone hotline for prisoners to call to snitch on each other. Snitches would call the toll free number to give prison officials whatever information they have. The program is modeled on a similar one in Texas that Nancy Petkovsek, the director of the Texas program, credits with capturing 14 fugitives, solving six murders and stopping an escape. Petkovsek said retaliation fears are unfounded. "We haven't had an inmate get a scratch," she said.
FL: On June 26, 2001, Albert Cothran, 45, was found dead in a restraint chair in the Columbia county jail in Lakeland. An autopsy was planned to determine the cause of death. Cothran was placed in the restraint chair after yelling, screaming and kicking his cell door. Jail guards claim they checked on Cothran every 15 minutes, found him unconscious, administered CPR and took him to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Guatemala: On June 18, 2001, 78 prisoners escaped from the maximum security prison in Escuintla near Guatemala City in the country's biggest prison escape in recent years. The prisoners used grenades and assault rifles smuggled into the prison to escape by shooting one guard and one policeman, killing both. Several cars and a bus were later hijacked by the prisoners to make good their escape. Interior minister Byron Barrientos said the escapees had help from prison officials. "The escaping prisoners got through 8 doors and opened 24 locks without anyone stopping them," Barrientos said. Police arrested the warden, his assistant and 19 guards on suspicion that they were in on the escape or knew about it. One prisoner was killed by other prisoners before the escape and two more drowned crossing a river near the prison. Hundreds of police and soldiers launched a manhunt for the escapees and recaptured nine within hours of the breakout.
IN: In May, 2001, Allen county officials in Fort Wayne announced plans to fix a computer problem that has silenced the bracelets used to monitor 250 felons on home detention. Four outages have occurred in the past year, the longest lasting 32 days.
LA: On March 13, 2001, Derric Prater, 35, pleaded guilty to violating the rights of a 17 year-old handcuffed prisoner at the Jena Juvenile Justice Center by beating him. The victim suffered injuries to his right hand and arm. Prater was the head of security at the now closed prison which was operated by the private, for-profit, Wackenhut Corrections Corporation.
MA: On May 24, 2001, an unspecified number of prisoners in the dining hall of the Souza-Baranowski Corrections Center brawled with prison guards, leaving seven guards injured, including one with a fractured skull and another with a broken nose. Media reports did not state the reason for the rebellion.
MO: In November, 2000, Potosi Correctional Center prisoners Larry Schell and Mark Bridges beat up fellow prisoner Mark Christeson, a convicted child-killer. What is unusual is that Bridges and Schell wrote to the weekly Maries County Gazette , informing the paper of the attack and sending the paper copies of their disciplinary reports. The paper then printed their letters in May, 2001. Nichoel Snodgrass, the paper's managing editor, said a few readers criticized it but most applauded it. "A lot of people just basically think he got what he deserved, they're pretty tickled," Snodgrass said. Christeson is much less enthused and has been in protective custody since the attack.
MS: On May 24, 2001, Woodie Moody, 40, escaped from the Kemper-Neshoba Regional Correctional Facility in Dekalb. Moody later rode a stolen horse to a store to buy cigarettes and then disappeared into a swamp.
NJ: On June 22, 2001, a Mercer county jury in Freehold found death row prisoner Ambrose Harris innocent in the death of fellow death row prisoner Robert "Mudman" Simon. In 1999, Simon and Harris got into a fight in the death row recreation area and Harris wound up beating and stomping Simon to death. At trial, Harris successfully argued that he killed Simon in self-defense after Simon attacked him. Simon had previously killed another prisoner in a Pennsylvania prison. Asked why the case was prosecuted since Harris already faces the death penalty in another case, Mercer county prosecutor Daniel Giaquinto said: "Life is life no matter who it belongs to. As a society we cannot afford to judge crimes by the social status of their victims." Giaquinto said he thought he had proved his case and was disappointed by the verdict. "Simon's life could only be taken by god, or eventually by lethal injection. Obviously Harris is neither." Apparently Giaquinto equates prosecutors with god in making life and death decisions.
NJ: On April 5, 2001, Atlantic county announced it would pay $648,000 to 18 female jail guards who filed suit claiming they were sexually harassed and discriminated against because of their gender. The guards claimed the jail was a hostile work environment where they were subjected to foul language, derogatory remarks about their bodies and race, sexist graffiti, and were also given undesirable job assignments and were forced to work more overtime than male guards. The settlement came in the midst of a trial. The County agreed to remove reprimands from the plaintiffs' personnel files and help train them for promotions.
NM: On March 26, 2001, Rolando Garza and Frank Castillo, prisoners at the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility near Las Cruces, were found strangled to death in their cells in different housing pods in the prison. Prison officials attribute the deaths to a struggle among gangs over the prison drug trade. Both men were allegedly members of the same prison gang, although the name of this reputed gang was not stated in media reports.
