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News in Brief

Afghanistan: In December, 2002, two prisoners being interrogated by US forces at the Bagram base near Kabul were beaten to death by their captors. Prisoners at the base are routinely kept naked, hooded, shackled and deprived of sleep for days on end while being beaten for good measure. The dead prisoners were identified as Mullah Habibuilah, no age given, and Dilawar, 22. The cause of death is listed as "blunt force injuries" and the deaths were classified as homicides by the Pentagon.

California: On February 24, 2003, Kimberly Lewis, 48, a black male guard at the Donovan State Prison in San Diego, was charged with ten counts of sexual assault for forcing an unidentified gay male prisoner to perform oral sex on two occasions in a prison laundry room. The first assault occurred in November, 2001, when Lewis took the victim into the laundry room, locked the door, and told him "You know what you gotta do," as he removed his belt and unzipped his jumpsuit. During the second assault three weeks later, the victim saved a mouthful of Lewis's semen in a towel, which he sent to his sister with a request that she contact a lawyer. Lewis is currently under psychiatric care and the 17 year CDC guard is also accused of making racist threats, allegedly saying "I'm going postal, kill some more Asians. I might just kill everyone."

Connecticut: On February 11, 2003, Ronald Barraza, 40, a guard at the Bridgeport Correctional Center pleaded guilty to one count of first degree sexual assault for raping a 10 year old girl over a three year period.

Connecticut: On March 20, 2003, David Nieves visited a cousin in a state prison. When he submitted his social security number to be approved as a visitor, prison officials discovered he was really David Gonzalez, who had escaped from a Connecticut prison 11 years earlier. Gonzalez confessed when he was confronted at the prison about his true identity. He was duly reimprisoned, and not as a visitor.

District of Columbia: On September 17, 2002, the Washington Post reported that a month earlier the DC jail had mistakenly released Khushal Khan, a student facing deportation who had threatened to kill President Bush following the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US. Khan was one of four prisoners mistakenly released from the jail last August. Khan and another prisoner turned themselves back in to authorities after being released.

Florida: On March 21, 2003, Shenard Dumas, 24, escaped from the Polk County jail in Bartow by wearing his cellmate's identification band and walking out of the jail when his cellmate posted a $50,000 bail bond. Dumas had been awaiting trial on kidnapping charges.

France: On March 12, 2003, six or seven gunmen liberated Antonio Ferrara, 30, from the maximum security prison in Fresnes, near Paris. Ferrara was being held as a suspect in at least 15 armored car robberies and one murder. At 4:30 AM Ferrara's liberators arrived outside the jail, set nearby cars on fire as a distraction, fired at guard towers with automatic weapons and used explosives to blast their way into the prison and a courtyard where Ferrara's cell was located. Prison officials said it appeared Ferrara blasted the bars out of his cell to meet his rescuers. Ferrara escaped and despite the pyrotechnics and gunfire, no one was injured. Media sources did not report if prison guards fired back at the attackers.

Illinois: On December 27, 2002, Joseph and Helen Koches, age 35 and 39, were found shot to death in a murder suicide at the gate-house of the Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro where they both worked as guards. Police did not disclose who did the shooting or why.

Kenya: On February 28, 2003, president Mwai Kibaki released 28 death sentenced prisoners and commuted the death sentences of another 195 prisoners to life in prison. The released prisoners had all spent between 15 and 20 years in prison. Home affairs minister Moody Awori said Kibaki's decision reflected new thinking from a new government. "The government feels there is no justification to keep prisoners, particularly if they have reformed, in prison that long," Awori said. Kibaki has said he wants to abolish the death penalty in Kenya, which has some 1,270 prisoners on death row. The country has not carried out any executions since 1987.

Massachusetts: On July 1, 2002, Albert Ford stabbed prison guard Joseph Andrade and took an unidentified nurse hostage. The incident lasted 15 minutes and occurred at MCI Cedar Junction in South Walpole.

Minnesota: In November, 2002, former state appeals court judge Roland Amundson, 53, was assaulted by a fellow prisoner at the state prison in Fairibault where he was serving a six year sentence for stealing money belonging to a retarded woman over whose trust fund he was guardian. Corrections commissioner Sheryl Ramstad Hvass admitted that while visiting Amundson at the Lino Lakes Facility where he was moved after the assault, that she had allowed him to speak to a prison doctor about his medical problems on her cell phone. She said "It would have been irresponsible and reckless for me to have ignored" the importance of the call. Presumably this speaks to the high quality medical care and attention all Minnesota prisoners receive.

Mississippi: On August 20, 2002, Lonnie Grisham, 58, a prisoner at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian was beaten to death. Police have charged his cellmate, Tyrone Wilson, 29, with the murder. The privately run prison is operated by Wackenhut and is designed to house mentally disabled prisoners.

