Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

News in Brief

Arizona: On March 20, 2003, the Shiprock Detention Center on the Navajo reservation was closed for failing to correct health code violations, chipped paint and overcrowding with prisoners sleeping on the jail's floors. The Navajo Office of Environmental Health inspected the 40 year old jail in January, 2003, and issued a notice of deficiencies with instructions that they be corrected immediately. The deficiencies were not corrected and the jail was closed.

Arkansas: In May, 2003, Craighead county sheriff Jack McCann announced his jail was overrun with an infestation of brown recluse spiders which have bitten at least 15 prisoners and defied extermination efforts. Bites by the spider can cause serious illness and death in some extreme cases. McCann said he was doing his best to eliminate the spiders.

California: On May 9, 2002, the FBI said it would investigate complaints that Orange County sheriff's deputy Jerome Preston, 47, pepper sprayed 35 county jail prisoners on March 5, 2003, after they refused to disclose who had spat on his driver's seat. When no one would confess to the heinous act, or finger the culprit, Preston pepper sprayed the inside of the bus and forced the prisoners back into it and demanded that they identify the mystery spitter. Preston relented after ten minutes when no one identified the spitter. Another jail guard reported the incident. On May 8, Preston was charged with a misdemeanor in superior court. Preston's attorney claims at most a policy violation occurred.

California: On May 9, 2003, San Mateo county judge Jonathan Karesh dismissed a jury verdict finding San Francisco county jail deputy Richard Segovia, 31, guilty of one misdemeanor count of assault for attacking jail prisoner George Varela with a broomstick. Disagreeing with the 12 jurors who convicted Segovia, Karesh ruled that Varela's testimony was not credible. Karesh is a former San Mateo county prosecutor. District attorney Jim Fox said he was "terribly disappointed" by Karesh's decision to overturn the jury's verdict. The attack occurred when Segovia was escorting Varela back from a court hearing and allegedly called him a "little old broad."

Florida: On April 23, 2003, Steven Whitsett, 30, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for armed escape and being a felon in possession of a firearm. In June, 2000, Whitsett escaped from the state's sexual predator treatment center in Indiantown in a helicopter. He was recaptured four hours later. Ironically, Whitsett was later found not to qualify as a Sexually Violent Predator and would have been freed but for the escape. Whitsett had previously plead no contest to lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor.

Florida: On May 7, 2003, Delvan Barnes, 20, a prisoner at the Brevard Correctional Institute died after being stabbed in the stomach by prisoner Vidal Santiago, 20. Barnes was serving a four year sentence for armed robbery and burglary. Santiago was serving a 30 year sentence for second degree murder.

Georgia: In March, 2003, Marlon Spearman, 34, a guard at the Jeff Davis county jail in Hazlehurst was charged with fondling a 30 year old female prisoner and demanding sex from her, which she refused. The prisoner told her mother of the incident and the mother reported it to sheriff Jimmy Boatright. Boatright was initially skeptical but reviewed the surveillance tape of the area of the jail where the assault allegedly occurred and the time frame for the incident was missing. "That's when I knew something was wrong," Boatright said.

Hawaii: On April 4, 2002, Albert Batalona, 27, Warren Elicker, 25, and David Scribner, 20, escaped from the maximum security Halawa Correctional Facility by removing a plumbing access panel from a cell wall, then breaking into a crawl space leading to the prison basement from where they escaped. Batalona, serving a sentence of life without parole for armed robbery and attempted murder, left a note in his cell vowing never to return to prison. Despite the vow, the three escapees were captured without incident on April 10 after a massive manhunt on the island. The three escapees were charged with escape.

Iowa: On April 13, 2003, Iowa State Penitentiary prisoner Warren Mundy, 33, died of a heart attack while being restrained by prison guards attempting to prevent Mundy from committing suicide. Deputy state medical examiner Dr. Francis Garritty said: "He was clearly on his way to committing suicide. He was doing back flips, landing on the top of his head and running headlong into both concrete walls headfirst. He had a huge, gaping laceration on the top of his head, but he didn't have a skull fracture and no brain hemorrhage. Although I think that was where he was headed." (Apparently, no pun intended.) The official cause of death for Mundy was natural causes, with a heart attack triggered by fluid in his lungs. Put another way, guards killed Mundy to save his life. Governor Tom Vilsack has ordered an investigation into Mundy's death.

Iowa: On April 17, 2003, Governor Tom Vilsack signed a reprieve releasing Terry Harrington, 44, from prison. Harrington had been imprisoned since he was convicted in 1977 of killing a retired policeman employed as a security guard. In February, 2003, the Iowa supreme court reversed Harrington's conviction based on new evidence showing prosecutors withheld police reports identifying another suspect as the killer and because the prosecution's star witness had recanted his testimony fingering Harrington as the killer. Pottawattamie county prosecutor Matthew Wilber said he intends to retry Harrington and said he was disappointed that Vilsack had intervened in the case. Upon his release from prison, Harrington thanked his lawyer, the parole board, Vilsack and Jesus.

