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News in Brief

Alabama: On May 8, 2002, Mobile county sheriff Jack Tillman fired jail warden Kenneth Cooper for making false statements on his job application. Cooper claimed he had graduated from Valdosta State with a bachelor's degree in physical education. School records indicate he never graduated.

Alaska: On November 19, 2002, prison guard James Hesterberg, 48, and four unidentified state prisoners were killed on a highway near Seward when a tractor trailer truck crossed the center line and crashed into the prison van transporting the prisoners which was driven by Hesterberg.

Brazil: On November 11, 2002, prisoners at the Franco de Rocha prison in Sao Paulo rioted for 14 hours. Three guards who were taken hostage were freed unharmed. Ten prisoners were stabbed to death by other prisoners.

California: A record 38 prisoners killed themselves in California jails in 2001; up from 23 in 2000 and surpassing the previous record of 37 suicides in 1983. The most common means of suicide was strangulation. William Crout, deputy director of the state Board of Correction, attributed the increase in suicides to the fact that more mentally ill people are imprisoned rather than hospitalized.

California: On April 22, 2002, black and white prisoners at the Deuel Vocational Institution fought against each other in battles that left four prisoners and one guard injured. Guards fired 69 rounds in the prison yard and a dormitory to restore order. The prison was locked down after the incident.

California: On October 10, 2002, Solano County jail guard Armando Aguilar pleaded guilty to stealing $320,000 from the jail trust accounts of prisoners in a work release program between 1994 and 1999. Aguilar is due to be sentenced on January 10, 2003. No word on whether the prisoners whose money was stolen have been compensated.

California: On October 19, 2002, sixty prisoners in the control unit of the Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City began a hunger strike protesting the prison system's policy of classifying prisoners as gang members based on vague criteria and then indefinitely segregating them. The hunger-strike ended after a month.

Colorado: On October 18, 2002, prison sergeant Eric Autobee was killed in the kitchen of the Limon Correctional Facility. Prisoner Edward Montour confessed to the killing, saying he killed Autobee in order to be placed in protective custody after guards refused his requests for P.C. Montour was described in media reports as "a convicted baby killer." A female teacher was raped at the prison in January, 2002.

Costa Rica: On June 20, 2002, Oswaldo Martinez, a Panamanian pretrial detainee accused of killing judge Harmodio Mariscal during a robbery in Panama City was eaten by a crocodile after escaping from police in Costa Rica. Martinez had escaped from police and was swimming across the Terraba River to reenter Panama when eyewitnesses report he was attacked and eaten.

Florida: On October 25, 2002, Patricia Ann Pond, 42, an employee of Trinity Services Group, a company which contracts to provide food services at the St. Lucie County jail, was charged in state court with drug possession and introducing contraband to the jail. Pond admitted to police that she brought cocaine, heroin, tobacco, rolling papers and matches into the jail. When guards discovered marijuana in two cells, the prisoner occupants denied it was theirs and promptly fingered Pond as the culprit.

Lithuania: In November, 2002, a beauty contest broadcast from the nation's only women's prison in Panevezys swept television ratings, capturing two thirds of the country's viewers. The pageant was called the Miss Captivity pageant. Thirty nine of the prison's 360 prisoners applied and 8 were accepted. The winner, a 21 year old named Kristina, said she entered so her invalid mother, who is unable to travel to the prison to visit, could see her on television. She plans to spend her $1,150 in prize money on her daughter. Prison warden Kestuitis Slanciauskas approved the broadcast, saying that it helped normalize the prison environment. Laurinas Sheshkus, the producer of the show, said the idea started out as a joke to garner ratings.

Maryland: On November 17, 2002, Republican governor elect Robert Ehrlich promised to lift a moratorium on executions in the state as soon as he was sworn into office. Governor Parris Glendening had imposed a moratorium on executions to allow study of how the death penalty is applied in Maryland, since most of the people awaiting execution in the state are blacks convicted of killing whites. Ehrlich, fulfilling a campaign promise, promised to review death sentences individually.

