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News in Brief

Alabama: Faced with a state budget crunch that had led the state parole board to discontinue Thursday hearings and to consider laying off staff, in July, 2002, governor Don Siegelman found $438,000 in state and federal money to give the parole board to hire four new hearing officers and resume Thursday hearings. Siegleman claims the new hearing officers will release non violent prisoners from prison and free space for the state to accept sentenced prisoners from county jails. The state parole board faces a budget shortfall for the fiscal year beginning in October, 2002, and the state has been fined $2.16 million to reimburse counties for having to house sentenced prisoners that have not been taken to state prisons within 30 days of being sentenced.

Arizona: In May, 2002, a jail prisoner at the Maricopa county jail in Phoenix informed police of an alleged plot by Mormon jail chaplain Robert Bradford, 65, Donald Cochran, 78, an unregistered sex offender and Danny Warner, 43, a "career criminal" who were allegedly plotting to abduct governor Jane Hull, stuff her into a trunk and not release her until she pardoned Cochran at which point they would kill her and bury her under a tree. For good measure, the trio were also purportedly plotting to pay a sniper (i.e., an undercover policeman), $100,000 to kill Maricopa county sheriff Joe Arpaio. Bradford was released on $12,300 bond. The three men were charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

California: On August 14, 2002, Martha Miranda, 41, was arraigned in Marin county superior court on four felony counts of false impersonation and one count of unauthorized communication with an inmate. While employed at the California Appellate Project, a legal aid group that represents indigent death sentenced prisons, prosecutors claim that she sent pornographic materials to five Hispanic prisoners on death row at San Quentin using legal mail. The false impersonation charges stem from Miranda allegedly impersonating an attorney to send the materials. Charges were filed after an investigation by prison officials.

Colorado: In July, 2002, state prison officials revealed they had fed prisoners at the Buena Vista Correctional Facility, Delta Correctional Facility and the Rifle Correctional Facility over 2,500 pounds of ground beef that had been recalled on June 30, 2002, due to a coli contamination. E coli is a bacterial disease caused by fecal contamination, it can be fatal. Even after the contamination was known, Buena Vista warden Tony Reid ordered the meat cooked and served. No one reported becoming ill as a result. DOC officials said "It was an erroneous decision to serve the recalled beef" and said they would issue a policy requiring the return of all food products subjected to a recall. No one was disciplined as a result of the incident.

D.C.: The Bureau of prisons announced in early July, 2002, that it would not renew its contracts with the Virginia Department of Corrections to house 760 male and 165 female prisoners in state facilities. The BOP had already moved 1,10 male prisoners from Virginia prisons when it made the announcement. BOP officials claim that as more BOP bed space becomes available there is a lesser need to rent beds in that state. The Virginia DOC has been dogged by complaints of brutality and human rights abuses since 1994 when Ron Angelone became head of the prison system.

Georgia: On July 19, 2002, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation concluded that Alvin Smith, 49, gouged his eyes out during a psychotic episode while confined to the Hazelhurst jail for wandering into traffic and knocking on doors late at night. Jail guards discovered Smith in his cell with his eyes plucked out on April 4, 2002, but no other injuries. Smith refused to tell investigators how he lost his eyes. Surgeons were able to replace one eye but not the vision in it.

Haiti: On August 3, 2002, gunmen drove a tractor through a wall at the prison in Gonaives, which allowed 159 prisoners to escape.

Louisiana: On July 28, 2002, Allen Laborde, 42, escaped from the Wade Correctional Center in Homer by hitting guard Dayton Finely on the head with a hammer and stealing his truck. Laborde, serving a life sentence for murder, crashed the truck and then slit his wrists and died. Laborde was found unconscious and bleeding an hour after his 7 AM escape.

Maryland: On May 10, 2002, six prisoners were injured in a brawl in the recreation yard of the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup. Some of the prisoners were armed with homemade weapons. Two prisoners were taken to a local hospital, the other four were treated at the prison infirmary.

Mexico: on August 20, 2002, 1,500 federal policemen and soldiers transferred 1,200 prisoners from Tijuana's La Mesa penitentiary to a new prison 50 miles away in Tecate. The Tijuana prison, built in 1957 to hold 2,500 prisoners, held over 6,000 at the time of the move. The move was seen as a step by the government to reclaim control of a prison long run by organized crime syndicates. Dozens of women and children lived in the prison with their imprisoned family members and wealthy prisoners had built over 400 houses inside the prison. Businesses selling food, videos and other items thrived in the prison. prison officials said they would destroy 900 improvised buildings inside the prison.