New Hampshire: On March 20, 2003, the state DOC stopped providing released prisoners with gate money due to unexpected medical bills it was unable to pay. The DOC said it plans to resume giving out gate money on July 1 when the new fiscal year starts. The state spends approximately $21,000 a year on gate money. Prisoners who serve less than 90 days in prison get nothing upon release. Those who stay 91 to 269 days get $50-75 and those imprisoned for more than 270 days receive the princely sum of $100. Prisoners with more than $1,000 in their prison trust accounts at the time of their release do not get any gate money.

New Jersey: In April, 2003, Ralph Grier, 44, a former lieutenant at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Trenton was charged with having sex with two female prisoners, taking nude photos of the women and asking a third prisoner for sex. Grier was charged with three counts of second degree sexual assault and three counts of second degree official misconduct. Employed since 1982 at the prison, Grier was fired in March, 2002, by the DOC for the rapes at issue in the criminal case.

New York: On April 24, 2003, Brooklyn Superior court judge Gerald Garson, 70, was arraigned on state corruption charges for taking bribes from lawyers, ranging from cash, cigars and airline tickets, in return for ruling in their client's favor in divorce cases. Garson was caught on video discussing the bribes with a lawyer. He was charged with receiving an award for official misconduct. Five other people, including a lawyer and a court employee were also arrested. Garson is the sixth Brooklyn judge charged with corruption in the past year. A former corporate lawyer, Garson was the longtime treasurer of the Democratic party in Brooklyn until he was elected to the bench in 1997. His wife Robin Garson and cousin Michael Garson are also judges in Brooklyn.

Ohio: In April, 2003, the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation implemented a policy limiting indigent female prisoners to 16 sanitary napkins a month, ostensibly to save money. Prison reform group CURE-Ohio launched Operation Mad Pad and called on activists to send Ohio Governor Bob Taft sanitary napkins on May 1 to protest the policy. Prisoners needing additional sanitary pads would be required to buy them from the prison commissary.

South Carolina: To offset budget cuts, the state DOC has raised the cost of prisoner work crews from $6 a day per prisoner to $10 a day per prisoner. Prisoner workers are used by 49 state, city and county agencies for menial labor such as lawn work, picking up litter, carpeting and painting. State senator Mike Fair wants the DOC to make better use of prison slave labor. "In effect, we have a third world (nation) in there... and we probably should take advantage of that," Fair said.

Texas: An audit of the Montgomery county jail in Conroe disclosed that $15,736 was stolen from the Inmate Trust Fund in February, 2002, and the sheriff's department has been unable to identify the culprit. An additional $32,373 is missing from the same fund and cannot be accounted for, it is not known if it was stolen or is missing due to an accounting error. The district attorney's office and the Texas rangers are investigating the missing funds. The county can be held liable for the missing funds, which belong to individual prisoners awaiting trial or serving sentences in the jail.

Texas: In March, 2003, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice fired four guards who allowed Demitrius Holloway, 22, to escape from the Ferguson Unit Trusty Dormitory on February 9, 2003. Holloway is facing the death penalty for allegedly murdering Farmer Pearson, 57, and stealing his truck to escape the area and go visit his girlfriend. The guards were fired for counting Holloway as present in his bunk when in fact he had escaped. Holloway left clothes in his bed to disguise his escape. The escape was not noticed by guards until a prisoner complained that his tennis shoes were missing. Two unidentified sergeants were reduced in rank to guards.

Texas: On April 29, 2003, Cedric Carson was fired as a guard at the Lew Sterret Justice Center in Ft. Worth after being charged with sexually assaulting a 37 year old female jail prisoner on March 9, 2003. Carson was fired after DNA tests linked him to the assault.

Texas: On May 2, 2003, Paula Roach, 25, was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for kidnapping one month old Nancy Chavez on August 13, 2002, and then claiming Nancy was her baby. Roach pleaded guilty to the kidnapping in March, 2003, after her lawyer decided that there was no point in contesting the charges since the kidnapping had been caught on video and was nationally televised. Before embarking on her ill-fated kidnapping career, Roach had been employed as a prison guard at the state prison in Abilene before resigning in September, 2000.

Washington: In May, 2003, state supreme court justice Richard Sanders recused himself from a case involving the legality of the state's civil commitment law after Snohomish county prosecutor Aaron Fine requested it. Fine claimed that Justice Sanders visit to the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island which houses the state's "sexually violent predators" indicated he was not impartial. Justice Sanders dismissed the idea that he was biased in any way but agreed to recuse himself from the case to avoid even an appearance of impropriety.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login