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News in Brief

Arkansas: On May 16, 2002, Barry Parrish, 38, pleaded guilty to walking out of the Lewisville county jail where he was imprisoned and working as a trusty, going to the home of jail guard George Turner on August 23, 2001, killing him with a pair of scissors and then stealing Turner's truck. Parrish was sentenced to life in prison.

Brazil: On December 8, 2002, developers demolished three of seven cell blocks of the notorious former Carandiru prison in Sao Paulo. A recreational park complex will be built on the site of what had been one of the world's largest and bloodiest prisons.

California: In December, 2002, former Los Angeles Rams football player Kevin McLain sued the San Bernardino county jail after he fell and broke his hip while awaiting trial. McLain was using a toilet when he slipped, grabbed a handicap rail, which came off the wall causing him to violently strike the toilet. McLain, who had hip and knee problems prior to this accident, is now confined to a wheelchair as a result of his injuries. McLain was convicted on various fraud charges in state and federal court for defrauding e-Bay users.

California: In January, 2003, Robert and Amy Fallais were married by Sacramento County judge Ron Tochterman. The two met while they were imprisoned in the Sacramento county jail and talked to each other through the plumbing in their cell toilets after removing the water. Love blossomed after they "met" and they decided to marry. Tochterman also sentenced Robert to 25 years to life in prison as a three strikes offender for evading arrest.

California: On December 28, 2002, a scuffle between prisoners and guards at the California State Prison-Sacramento in Folsom, left two guards and an unidentified number of prisoners injured. The incident occurred in an exercise yard when guards attempting to break up a fight between two prisoners were attacked by at least 16 prisoners. The prisoners were subdued with pepper spray, batons, rubber bullets and warning shots from assault rifles within three minutes. The prison was locked down as a result.

California: On January 2, 2003, a federal grand jury indicted Neil Leash, 46, on 11 counts of manufacturing child pornography. Leash, a former guard at the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, is accused of allowing two minors in his custody to engage in sex acts in order to produce videos and photos. Leash faces an additional 70 counts of lewd acts upon a child in state court.

Colorado: On December 30, 2002, 22 juvenile prisoners at the Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center rioted, causing some damage to the facility which is operated by Youth Track, a private, Denver based company. No injuries were reported, but some youths may face criminal charges for the incident. No reason was given for the uprising in media reports.

Florida: On October 21, 2002, Steven Whitsett, 30, pleaded no contest to escaping from the Martin Civil Commitment Center where he was being held as a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP). Whitsett escaped on June 5, 2000, when his friend Clifford Burkhart, 26, landed a helicopter in the facility [PLN, Nov. `00]. The helicopter crashed nearby and the duo was captured shortly afterwards after an intense manhunt. Later that year, a Broward county jury found Whitsett did not meet the definition of a SVP and ordered him released. Whitsett had completed a five year sentence for molesting a 15 year old boy. Whitsett pleaded no contest to the escape charge and plans to appeal by claiming he should not have been in the treatment center in the first place, an argument rejected by the trial court. On February 19, 2003, Burkhart was sentenced to four years in prison and ten years probation and was ordered to pay $114,600 to the owner of the helicopter and $27,800 to the Martin County Sheriff's Office for his role in the escape.

Georgia: On January 26, 2003, prisoners in the capital city of Tbilisi rioted to protest a search of the prison by police and interior ministry troops. Ten policemen and at least 21 prisoners were injured during the riot. Police confiscated two submachine guns, three grenades, knives, drugs and other contraband during the search.

Guatemala: On February 12, 2003, six prisoners at a prison in Guatemala City were decapitated in a riot between prison gangs. One of the dead was Obdulio Villanueva, a former sergeant major in the Guatemalan army who was convicted in 2001 of murdering Bishop Juan Gerardi in 1998, two days after Gerardi published a report documenting the U.S. backed military's role in murdering some 200,000 people between 1960-1996. Villanueva was killed a day before an appeals court reversed his conviction.

Illinois: On June 5, 2002, Doris Harper, a guard at the state's civil commitment center for sexually violent predators in Joliet was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to 8 counts of helping SVP Paul Runge escape from a van taking him to a court hearing in Chicago in October, 2000. Runge, who is accused of killing six women and an 11 year old girl, was recaptured shortly afterwards.