Minnesota: On June 14, 2002, Lino Lakes prisoner Bruce Fairbanks, 32, was sentenced to 40 years in prison after being convicted at a bench trial of beating and kidnapping a female prison guard at the prison on July 19, 2000. Fairbanks attacked the guard, knocked her unconscious and threatened to cut her throat with a disposable razor if guards did not release him from prison. Fairbanks was also sentenced to a concurrent 20 year sentence for first degree assault stemming from the attack and he was acquitted of attempted sexual misconduct. Fairbanks had initially been convicted of first degree rape in 1997 and was scheduled for release in 2004 had he not been convicted of assaulting.

New York: On April 3, 2002, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, 45, pleaded guilty to attempted murder charges in federal court for stabbing federal jail guard Louis Pepe in the eye with a sharpened comb in November, 2000. Prosecutors claim Salim was a founding member of Al Qaeda. Salim is awaiting trial on charges he conspired to blow up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Pepe suffered brain damage in the attack and is permanently disabled.

New York: On July 4, 2002, Rodney Littles, 37, a prisoner at the Attica Correctional Facility was shot and wounded in the buttocks by a tower guard using an AR15 rifle. Littles was in the process of stabbing another prisoner in the facility's yard and refused orders and ignored a warning shot to halt when he was shot. Littles, serving sentences for rape, sex abuse and robbery, did not have life threatening injuries and was expected to recover.

Pennsylvania: On August 1, 2002, former Lehigh county prison guard Jimmy Gross, 42, was sentenced to 1224 months in prison, a year of probation and a $1,000 fine after pleading guilty to smuggling marijuana into the jail for a prisoner in exchange for cash. Gross blamed a marijuana addiction for his travails.

Texas: On August 13, 2002, Paula Lynn Roach, 24, kidnapped month old Nancy Chavez from an Abilene Walmart parking lot. After a statewide alert, the baby was found and reunited with her parents. Roach had worked as a prison guard at the Robertson Unit prison in Abilene for 20 months before resigning in September, 2000.

Texas: On July 1, 2002, Benjamin Leal, 18, and Jose Mendoza, 29, broke out of the Cameron county jail after using plastic spoons to pick a lock and escape from the maximum security jail. Leal was recaptured on July 3, 2002.

Turkmenistan: On August 11, 2002, president Saparmurad Niyazov announced in amnesty to virtually all of the nation's 17,000 prisoners. By December 1, 2002, the only people who will remain imprisoned are repeat offenders, and those convicted of premeditated murder and crimes against the state. Since 1992 Niyazov has granted 24 amnesties, freeing a total of 112,000 prisoners.

Virginia: On April 30, 2002, George A. Jones, 31, a prison guard at the Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center was charged in federal court with one count of possessing child pornography. Postal investigators arrested Jones after he contacted agents posing as a 14 year old boy and asked them to send him nude photos, which they promptly did. Jones was suspended from his job as a prison guard pending the outcome of the charges against him.

Virginia: On July 22, 2002, Joseph Armstrong, 24, was charged with capital murder in Wise county for allegedly strangling his gay cellmate Kenneth Boothe, 29, at the Red Onion State Prison. Armstrong had repeatedly told prison officials he disliked homosexuals and did not want a gay cellmate and would cause "bodily harm" to any placed in his cell. Despite, or because of, those comments, Boothe was placed in Armstrong's cell. Boothe was serving a 17 year sentence for sexually assaulting a three year old girl while Armstrong was serving a 40 year sentence for murder and attempted robbery. Armstrong claimed Boothe had committed suicide by hanging himself in their cell.

Virginia: On July 24, 2002, a Smyth county grand jury indicted Michael Bryant, 38, a prisoner at the Marion Correctional Treatment Center for allegedly sexually assaulting a female guard at the facility. Bryant was charged with forcible sodomy, abduction with intent to defile, and attempted capital murder.

Washington: On July 18, 2002, Washington State Reformatory guard Charles Lias Jr., 46, was charged in Snohomish county superior court with one count of conspiracy to deliver heroin. Prison investigators received information from prisoner informants that Lias smuggled her in into the prison. Police set up a sting operation whereby Lias called a police woman posing as a prisoner's relative and arranged a meeting where he received an undisclosed quantity of heroin, $2,000 in cash and plastic coin tubes. Lias was arrested while leaving the rendezvous. He resigned his job the next day.

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