Mississippi: On February 25, 2003, 29 prisoners at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian refused to return to their cells at the Wackenhut operated private prison. Prison guards used pepper spray to intimidate the prisoners and after two hours, had forced them back into their cells. The prisoners were transferred to the state run Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman shortly afterwards. Media reports gave no reason for the rebellion.

New Mexico: On July 17, 2002, Juan Mendez, 33, a prisoner at the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs, was charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with evidence stemming from the 1999 stabbing death of prisoner Robert Ortega. Ortega was stabbed 70 times. Charles Aragon pleaded guilty to second degree murder and has agreed to testify for prosecutors that Mendez and three other prisoners, Frankie Herrera, Michael Montoya and Robert Lovato, met to plan the murder. Aragon claims Mendez was the lookout while Herrera held Ortega down and Lovato stabbed him repeatedly. Aragon was present during the murder in Ortega's cell but, according to his testimony, he only watched. The prison is operated by the private company Wackenhut Corrections Corporation.

New Mexico: On June 20, 2002, Paul Payne, 28, was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of murdering fellow prisoner Richard Garcia, 47, in June, 1999. Payne and co-defendant John Price were allowed to enter Garcia's cell by an unnamed guard who was later removed from his job. Garcia was stabbed to death in his cell by Payne and Price who left the cell yelling "white power" and raising their fists, according to trial testimony. Garcia had six months remaining on his sentence before being stabbed 50 times. The murder occurred at the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs, which is operated by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation.

New York: On March 1, 2003, workers at the Rikers Island jail in New York city reported that a 1965 sketch of Jesus Christ on a cross was stolen from a locked display case in the lobby of the jail and replaced with a copy. A 1986 appraisal valued the sketch at $175,000. Dali gave the sketch to the jail warden after canceling a scheduled visit to the jail. It was inscribed "For the inmates dining room on Rikers Ysland (sic)." Jail officials are investigating the theft.

North Carolina: On January 22, 2003, Willie Forrest III, 33, was convicted by a Raleigh jury of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. He responded to the jury's verdict by punching his lawyer, George Hughes, twice and biting Wake County sheriffs deputy Lieutenant David Woodruff on the arm. The incident occurred in the courtroom in front of jurors. Forrest was convicted of holding his aunt hostage at knifepoint. He is still awaiting trial on kidnapping and assault on a law enforcement officer charges from that incident. He is also awaiting trial on murder, armed robbery and kidnapping charges in a neighboring county.

North Carolina: On January 20, 2003, James Marsh, 39, a former Chatham county sheriff's deputy was charged with assaulting jail prisoner Jeffrey Venable, 18, on June 25, 2002, by pulling him to the floor and stepping on him. Marsh had been an investigations lieutenant with the sheriff's department for 15 years. Marsh resigned on June 28 and now works for the state capitol police. Venable was handcuffed at the time of the attack and the unspecified charges against him were dropped two days alter.

North Carolina: On March 23, 2003, Special Forces master sergeant William Wright, 36, killed himself in his Fayetteville jail cell while awaiting trial on charges of murdering his wife shortly after returning from Afghanistan. Over a six week period in the summer of 2002 four soldiers at Ft. Bragg killed their wives. Three of the soldiers were assigned to Special Forces units. With Wright's death, all three of the Special Forces killers have committed suicide.

Pennsylvania: On November 25, 2002, Angeline McKellar, 40, a guard at the Delaware county jail was arrested and charged with witness intimidation and criminal conspiracy. McKellar allegedly told a female prisoner at the jail who was slated to testify against Maurice Day, 19, and Joseph Holmes, 29, in the murder trial of Chester policeman Michael Beverly, that if she testified, "You're going to end up like the bitch he slumped, but he's going to make you suffer." McKellar was apparently referring to the murder of Tracy Saunders, 33, who was killed shortly before she was supposed to testify against another member of the Boyle Street Boys, a drug gang to which Holmes and Day allegedly belong. The jail is run by Wackenhut Corrections corporation. While employed by Wackenhut McKellar racked up her own string of criminal convictions. In March, 1999, she was sentenced to ten years probation for a simple assault stemming from a bar fight. In September, 1999, she was sentenced to a year's probation after pleading guilty to welfare fraud. In 2001 she was sentenced to time served and community service for driving while intoxicated.

Texas: In November, 2002, an audit of the Cameron County sheriff's Department in Brownsville revealed at least $8,400 belonging to prisoners could not be accounted for. An investigation is underway to determine who, if anyone, stole the money. In December, 2002, federal agents initiated an investigation into claims that jail lieutenant Joel Zamora was soliciting sex with prisoners and offering a speedy release if they complied.

