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News in Brief

California: On October 24, 2001, a riot at the Santa Clara County Jail in San Jose left 22 prisoners and one guard injured. Guards broke up a fight between four prisoners and placed them in holding cells. Twenty-four prisoners then barricaded themselves in a recreation room to demand the prisoners' release, during which time one guard was hit on the head with a pencil sharpener. Riot clad jail guards then stormed the room and "subdued" the prisoners. Apparently it was a one sided battle because no guards were injured while 22 of the 24 prisoners required medical treatment afterwards. Twelve prisoners were taken to a local hospital, and ten prisoners were treated by the jail's medical staff. This was the jail's most significant "incident" since 1989.

Colombia: On September 24, 2001, Jesus de los Reyes and Angel Lopez, leaders of the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN), a Marxist guerrilla group, escaped from the Barranquilla Modelo jail. News reports did not specify how the escape occurred.

Connecticut: On September 16, 2001, an unidentified 15-year-old boy, imprisoned while awaiting trial at the Mason Youth Institution in Cheshire, committed suicide by hanging himself with bed sheets. The boy was facing an unspecified class A felony charge and was being tried as an adult.

Florida: On September 28, 2001, Joseph Albury, a guard at the Metro West Detention Center in Miami was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and unlawful compensation after undercover police bribed him to smuggle drugs into the jail. Ruben Vazquez, another guard at the jail, was arrested the same day after he gave undercover police criminal history information on a person who allegedly stole drugs from a drug dealer. Vasquez was charged with unlawful compensation because he accepted a $300 bribe from police in exchange for the information.

Mexico: On October 2, 2001, several prisoners in Cereso Nogales II prison in Nogales used homemade knives to capture four guards, then released 120 prisoners who then used clubs and knives to battle guards. After five hours, state police stormed the prison and regained control of the unit and released the hostage guards. At least six prisoners were killed and 10 injured. Police deny killing any of the prisoners or firing their weapons, even though news reporters said they heard shots fired. Mexican police have a long history of murdering rebellious prisoners after they have been subdued.

Mexico: On September 5, 2001, seven armed prisoners escaped from the Mexicali State Prison by shooting their way out of the prison. Five prisoners made it to a get-away SUV outside the prison while two were recaptured outside the prison. The escape occurred while president Vicente Fox was in town on a state visit. Three of the escapees were accused of killing three homicide detectives who investigated drug trafficking homicides. The state of Baja California's prison director, Adan Mendez Castro, and the Mexicali warden, Eduardo Diaz de Leon, were arrested and detained for questioning by police trying to determine if they aided in the escape. A judge freed the two officials on September 10, holding that they were illegally detained. Mexican police and soldiers now patrol the outside of all three prisons to prevent escapes. Corruption is widespread in state prisons.

Missouri: In October 2001, Cape Girardeau jail guard Larry Nicholson, 44, was charged with misdemeanor counts of sexual misconduct and assault for allegedly "rubbing" a 20-year-old female prisoner during a pat down search at the jail. Nicholson was suspended without pay pending the outcome of the criminal charges.

Missouri : On July 17, 2001, Lynn Bell, 36, was mistakenly released from the Greene County jail in Springfield when guards confused him with another prisoner who had the same last name. In February 2001, Darrell Felton walked out of the jail by pretending to be his younger brother.

Missouri: Thousands of state prison guards have been working overtime without pay because the state can't afford to pay them. The DOC says that it owes guards $3.1 million in overtime pay for 2001, as of mid-September 2001. Some of that money will be paid through $780,000 the state receives from the federal government for imprisoning illegal immigrants.

New Jersey: On October 31, 2001, William Bell, 43, a guard at the juvenile medium security facility in Bordentown Township was indicted on charges of having sex with three female prisoners at the facility, ages 16 to 18. Bell was suspended in March after being charged.

New Mexico: To help with the November 6, 2001, execution of Terry Clark, a child killer who waived all appeals, the state prison system hired two unidentified executioners from Texas. New Mexico had not executed anyone since 1960, while Texas has executed 252 people since 1982 alone.

New York: On September 4, 2001, Anthony Lopez, 37, a guard at the Rikers Island Jail in New York City was arrested on charges of possessing child pornography after his wife turned him in to police. His wife, unnamed in media reports, was angry when Lopez threw her out of his car in the Bronx. The wife then went to a local police station and reported Lopez for possessing child pornography. Upon searching Lopez's home and computer, police found numerous videos and photos of children engaged in sex acts with other children and adults. Some videos also depicted a naked Lopez having sex with young boys. Police are trying to identify the children. Lopez was suspended by the city jail after his arrest.

New York: On September 5, 2001, Robert Jackson, a prisoner at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility stabbed fellow prisoner Christian Martinez with an 11" shank made from a mop wringer. Sergeant Jeff Haines tried to separate the two and was stabbed in the right arm by Jackson. Guard Stephen Murdza injured his shoulder while subduing Jackson. Martinez suffered lacerations over his left eye, scalp and hand while Jackson suffered a cut on his right hand. Prison officials announced that they would seek Jackson's criminal prosecution.

