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News in Brief

Alabama: In August, 2003, 163 prisoners on death row at Holman Prison were allowed to have small fans to relieve the heat in their cells. The prison has no air conditioning. Fans had been allowed but were banned on death row in 1995. In 2002 the Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit over excessive heat on death row. The suit is pending. Claiming a shortage of funds, the Alabama Department of Corrections would not provide the fans nor would they allow prisoners to purchase their own. Bryan Stevenson, director of the Alabama Capital Representation Resource Center provided $2,635 to purchase 170 fans.

California: On April 27, 2003, two unidentified 15 year old boys caused a lockdown at the Folsom State Prison and two local jails. Imitating the MTV show Jackass, one of the boys wore an orange jumpsuit purchased at a flea market, jumped out of a car wearing handcuffs while the other youth video taped him. A passing motorist promptly alerted the forces of law and order who quickly mobilized tracking dogs, patrol cars and a helicopter and locked down the Folsom prison and the Placer and Sacramento county jails in order to locate the young filmmakers. Placer county sheriff's detective Jim Hudson said that while the stunt itself broke no law, the children were cited for obstructing a peace officer after they initially denied their involvement when questioned by police. With police in hot pursuit, the children got rid of the jump suit, returned home, erased the video and confessed to one of their fathers, who in turn notified police. Hudson said police may bill the children for the mobilization, claiming at least $5,000 was spent, mostly from the prison lockdown and helicopter search.

California: On August 12, 2003, Timothy Durel, 37, a married Sacramento county jail guard, was convicted by a local jury of one misdemeanor count of trespassing for entering and searching the home of Susan Pollata, a woman he was sexually attracted to but who had rebuffed his advances. Pollata has a civil rights suit pending against Durel and the county. Claiming to be on official business, Durel entered Pollata's home while she was at work and ordered her two young daughters to remain on a living room couch while he rummaged through Pollata's bedroom. The jury deadlocked on unlawful imprisonment charges. Durel also faces disciplinary action by the jail. News reports indicate Durel has a law degree. Presumably he can practice law if unemployable as a jail guard.

California: On July 30, 2003, Michael Anita, 30, was found stabbed to death in his Security Housing Unit cell at the United States Penitentiary in Atwater. Anita was identified by prison officials as a member of the Warriors Society, described by Bureau of Prisons officials as "an Indian prison gang." Anita had been serving a life sentence for killing a taxi driver in Arizona in 2000 on an Indian reservation. His was the first murder at Atwater since the prison opened on January 16, 2002. The FBI is investigating his murder.

Colorado: On August 20, 2003, a Denver federal grand jury indicted state prisoners Wendell Wardell Jr., 36, and Carl Pursley Jr., 35, for conspiring to defraud the United States, making false statements in tax returns and aiding and abetting the preparation of false tax returns. Prosecutors claim the prisoners filed false income tax returns in 1995, 1996 and 1997 seeking $70,000 in refunds, of which they actually obtained $20,000. Pursley is in prison for murder, Wardell for check forgery.

Connecticut: In late August, 2003, former Federal Correctional Institution-Danbury guard Anthony Tortorella, 41, was sentenced to ten months in prison for having sex with six female prisoners at the prison between 1998-2001 and for harboring an illegal alien. The alien was a female prisoner whom Tortorella had sex with, she was released, deported to her native Ecuador in 1999 and returned to the U.S. illegally where she then lived with Tortorella. Tortorella's sentence was relatively lenient because he had agreed to testify against fellow Danbury prison guard Richard Vasquez, 32, who was also charged with having sex with female prisoners at the facility. Vazquez pleaded guilty to having sex with prisoners midway through his jury trial. On October 9, 2003, Vazquez was sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Denmark: In August, 2003, five asylum seekers facing deportation to Algeria, Moldova and Ukraine escaped from the Sandholmlejren prison near Copenhagen by digging a 35 foot tunnel out of their concrete floored cell. Prison officials estimate it took the escapees eight months to dig the tunnel and remove eight tons of dirt in small plastic bags. News media claim this is the first tunnel escape from a prison in Danish history.

Florida: On September 26, 2003, John Brock, 42, a guard at the Moore Haven Correctional Facility in Moore Haven was arrested on two counts of sexual battery on a child and one count of lewd and lascivious exhibition of a child. Brock is also the former police chief of Zolfo Springs. MHCF is operated by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation.

Georgia: On August 14, 2003, an Atlanta grand jury indicted Michael Little, 35, Gary Barnes, 36, Ricky Davis, 41, and his wife, Angie Davis, 29, on charges of attempting to defraud the United States of $2.4 million by filing false income tax returns. The men are all prisoners at the Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup.