Iraq: On October 20, 2002, president Saddam Hussein declared an amnesty freeing all prisoners except those convicted of spying for the United States and Israel. The mass release is the first of its kind in the Middle East and affected many thousands of prisoners (exact numbers were not reported in the media). The Iraqi government stated it had declared the amnesty in gratitude for Hussein being elected to a new seven year term as president with 100% of the eligible vote the week before. The released prisoners include political dissidents and common criminals, many of whom had been given lengthy prison sentences under Hussein's "tough on crime" campaign in the early 1990's when United Nations sanctions sparked a crime wave in Iraq. Corporate media reports largely ignored the Iraqi government's mass execution of political prisoners, especially communist militants, in the 1990s.

Kansas: In October, 2002, the last prisoners were moved from the 128 year old United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) at Ft. Leavenworth, into a modern, $68 million maximum security prison designed to hold 500 men. The new facility currently holds 437 prisoners, six of whom are awaiting execution. The fate of the old prison, built in 1875, has not been decided. The prison holds military personnel convicted of violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice in all four branches of the military. Enlisted personnel sentenced to more than seven years imprisonment and all officers convicted of a crime are sent to the USDB. Enlisted personnel serving shorter sentences go to regional prisons around the country.

Kentucky: On October 15, 2002, Christy Bishop, a secretary at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex (LLCC) in Lagrange, filed a lawsuit claiming she was sexually assaulted by the prison medical director, Harold Crall, in 1999 when she underwent a physical exam required to be hired by the prison. Sonya Jemley, a social worker at the prison, had already filed a lawsuit claiming Crall raped her during a medical hiring exam at the prison. In 1994 Crall had his medical license suspended after he was found to engage in "inappropriate sexual contact with female patients." Crall had also sued his insurance carrier demanding disability payments after he was diagnosed as a "sex addict." In 1998 the state medical licensing board reinstated Crall's license as long as he did not perform obstetric or gynecological exams or treat female patients. The DOC promptly hired Crall as the medical director of the LLCC. After Jemley complained of the rape, Crall stopped examining female DOC employees even though the DOC purportedly investigated claims by both women and cleared Crall of all misconduct allegations.

Kenya: In October, 2002, Jon Njuguna escaped from prison and immediately went to the office of the nation's Commissioner of Prisons to complain that the country's 50,000 prisoners are starving to death because guards steal their food. Some 90 prisoners a month die from starvation, torture and illness. Njuguna first went to the offices of the country's largest newspaper. The prison system responded by trying to discredit him by disputing immaterial elements of his story (whether he was serving a seven year sentence or an 11 year sentence). "To his allegations of starvation and buggery, no response," noted The Economist of London.

Michigan: In February, 2003, Michigan Department of Corrections (DOC) officials disclosed that Michael Powell, a 22 year employee who heads the Prisoner Affairs Division, which responds to prisoner grievances, was being investigated for sending abusive e mails to Amiko Kensu, the wife of prisoner Temujin Kensu. Kensu was convicted of murder under the name Frederick Freeman and later changed his name in prison. Amiko operates a website claiming her husband's innocence. Beginning January 15, 2003, Powell sent the website e mails such as "I an only hope you encounter a *** like Freeman and that the *** murders a loved one of yours." "Freeman's right where he belongs and will take his last worthless breath there." Referring to Temujin's heart disease, "With any luck, Freeman's infirmities will catch up with him and kill his sorry *** before old age does." Amiko tracked Powell's screen name of "Greatlakesdiver" and recognized his name from prison correspondence he had sent her husband. In one e mail, Powell says: "I will celebrate the day Freeman croaks in prison and I will do all I can to ensure that it happens." Prison officials did not begin to investigate the matter until contacted by the Lansing State Journal.

New York: In February, 2003, the New York Department of Correctional Services and the Bureau of Prisons banned Warith Deen Umar, 58, an Islamic chaplain, from visiting state or federal prisons after he was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as making statements sympathetic to the 9-11 attackers. Specifically, "Even Muslims who say they are against terrorism secretly admire and applaud the hijackers." He is quoted as saying the hijackers should be honored as martyrs and criticizing U.S. foreign policy. Umar claims his comments were taken out of context. Umar retired as head Muslim chaplain for the DOCS in 2000 after 25 years of DOCS employment. Since then, he has visited New York state prisons as a volunteer and he held a $37 an hour contract as a chaplain at a federal prison. State and federal prison officials cited the Wall Street Journal story as the reason for the ban. The newspaper stands by the story.