Ohio: In September 2001, auditors found the Cleveland city jail's accounting office in an abysmal state with over $16,000 in cash taken from unknown prisoners, as well as food stamps, checks and identification papers. The jail also owed $8,000 to the Society for the Blind, which runs the jail canteen. The audit by city hall employees found that the jail's staff lacked basic accounting skills, sometimes broke state law and lost track of millions of dollars in public money. City mayor Michael White said new accounting policies would be promptly instituted at the jail.

Ohio: On August 3, 2001, Stark County jail guard John Conley, 31, and his wife, Carmen, 28, were arrested on multiple charges involving sexual misconduct with minors. The grand jury indictment with the factual allegations underlying the charges was kept secret and not released to media. Conley was hired as a jail guard in 1999.

Oklahoma: On September 19, 2001, Edwin Vasquez, 47, a jail guard at David Moss Criminal Justice Center in Tulsa, run by the Corrections Corporation of America, pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to deliver methamphetamine to a jail prisoner for $40. Vazquez was arrested after a sting operation by undercover Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents. (See: Nov. 2001 PLN "News In Brief" for details). Vazquez is in protective custody awaiting sentencing.

Pennsylvania: On September 16, 2001, Michael Hart, a guard at the Schuylkill federal prison in Minersville, was suspended from duty for hanging a 15" by 8" U.S. flag in a window overlooking a recreation area in the prison. BOP officials contended the unauthorized flag display could be construed to promote violence toward the prison's Muslim population and obstruct views of prisoners. Hart, a former military policeman, says he hung the flag to show his support to the country, nation and military after the September 11 World Trade Canter attacks. The BOP was unimpressed and reassigned him to a prison camp.

South Carolina: The state DOC announced that effective January 1, 2002, it will charge cities and counties $5 a day, up from the current $3 a day, for the daily wage it charges to rent convict laborers. The fee pays for administrative costs, transportation and lunch.

Tennessee: On October 3, 2001, Marvin Borjas DiazPerez, 22, died of unexplained ailments while in INS custody at the CCA-run West Tennessee Detention Facility in Mason. DiazPerez was a Honduran citizen. The Honduran government claims his death is suspicious and has demanded an explanation. CCA said DiazPerez was exhibiting catatonic behavior at the jail and was taken to a hospital on September 27, then returned to the jail on October 1. An anonymous email sent to the Commercial Appeal , a Memphis newspaper, the day before DiazPerez's death warned that a prisoner was receiving inadequate medical care. Forty-five minutes after DiazPerez died, a second email alleged improprieties in prisoner care at the jail.

Tennessee: On September 28, 2001, Lyle Van Ulzen, 35, and Billy Coffelt, 47, used homemade knives to overpower four guards, steal their uniforms and escape. The prisoners were in Nashville for a court hearing on a 1998 escape from a state prison when they escaped this time. The guards were left handcuffed to a railing in a tunnel between the city jail and the courthouse. The men were recaptured a few blocks away and did not resist arrest. Van Ulzen is serving a 65-year sentence for two counts of second degree murder and assault; Coffelt is serving a life sentence for armed robbery, assault with intent to murder, and a 1992 escape.

Texas: On July 10, 2001, Tracey Smith, 33, was sentenced to 45 days in jail and five years probation after pleading guilty to possession of a dangerous drug in a correctional facility. Smith was arrested after being caught giving a bag of marijuana to a prisoner she was visiting at the T. Don Hutto State Jail in Taylor in November 2000.

Texas: On June 1, 2001, Williamson County jail guard Bruce Simon, 41, was arrested on charges of having sex with a female prisoner that he was "supervising" in the jail kitchen. He is charged with improper sexual activity with a person in custody. Another employee reported the incident.

Texas: On October 17, 2001, Ft. Worth probation officer Tonya Clemons, 31, shot her six-year-old stepson, Trey Garner, in a park and left him in critical condition. She pistol whipped the boy's nine-year-old brother, Timothy Garner Jr., but did not seriously injure him.

Texas: On September 12, 2001, Harold Laird, 26, escaped from the Stiles Unit prison in Beaumont by breaking through a light fixture in his cell and then out of the prison. [See: Dec. 2001, PLN "News In Brief" for details.] Laird was recaptured on September 14, 2001, while sleeping in a stolen pickup truck in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Laird admitted to police that he stole four vehicles while on the run. Laird escaped from the control unit section of the prison where he was serving a life sentence for murder.

Washington: In October 2001, the state supreme court ordered that former Thurston county deputy prosecutor Charles Bonet be sanctioned by the state bar. Bonet was found to have offered to drop criminal charges and reduce fines against Ivan Yoder if Yoder did not testify against Olympia lawyer Jason McCarty, who was on trial for drug charges at the time. Bonet had denied that a deal was made, but the Bar Association had found otherwise and recommended that he not be punished. The state supreme court held that Bonet needed to be sanctioned for witness tampering and remanded the case to the Bar.

Washington: On September 27, 2001, 18 prisoners playing soccer, one team composed of black prisoners and one of white prisoners, engaged in a melee at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe. Some prisoners suffered minor injuries and the prison was locked down for four days. The fight began when a spectator mouthed off to players. At the same time, an unidentified schizophrenic prisoner attempted to commit suicide after refusing to take medication.

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