Georgia: On September 5, 2003, James Doctor, a 29 year Department of Corrections employee in charge of the Georgia DOC's Facilities Division, resigned after telling prison wardens at a meeting that he had no respect for Bud Black, a member of the state's Public Safety Board. And he also questioned Black's ethics. Black is embroiled in a corruption scandal for influence pedaling (see March, 2003, PLN) even though he himself is not accused of any wrongdoing.

Georgia: On September 8, 2003, Ben Rogozensky, 31, was attempting to escape from the Decatur jail by climbing into a ceiling crawl space over a bathroom. The attempt ended when Rogozensky fell through the ceiling into the chambers of judge J. Antonio DelCampo. Judge DelCampo was in court but a technician working on the judge's computer alerted police who recaptured Rogozensky without incident. Rogozensky was being arraigned on charges of obstructing police and giving false information.

Illinois: On August 20, 2003, Michael Baisden, a guard at the Corrections Corporation of America operated Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, was arrested on charges that he raped a female detainee on August 12, 2003. The facility is a converted warehouse which houses immigration detainees on contract for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Iraq: In August, 2003, staff sergeant David Perry, 36, a member of the 649th MP company based in San Luis Obispo, California, was killed by an exploding package in Ba Qubah. Perry had been employed as a prison guard at the Wasco State Prison in California before being deployed to Iraq as part of the occupation forces.

Japan: On August 23, 2003, 162 prisoners at the Fukuoka prison became ill from food poisoning.

Maine: On August 30, 2003, William Lunt, 40, a jail trusty in the Cumberland county jail was kicked and beaten by prisoners Michael McGraw, 21, and Stephen Beale, 38. Lunt was suspected by the prisoners of contaminating chili served by the jail on August 27, 2003, with feces. As soon as the contaminated meal was served, prisoners began to complain that "It smells like shit." Cumberland jail sheriff Mark Dion promised a full investigation, suspended all 14 jail trusties working in the jail kitchen and placed them in protective custody until the investigation is over. The chili in question has been sent to the state crime lab for DNA testing. Rion said there were instances of nausea and vomiting after the fecal contamination was discovered. Beale and McGraw were charged with simple assault and Portland health inspectors have since given the jail kitchen "high marks for cleanliness." For now, chili remains off the jail menu indefinitely.

Maryland: Kirk Bloodsworth, 43, was the first American freed from prison by DNA evidence in 1993 when he was exonerated after having spent nine years in prison and on death row after twice being convicted of the rape and murder of nine year old Dawn Hamilton. On September 5, 2003, prosecutors charged Kimberly Ruffner, 45, a prisoner serving time in Maryland since 1984 on rape and attempted murder charges, with Hamilton's murder. In the irony is not dead department, Bloodsworth and Ruffner had been friends in prison and lifted weights together. When told of Ruffner's indictment by prosecutors, Bloodsworth said "I'm flipping out. The answer was right below me and I never knew it." Bloodsworth's cell had been above Ruffner's in prison. Despite having twice before prosecuted and convicted the wrong man in Hamilton's death, prosecutors now claim they have the right person. While Bloodsworth was exonerated of Hamilton's murder in 1993, it was not until 2002 that a prosecutor asked police to enter the DNA evidence into their computer database in an attempt to locate the actual killer.

New York: In August, 2003, the state parole board announced it would release Kathy Boudin, 60, who has been imprisoned since a 1981 botched armored car robbery left two policemen and a security guard dead. At the time, Boudin was a member of the Weather Underground Organization, a clandestine anti imperialist group that carried out armed propaganda in the 1970's.

New York: On May 6, 2003, Debbie Austin, a guard at the federally run Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, and her roommate Shamika Clarke, were charged in federal court with stealing $1,600 sent to prisoners at the jail. The thefts were discovered when prisoner Don Saunders complained that a $500 money order he was sent was not credited to his jail trust account.

North Carolina: On August 4, 2003, Sylvia Wilkins, 44, a vocational computer instructor at the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation run Rivers Correctional Institution in Winton, was arrested and charged with four counts of soliciting first degree murder. Prosecutors claim Wilkins used an RCI prisoner to assist her in finding someone outside the prison to murder four of her co-workers and supervisors at RCI. The prisoner promptly reported the plot to prison officials who in turn alerted local, state and federal police who then investigated and arrested Wilkins.

Ohio: On August 11, 2003, Jimmy Long, 43, a guard at the Warren Correctional Institution in Lebanon was charged with three counts of sexual battery for having sex with a male prisoner convicted of murder. Prosecutors claim Long used his authority as a guard to coerce the prisoner into having sex with him. They also claim Long brought the prisoner alcohol, drugs and clothes, but Long was not charged with smuggling. Long resigned his prison job on July 2, 2003. In March, 2003, Warren guard Norman Dunson, 38, was sentenced to six months in prison for having sex with a robber at the men's prison. In 2000, Tamara Welton, 30, a laundry supervisor at the prison was also sentenced to six months in prison for having sex with a prisoner on five occasions.