Texas: On January 29, 2003, Stanley Wiley, 38, a Texas Correctional Industries employee at the Clements Unit prison in Amarillo was killed after having his throat slashed in the prison shoe factory where he supervised prisoners. Prisoner Travis Runnels, 26, was charged with murder in Wiley's death.

Texas: On March 6, 2003, a former state attorney general Dan Morales was indicted in federal court in Austin on charges that he tried to steer millions of dollars in fees from the state's tobacco settlement to an attorney friend. Morales, who left office in 1999, was also charged with illegally using campaign contributions to pay for a house. Morales, who failed in a run for governor in 2002, denied any wrongdoing.

Texas: On November 1, 2002, Ft. Worth jurors sentenced James Gillie, 56, to fifteen years in prison for fondling a 13 year old girl. Gillie had been employed for some time in the booking section of the Tarrant county jail. Prosecutors claimed Gillie had molested the victim over a multi- year period.

Texas: On October 1, 2002, Byron Hinkle, 23, a guard at the Johnson County jail in Cleburne, gave prisoner Michael Jones a Gatorade bottle filled with liquid air freshner. Jones swallowed a mouthful before realizing it was not a refreshment. Jones was hospitalized and treated but suffered no serious injury. Hinkle was fired after seven months on the job. Prosecutors declined to file charges against him.

Texas: On October 11, 2002, Tarrant County jail guard Michael Price was arrested on charges of armed robbery, resisting arrest and unlawfully carrying a weapon. Price tried to steal a woman's purse in the town of Temple. The woman, 58, would not surrender her purse, so Price wrestled with her. A crowd then detained Price until police arrived to arrest him. Price resisted arrest.

Texas: On October 8, 2002, Ollie King, 30, and Joey Janice, 21, guards at the Tarrant County jail in Ft. Worth were arrested after trying to deliver five grams of marijuana to a jail prisoner. County sheriff Dee Anderson said visitors would tell prisoners that a package had been delivered at the jail visitation desk. The prisoner would tell Janice who worked as a guard inside the jail, who in turn would contact King who ran the jail's visiting desk. King would collect the drugs and money from visitors and Janice would later pick up the drugs and deliver them to the prisoner. He and King would split the money.

Texas: On September 10, 2002, Daniel Renner Jr., 42, an employee of Texas Correctional Industries in Gatesville was arrested on charges of intoxication manslaughter for drunk driving his pick up truck into a vehicle driven by Rosie Shaw, 86, killing Shaw.

United States: In February, 2003, the federal Bureau of Prisons prisoner population went over 165,000 becoming the largest prison system in the country, surpassing perennial leaders Texas and California. The BOP now has a budget of $4.6 billion, up from $330 million and 24,000 prisoners in 1980. The BOP has 102 prisons with 11 more under construction. The BOP expects its prisoner population to reach 190,000 by 2005.

Washington: On February 11, 2003, Lorraine Whitwam, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of introducing contraband in the third degree. While serving a sentence for methamphetamine possession in the Mason county jail in Shelton, Whitwam was released on a Christmas furlough and returned to the jail on December 24 with over a dozen hand-rolled cigarettes and matches concealed in her vagina. Tobacco is prohibited in the jail. Guards overheard Whitwam tell her cellmate in a holding cell that she had the tobacco. A search of the cell located it on a table.

Washington: On February 24, 2003, Dennis Fontenot, 50, a guard at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac was charged in Mason county superior court with one count of felony harassment and released on $25,000 bail. Fontenot is accused of threatening to kill his wife Pamela after an argument over a Jerry Springer tape. Mrs. Fontenot told police that in the past Dennis had shot the walls of their home with a gun, broken doors and damaged walls and she felt it was only a matter of time before he killed her. Mason county superior court judge Toni Sheldon allowed Fontenot to carry a firearm as part of his duties with the BOP even though firearms are normally prohibited to defendants accused of domestic violence.

Washington: On February 28, 2003, Washington State Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge, 58, was arrested in Seattle on charges of drunk driving and hit and run. The arrest occurred after Bridge hit a parked truck with her Mercedes Benz car and tried to leave the scene, but was boxed in by other motorists who saw her erratic driving. Justice Bridge had a blood alcohol level of 0.21, almost three times the legal limit of .08. A justice since 2000 when she was appointed to the state supreme court by governor Gary Locke, she ran unopposed in 2002 for a six year term. Her campaign theme was "enhancement of public trust and confidence in the judiciary." Justice Bridge issued a statement apologizing for drink driving and said she would reexamine her use of alcohol. She said she would continue on the state supreme court, where she typically rules in favor of police and prosecutors in criminal cases. On March 23, 2003, Justice Bridge received a deferred prosecution when she enrolled in a two year treatment program for alcoholics and faces no jail time or even a criminal conviction if she completes the treatment program.

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