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News in Brief
Arizona: In July, 2003, temperatures in Phoenix averaged 110 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the hottest July since records were first kept in 1896. Over 2,000 prisoners in the Maricopa county jail live year round in tents where temperatures reached 138 degrees. Jail prisoner James Zanzo said "It feels like you are in a furnace. It's inhumane." Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the malevolent buffoon who runs the jail, told prisoners: "It's 120 degrees in Iraq and the soldiers are living in tents and they didn't commit any crimes. So shut your mouths." In reality, American occupation forces in Iraq live in former government buildings, palaces, and barracks. Only prisoners are living in tents in Baghdad, see below.
Arkansas: On July 1, 2003, Danny Scarbrough, 29, escaped from the Cross County jail in Wynne by climbing over a wall topped with razor wire. In the process of escaping, Scarbrough cut himself and left his pants stuck in the razor wire. He had been awaiting trial on methamphetamine charges.
Brazil: On August 9, 2003, 84 prisoners escaped from a Rio de Janeiro prison through a 50 yard tunnel they dug.
California: In June, 2003, the National Park Service began selling boxed pieces of concrete from the cellblocks of the former federal prison on Alcatraz for $4.95 each. The project is designed as an alternative to moving tons of rubble off the island to landfills as well as to raise money to restore the jail cells and guard's quarters which are now a popular tourist attraction. Park staff said the concrete chunks are selling at a rate of 20-30 pieces a day. The souvenirs are also sold online at www.savetherock.org.
India: In March, 2003, Pratap Nayak, 28, was belatedly released from jail even though in 1994 he had been found innocent of the assault charges for which he had originally been jailed. Court and jail officials forgot to tell him he was free to leave. Nayak told media: "No one bothered about me, not even my family. They spoiled my life."
Iowa: In 2003 state Senator Ron Wieck sponsored "tort reform" legislation, vetoed by the governor, that would make it harder for injured plaintiffs to sue wrongdoers for damages. In July, 2003, it was revealed that Wieck is suing a dog owner whose dog bit him in the crotch while he was campaigning. Which illustrates that some people support "tort reform" only until they are injured.
Iran: On July 11, 2003, Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, died in a Tehran hospital after being beaten into a coma by Iranian police. Kazemi was arrested on June 23, 2003, and charged with espionage for taking photos of a prison in Tehran. Taking pictures of prisons in the Middle East appears to be a death defying act for journalists in the region. Four policemen were later charged with murder in her death.
Iraq: On August 16, 2003, six Iraqi prisoners were killed and 58 wounded when unknown parties fired mortar rounds into the American run Abu Gharib prison near Baghdad. The prison holds around 1,000 Iraqi prisoner who are housed in tents, just like prisoners in Arizona.
Iraq: On August 17, 2003, American occupation troops shot and killed Mazen Dana, 41, a Reuters television camera man who was filming the American run Abu Gharib prison near Baghdad. Reuters journalist Essam Nadim said Dana was filming a military convoy passing in front of the prison when American soldiers opened fire without warning and shot him in the chest, killing him on the spot. "He didn't do anything. He was filming," Nadim said.
Maryland: On Father's Day, 2003, prison guard Charlotte Leach and Captain Keith Butler delivered a baby boy born to a woman visiting a prisoner at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup. Leach and Butler received certificates of commendation for their actions. During a visit, the woman, who was not identified, told Leach she was going into labor. When Leach saw the woman's water had broken she knew an ambulance would not arrive in time. She and Butler delivered the baby on a table in the visitor's gatehouse. Both Leach and Butler have children and admitted to some experience in delivery rooms, "but not like this we didn't," Leach said. Mother and child were fine.
Maryland: On June 20, 2002, Marcie Betts, 22, a former guard at the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission claiming she was wrongly fired for exercising her first amendment rights. Betts was fired by the prison after nude photos of her appeared on the Internet and in an unidentified "adult magazine." She began working at the prison on January 15, 2003 and was fired two weeks later. Betts also noted the photos were taken before she was hired.