NY: On June 13, 2001, Carlos Zufriatequi attempted to escape from the Rikers Island jail by prying open a bathroom floorboard. Zufriatequi spent four days hiding in the walls of various jail buildings, wedged between bricks and insulation. The search for Zufriatequi eventually involved 200 guards, bloodhounds and search dogs. The search team heard rustling inside a building's walls on June 17 and tore it open with sledgehammers to find the 5'2", 130 lb. Zufriatequi inside. Zufriatequi was treated for cuts and bruises. He had been in the jail awaiting trial on burglary charges.
NY: In May, 2001, Donald Barone, 48, a prison guard at Camp Georgetown, a minimum security state prison, was arrested and charged with criminal possession of stolen property and criminal impersonation. Barone is accused of stealing a $1,500 hot tub from Bob Googin's driveway. When he stole the hot tub, Barone forgot the filter cap. Googin left the filter cap outside his home hoping the thief would return. Barone duly returned to steal the filter cap and when Googin confronted him, he claimed he was a sheriff's deputy investigating the theft. Barone also worked part time as a guard at the Madison county jail. The stolen hot tub was found on Barone's patio.
OK: On May 25, 2001, Donald Manning, 30, was wrongly released from the Tulsa jail when he should have been held on a $45,000 bond to face marijuana charges. The jail is operated under contract by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America. Manning was rearrested nine days later. Since the Tulsa jail opened in August, 1999, 11 prisoners have been mistakenly released. Of those, CCA was responsible for 2 escapes and 4 mistaken releases, with county employees being responsible for the rest.
PA: On may 30, 2001, Delaware county jail guard Lisa Clark, 27, turned herself in to police on charges she sold jail prisoners cigarettes (which are banned in the jail), as well as alcohol and marijuana. In April, Clark was caught smuggling 13 packs of cigarettes into the jail. Clark was employed by the private Wackenhut Corrections Corporation which was contracted to run the jail.
SD: On June 12, 2001, 12 prisoners at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls were infracted for carrying out a "disturbance" (unspecified in media accounts) to protest a meal seating policy. Guards at the prison now assign mess hall seats to prisoners at mealtimes, preventing them from sitting where they choose. The policy was supposedly in response to fights and assaults in the dining hall.
TX: On June 16, 2001, 500 prisoners and 13 guards at the Garza East Transfer Unit in Beeville became ill from food poisoning after eating lunch. No one was hospitalized, with most of the injuries being nausea, cramps and diarrhea. "We suspect the canned chicken used in the casserole to be the culprit," said prison system spokesman Larry Todd.
VA: On May 2, 2001, Patrick Hawkins, 33, escaped from the Newport News City Farm work camp, went home and stabbed his wife before being recaptured two hours later. The spouse, unidentified in media reports, was in critical condition after the stabbing. Hawkins was charged with numerous crimes related to the escape and stabbing.
Venezuela: On June 20, 2001, 550 rioting prisoners at the Rodeo Prison in Miranda state agreed to release 215 friends and family members they had taken hostage three days earlier during visiting hours. The prisoners, most of whom are pretrial detainees, demanded that their court cases be processed promptly. In exchange for releasing the hostages, the government agreed to study the prisoners' complaints and not punish them for the uprising.
WA: On June 29, 2001, Oak Harbor DOC community corrections officer Anthony Hobson, 55, died in a tragic accident when a tree he was cutting at his Whidbey Island home hit him.
WA: On July 3, 2001, Michael Hoover, 51, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of tampering with evidence and official misconduct. The former state police crime lab chemist admitted to stealing large amounts of heroin from drug samples sent to the lab for testing, ostensibly to relieve his "back pain". Hoover had been a crime lab chemist for 25 years, first in California and for the past 11 years in Washington. Numerous drug prosecutions in northwest Washington have been impacted by Hoover's thievery. "I knew it was wrong, but I didn't think it was hurting anybody," Hoover said. Despite being videotaped stealing heroin from the state police lab, prosecutors declined to file more serious drug charges against Hoover, instead opting for the misdemeanor charges.
WA: On June 15, 2001, Clarence McCoy, 50, was arrested near Seattle on charges that he escaped from a state prison in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1978 after serving eight months of a 2 to10 year sentence after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the strangulation death of his wife, Donna. McCoy, also known as William Jensen, was arrested for driving alone in a carpool lane. New Mexico officials were later outraged that McCoy was released after posting a $75,000 bond.
WA: On June 12, 2001, David Pfaff pleaded guilty to one charge of first degree murder in Pierce county superior court in Tacoma. Pfaff was then sentenced to 342 years in prison. Pfaff admitted to killing fellow McNeil Island Corrections Center prisoner Michael Wagner, 34, with a shoestring in 1999 after Wagner refused to pay an unspecified debt. Both men were housed in the prison's "mental health unit" when the killing occurred. Prosecutors cited Pfaff's mental disabilities as the reason they did not seek the death penalty in this case, even though Pfaff has prior murder convictions.
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