North Carolina: On January 24, 2003, the Department of Corrections announced it has disciplined an unidentified guard and manager at the Union Correctional Center in Monroe for using four prisoners to help them with home improvement projects, including harvesting two pick up truck loads of slate from a prison quarry. DOC rules prohibit using prisoners and state resources for personal gain. The guard received a 5% pay cut. The manager was transferred and has since retired.

North Carolina: On May 16, 2002, Gregory Thomas, 37, a cafeteria manager at the North Carolina Institution for Women entered an Alford plea to three misdemeanor charges of attempted assault on a female. Prosecutors claim Thomas had sex with at least three female prisoners. Thomas was fined $300 and sentenced to 45 days in jail, which was suspended if he completes three years of probation. Thomas was charged after a state police investigation into sexual misconduct at the prison, the state's largest for women. Prison guard Wendell Borom, 36, was sentenced to a day in jail and 18 months probation after entered an Alford plea to three counts of sexual activity by a custodian.

Pennsylvania: On February 4, 2003, some two dozen prisoners on death row at the State Correctional Institution in Graterford ended a hunger strike after prison officials agreed to meet their demands by improving visiting hours and conditions to make them consistent with those at the state's other death row in Waynesburg. The hunger strike lasted four days. Other demands included contact visits, more out of cell time, access to congregate religious services and better sanitation.

Peru: on December 20, 2002, two prisoners were killed and 43 wounded in a fight between prisoners at the Lurigancho prison in Lima. Designed to hold 1,800 prisoners, Lurigancho currently holds over 7,000.

Rhode Island: On July 9, 2002, Dunn Beckett, 33, was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison after being convicted of possessing steroids and a sawed off shotgun. He remains free on bail while appealing his conviction. Until his conviction Beckett was a guard at the Donald Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls for 8 years. He was also president of the Rhode Island Private Correctional Officers Union, which represents employees of private prisons in the state. Beckett was employed by Cornell Corrections, which runs the Wyatt facility on contract for the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Texas: On August 6, 2002, Bernard Lado, 39, died of a head injury after fighting with Christopher Perales, 23, when both were prisoners in the Ft. Worth city jail. The death was ruled a homicide but no charges were filed because Perales fought in self defense after Lado attacked him. Lado fell after being punched, hit his head on the floor and died later in a hospital.

Texas: On January 2, 2003, 82 Arizona prisoners held at the Newton County Correctional Center under a contract with Correctional Services Corporation, rioted by flooding dormitories, breaking windows and television sets. CSC staff quelled the uprising by firing pepper spray into the dormitories. Since November, 2002, Arizona prisoners have been farmed out to the Newton County jail to cut costs and relieve overcrowding in Arizona prisons. Arizona prison system spokesman Mike Arra said no more prisoners would be transferred until an investigation of the incident was completed. "I doubt this will throw a wrench into the works with this private prison contract," Arra said. The riot caused an estimated $15,000 in damages.

Texas: On January 8, 2003, Charles White Jr., 43, a prisoner at the Connally Unit in Kenedy took an unidentified 26 year old female nurse hostage at knife-point for three hours before surrendering. The hostage was unharmed. White is serving a 99 year sentenced for armed robbery, attempted rape and assaulting a public servant.

Texas: On September 6, 2002, a Bowie county jury convicted Chris Hubbard, 20, of manslaughter and sentenced him to life in prison for killing Ronder Townsell, 40, his cellmate at the Telford Unit prison. Townsell was found dead of sepsis in the cell he shared with Hubbard on April 19, 2002. A coroner determined the sepsis was caused by broken ribs that formed an abscess. The jury acquitted Hubbard of capital murder charges and declined to impose the death penalty. Hubbard testified that he beat Townsell when the latter tried to sexually assault him. Townsell had been convicted of attempted rape and burglary. Hubbard was serving sentenced for murder, aggravated assault and aggravated robbery at the time of Townsell's death.

Wisconsin: On October 4, 2002, Thomas Deering, 28, escaped from the Waupun Correctional Institution by hiding on a Coca Cola truck that had made a delivery to the prison commissary where he worked. Deering then broke out of the truck, hitched a ride to a convenience store, called his attorney and told him he couldn't spend the rest of his life in prison where he was serving a 60 year sentence for burglary, kidnapping and rape. On December 1, 2002, Deering was captured in Los Angeles driving a Honda Accord with no license plates that was reported stolen in Illinois. Deering's escape is the first from Waupun since 1980 and the first from a maximum security prison in that state since 1990.

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