Maryland: On June 20, 2003, Caroline county jail guard Joseph Thompson, 25, was charged with having sex with female prisoners at the jail. Police also claim he exposed himself to two female prisoners and solicited sexual favors from them as well.
Maryland: On June 26, 2003, eight prisoners and a guard and a motorist suffered injuries when the motorist rear ended the van filled with Baltimore jail prisoners on a work detail. Hospital officials said none of the injuries were life threatening.
Massachusetts: On August 4, 2003, Boston immigration judge Thomas Ragno was placed on administrative leave for his behavior during a Ugandan woman's immigration hearing in June, 2003. The woman, named Jane, sought political asylum because her husband was killed and she was beaten, raped and tortured in Uganda. Ragno denied her bid for asylum and during the hearing said "Jane, come here. Me Tarzan." Ragno has been an immigration judge for over 30 years.
Massachusetts: On July 31, 2003, Lisa Rennie, 37, a former communications technician at the Federal Medical Center at Ft. Devens was sentenced to six months probation after pleading guilty to one count of giving contraband to a prisoner. Rennie had a sexual relationship with an unidentified prisoner at the facility and gave him a cell phone "in order to facilitate the relationship" in June, 2001. Interestingly, she was not charged with sexual misconduct since it is a crime for federal prison employees to indulge in sexual relations with prisoners.
Nebraska: On June 17, 2003, Larry Baker, 45, a guard at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution was arrested after a random search uncovered a pound of tobacco, rolling paper and $400 in cash in his lunch box. Since Nebraska banned tobacco products on February, 2002, it has disciplined 46 employees, mostly with warning letters. Prisoners have received 1,560 disciplinary infractions during the same period. Nebraska holds around 4,100 prisoners. Since the ban, hand rolled tobacco cigarettes sell for $3-12 each, factory made for $4-15 each. While tobacco is not illegal, bringing it into a state prison is a felony. Nebraska prison officials claim Baker is an isolated example of employee misconduct. However, they do not explain how more than a third of the state's prisoners obtained the tobacco for which they were punished if not through prison employees.
New York: On July 13, 2003, Westchester jail guards Charles Williams, 40, and Angelita Pulliam, 38, were arrested and charged with various counts of assault. After arguing all day, Pulliam used a knife to puncture a tire on Williams' car, then cut him and accidentally cut herself. Williams responded by pistol whipping her with his revolver. Both were suspended from their jail jobs pending the outcome of the criminal charges.
New York: On July 17, 2003, prisoner Richard Rodriquez, 31, was stabbed to death in the recreation yard of the Green Haven Correctional Facility in Stormville. The prison was locked down as prison officials and state police investigate.
New York: On June 12, 2003, Westchester county prosecutor Grant McClellan, 44, was sentenced to five years probation after pleading guilty to manslaughter for killing his 79 year old mother Lethea Bledsoe. Bledsoe, who suffered from Alzheimer's, was found dead on April 29, 2003, outside McClellan's home where she lived in squalor. Police investigated due to the condition of her body and the filthiness of her bedroom, which had locks on the outside. Orange county prosecutors, who handled the case to avoid a conflict of interest claim, had sought a prison sentence. McClellan was fired by Westchester county prosecutor Jeannine Pirro on April 30. Pirro's husband Albert, a real estate lawyer, was convicted of tax fraud in 2000
North Carolina: On May 22, 2003, a tractor trailer rear ended a van from the Tyrell Prison Work Farm in Columbia carrying ten prisoners on a work crew and a driver. Everyone in the crash was injured including four prisoners who suffered serious injuries. Two prisoners spent several hours trapped inside the van until they were cut out.
Pakistan: On July 27, 2003, 11 judges were taken hostage by prisoners while inspecting the Sialkot Penitentiary in Punjab province. The prisoners demanded a bus, weapons and safe passage in exchange for the judges. A police official said the prisoners threatened to kill the judges if commandos were brought in. Commandos were promptly brought in and in the ensuing rescue attempt and gun battle, three judges and all five prisoners were killed; three judges and a policeman were injured and the remainder were freed unharmed. Police stated the five hostage takers were serving sentences for kidnapping people for ransom.