Ohio: On October 14, 2002, a Warren county grand jury indicted Norma Dunson, 37, a guard at the Warren Correctional Institution on charges that she had sex twice between January, 1999, and June, 2000, with Cletus Hines, a prisoner convicted of armed robbery. Prosecutors claim they had sex in a room next to the gym. Ohio, like most states, criminalizes sex between prisoners and staff.

Oklahoma: On October 29, 2002, Thomas Hawkins, 23, was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading no contest to raping a female prisoner at the Turley Correctional Center, a halfway house where he was employed as a guard. The facility is owned by the private, for profit Avalon Correctional Services Company. Hawkins denied having sex with the prisoner and claimed that DNA evidence indicating otherwise had been taken from a facility bathroom which prisoners cleaned. Sentencing Judge Linda Morrissey told Hawkins she would consider reviewing his sentence in six months and converting it to probation.

Tanzania: On November 19, 2002, 19 prisoners suffocated to death while awaiting trial in the Mbarali police station's overcrowded jail.

Texas: In June, 2002, Brazosport chief probation officer Larry Jablecki told Chelsey Brown, 19, she could not breast feed her 8 month old son in the probation office-lobby where she was waiting while her husband saw his probation officer. A 1995 state law authorizes the breast feeding of children in any place where a mother is authorized to be. Jablecki's response: "My position is I don't care if there is a law. Nobody is going to do it in one of my offices in the manner she was displaying herself. Particularly when sex offenders are around."

Texas: In May, 2002, 12 female prisoners at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center were treated for chickenpox which had spread through the women's section of the jail.

Texas: On July 29, 2002, Johnny Joslin, 20, was shot and killed with a shotgun by Clayton Stoker, 21, a guard at the Johnson County jail. Stoker has been charged with first degree murder. The killing came after the two men argued in a bar over which one of them would go to heaven and which one would go to hell. No word from Joslin if there is an afterlife either.

Utah: On July 13, 2002, fourth district court judge Ray Harding Jr. was arrested after family members turned him in for drug use and domestic violence. A police search of his home found cocaine, heroin and barbiturates.

Virginia: On October 2, 2002, Travis May, 25, and Tobey Stephens, 24, attempted to escape from the Southampton Correctional Center in Capron by overpowering a guard, locking him in his office at 1:20 AM, and then using a homemade ladder to try to scale the inner perimeter fence of the prison. They were discovered by guards trying to climb the fence and in the ensuing struggle, May and an unidentified guard suffered minor injuries. May is serving a 165 year sentence for robbery and gun charges; Stephens is serving a 46 year sentence for murder and assault.

Virginia: On September 9, 2002, a Wise county grand jury indicted George Slaughter, 27, a prisoner at the Red Onion State Prison on charges of attempted capital murder, assault, attempted escape, possessing an escape tool and destroying state property. The charges stem from Slaughter's August 16, 2002, attempt to escape from a Wise county courtroom where he was being sentenced for making handcuff keys in prison. Slaughter hit a guard on the head, tried to take another guard's pistol and tried to flee the courtroom but was quickly apprehended. Slaughter was already serving an 85 year sentence for robbery, kidnapping, burglary and use of a firearm.

Washington: On November 14, 2002, Charles Lias Jr., 46, a guard at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading guilty in Snohomish County Superior Court to conspiracy to deliver heroin. Lias was arrested in a police sting operation after police posed as a prisoner's family member and gave Lias $2,000 to smuggle heroin into the prison. Lias denied that he was going to actually bring the heroin into the prison. Sentencing judge David Hulbert was skeptical. Prosecutors stated that they gave Lias a lenient plea bargain to avoid having to identify the prisoner informants who set Lias up and arranged the sting. Prison investigator Robert Hoover told the court that Lias had been suspected of bringing drugs into the prison for years.

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