Ohio: On June 25, 2003, a Marion county grand jury charged Gary Mount, 40, with nine counts of unlawful sexual contact with a minor for having vaginal sex with a 15 year old girl on multiple occasions over a nine day period in May-June, 2003, after plying her with liquor. Mount is employed as a guard at the North Central Correctional Institution (NCCI) in Marion.

NCCI guard Johnny Page was also indicted by a Marion county grand jury on August 13, 2003, on charges of kidnapping, beating, raping and orally sodomizing his live in girlfriend.

In June, 2003, Dennis Wilhelm, a guard at the Marion Correctional Institution in Marion, was charged in Marion county with four counts of rape, three counts of gross sexual imposition, two counts of unlawful sexual conduct and one count of unlawful sexual misconduct with a minor.

Pennsylvania: In August, 2003, Steve Lukowich, a former state prison guard, was convicted of raping an eight year old girl. Lukowich had faked his death to avoid prosecution on the child rape charges. At trial Lukowich testified he did so in order for his wife to get insurance money, not to avoid prosecution.

Pennsylvania: On August 13, 2003, Derrick Love, 33, a federal prison guard, shot and killed his wife Bridget in their North Philadelphia home and then shot and killed himself.

Pennsylvania: On August 2, 2003, Tammy Swittenberg-Edwards, 31, was arrested and charged with child endangerment after locking her three year old daughter in the trunk of her car while visiting her husband at the state prison in Huntingdon. The child was refused entry to the prison by prison officials because she was not on the prisoner's visiting list. Prison guards arrested Swittenberg-Edwards after hearing crying and yelling from the trunk of her car and found the child.

Pennsylvania: On September 16, 2003, Edward Calloway, 34, pleaded guilty to escaping from the federal prison camp in Loretto. On November 10, 2002, he and another unidentified prisoner left the camp to visit with their girlfriends in a nearby motel. The two prisoners were caught returning to the camp as they had attempted to schedule their tryst between counts.

Saudi Arabia: On September 15, 2003, a prison fire near Riyadh left 67 prisoners dead and 20 prisoners and three guards injured. News sources did not indicate the cause of the fire.

South Carolina: Claiming budget shortages, the Department of Corrections announced that effective August 13, 2003, it would cut visiting hours at all 29 state prisons by half, and four hours on Saturday and Sunday.

Texas: In September, 2003, Chambers county jail guard Gary Hatcher pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with a female prisoner and was sentenced to seven years probation, 400 hours of community service and must obtain his GED within a year of sentencing. As part of his sentence he is barred from working in law enforcement and also surrendered his paramedics license. Five female prisoners at the jail accused Hatcher of offering them medical attention, cigarettes and prescription drugs in exchange for sex. Even more disturbing than Hatcher's criminal activity is the fact that paramedics in Texas are not even required to have a GED.

Texas: On July 10, 2003, John Bates, 40, a prison sergeant at the Ramsey II unit in Rosharon was arrested on charges that he stabbed and killed his wife, Linda Bates, 41, during an argument. Linda had been employed as a prison psychologist by the University of Texas, Medical Branch which provides medical services to Texas prisons. John had been a guard since 1984.

Thailand: To ease tensions in the nation's massively overcrowded prison system, prison officials announced the start of a cable television station in the Bang Kwang Central Prison. Starting with a weekly, live one hour show of wardens discussing complaints with prisoners, it will feature movies, sports, news, music and entertainment. Designed to hold 100,000 prisoners, Thailand's 132 prisons hold more than 250,000.

Virginia: Disbarred attorney Thomas Smolka, 56, had a warrant issued for his arrest by federal judge Robert Payne after he failed to show up for his sentencing on August 28, 2003. Smolka had pleaded guilty to wire and mail fraud charges for bilking prisoner clients out of their money when he took payment for legal services he never performed. Judge Payne had already revoked Smolka's bail in June when Smolka refused to meet with probation officers to set his restitution payments. Prosecutors claim Smolka had not been forthcoming in identifying his victims. Smolka was declared a fugitive.

Virginia: In August, 2003, 55 prisoners at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland tested positive for tuberculosis. The state Department of Health later said none of the prisoners actually had tuberculosis despite the unusually high number of positive test results.

Washington: In June, 2003, Nate Caldwell was appointed to head the King County Community Corrections Division, to find alternatives to jail and provide drug treatment to prisoners. In 1962 Caldwell was convicted of manslaughter in a gang related killing in New York when he was 19. After he was released from prison in 1967, Caldwell pursued a career in the jail industry. He moved to Seattle in 1997 where he has been employed by the King County jail in Seattle.

Washington: On October 3, 2003, Dean Ream, 56, a guard at the Mason County Jail in Shelton, died after accidentally shooting himself in the abdomen and leg on September 30, 2003, while getting dressed and prepared to go to work at the jail. Reem had worked at the jail as a guard since 1979.

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