Texas: On August 7, 2003, Isabella Wilson, 53, a 15 year employee at the federal Immigration Detention Center in Bayview was arrested on charges that she took $70,000 in bribes to help M&M Supply, a local company, win $720,000 in supply contracts for the facility by providing them with competitors' bid and price quote information. She was indicted on bribery and conspiracy charges.
Texas: On July 18, 2003, Texas prison guard John Bennett, 40, was killed in a vehicle accident near the Polunsky unit in Livingston. Bennett was riding in a prison van driven by Steven Gardner, 45, while they delivered condemned prisoner Danny Bible, 51, to death row at the prison. A pick up truck veered out of its lane and struck the prison vehicle head on, killing its driver as well. Bible was being taken to death row after being convicted the month before of the 1979 rape murder of a Houston woman. He had been paroled in 1993 after serving 9 years after pleading guilty to the 1984 killing of another woman. Bible and Gardner were hospitalized with minor injuries.
Texas: On July 24, 2003, La' Keisha Mackey, 22, gave birth to Ja'Kaira Herbert in her cell at the Tom Green County Jail in San Angelo after jail guards refused to provide her with medical attention or take her to a hospital. Mackey was arrested on July 22 on a probation violation of failing to report to her probation officer or perform community service after being convicted of possessing marijuana. She was placed in a holding cell at the jail. Eight months pregnant, she was denied a mattress or cot. When she told guards she was having contractions and needed to go to a hospital, she was ignored. "They didn't come in there until they heard the baby crying," she said. Mackey was on the toilet and had given birth to the baby.
Texas: On July 28, 2003, Bexar county jail guard Lou Cindy Ford, 39, was charged in federal court with accepting $800 from undercover police to deliver four ounces of methamphetamine to a jail prisoner. Ford took the drugs and money while in uniform at a local restaurant. Ford is employed by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation which runs the jail in San Antonio.
United States: In June, 2003, a report by the University of Nebraska disclosed that in 2002 alone over a dozen children had been raped or sexually abused by police while participating in the Boy Scouts Law Enforcement Explorers Program. Over 40,000 children participate in the program, which is designed to encourage careers in law enforcement.
Virginia: On July 17, 2003, Olivia Perkins, 28, was sentenced to 60 days in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of delivering drugs in prison. Perkins was charged with smuggling marijuana to her boyfriend concealed in bibles while he was imprisoned in the Christianburg jail. Perkins claimed he needed the marijuana to relieve his headaches.
Washington: On August 16, 2003, the Commission on Judicial Conduct reprimanded state supreme court justice Bobbe Bridge, 58, after she agreed to the terms of the reprimand, which stem from her February 28, 2003, arrest for drunk driving and hit and run. Bridge received a deferred criminal prosecution in exchange for entering a two year alcoholism treatment program. Bridge ran unopposed for reelection to the court in 2002. As part of the agreement, Bridge agreed to recuse herself from drunk driving and hit and run cases in the next two years if requested. This is ironic since Bridge has recently authored several court opinions on those topics and typically rules against criminal defendants.
Washington: On July 25, 2003, criminal defense attorney Theresa Olson, 44, agreed not to practice law for a year as part of a settlement with the Washington State bar Association. Olson must also complete a psychological evaluation and complete a year of probation before resuming courtroom practice. In August, 2002, Olson was seen by King county jail guards having sex with her client Sebastian Burns, 27, in an attorney client meeting room in the Seattle jail. Burns is awaiting trial on three counts of aggravated murder in the 1994 bludgeoning deaths of a Bellevue family. Olson resigned from her job at The Defender Association shortly afterwards. The Bar Association said the incident was a conflict of interest that harmed Burns by depriving him of objective counsel. Washington is among the states whose Bar Associations prohibit lawyers from having sex with their clients. The jail punished Burns by placing him in segregation for ten days, taking 90 days of good time credits (he faces life without parole if he is convicted) and he can only meet with lawyers or visitors under surveillance camera supervision. King County has since sued The Defender Association for breach of contract for damages caused by delays in Burns' trial and the cost of new counsel.
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