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News in Brief:

Alabama: On April 28, 2005, Mario Centobie, 39, was executed after waiving his appeals. In 1998, Centobie, a former Mississippi firefighter who was serving a 40 year sentence at Parchman Prison in Mississippi for kidnapping his estranged wife and 6 year old son, escaped from the prison while being taken to a court appearance. Over the course of that escape Centobie shot one police officer and killed another in separate incidents. Captured by police when he did not resist an arrest lest the people who had given him a ride be harmed, Centobie later escaped from the Etowah county jail after charmed jail guard Donna Hawkins into helping him escape. He remained free for two weeks before being caught after police traced the love letters he sent Hawkins. Hawkins was convicted of her role in the escape and served 18 months in prison.

Alabama: On May 25, 2005, Frankie Pruitt, 35, Alfred Tanner, 34, Christopher Robinson, 29; Jeremiah Davis, 17; Terry Kelly, 39 and Carlos McGlathery, 34, were charged with murdering fellow Madison county jail prisoner Ronald Pinchon, 19, by beating him to death three days earlier. Pinchon was in jail for violating work release rules, where he had been placed after violating his probation sentence for unauthorized use of a vehicle. Davis, Robinson and Kelly were in jail awaiting trial on capital murder charges before this incident. No motive is given for the attack.

Argentina: On April 19, 2005, Adolfo Scilingo, 58, a former Argentine navy officer was convicted by a human rights court in Spain after he admitted participating in two “death flights” where 30 drugged, naked political prisoners were thrown from airplanes into the ocean during the US backed military dictatorship in Argentina between 1976-83. Scilingo was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 640 years in prison, 21 years for each murdered prisoner and five years for torture and five for illegal detention. Under Spanish law prisoners can only serve 40 years in prison. Like most civilized countries, Spain has neither the death penalty nor life imprisonment.

California: On May 27, 2005, a 16 year old prisoner awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to second degree murder for beating a homeless man to death was charged with raping his 13 year old cellmate in the San Leandro jail. Prosecutors are requesting that he be tried as an adult and allege the rapes occurred over a two day period in the jail.

England: On March 3, 2005, Neil Brennan, 21, a prisoner serving a six year sentence for armed robbery, was freed by two armed men while he was being transported to a hospital by prison guards in a taxi. Brennan was being taken to the hospital for treatment of a self inflicted hand wound.

Florida: On May 13, 2005, Willie Yawn, 21, and Paul Unkle, 28, escaped from the Columbia County jail by breaking into a vent in their cell, breaking open a utility door, dropping 20 feet into the jail yard and throwing a blanket over razor wire on the perimeter fence. They were recaptured a day later outside of a convenience store in the area.

Indiana: On February 25, 2005, Terry Conover, 43, a guard at the Shelby county jail, was sentenced to four years in prison, with all but 60 days of the sentence suspended, after pleading guilty to trafficking with a prisoner and possession of a controlled substance. Conover had been bringing tobacco, which is banned at the jail, to a prisoner who was a male relative. The prisoner told jail officials he had given Conover Xanax pills in exchange for the tobacco. Conover was also sentenced to 46 months probation and nine months of house arrest.

Indiana: On November 24, 2005, Durand Huggins, 27, a guard employed by Corrections Corporation of America at the Marion County Jail II in Indianapolis, was arrested on charges of smuggling marijuana and tobacco into the jail for prisoners.

Louisiana: On May 18, 2005, Frank Bernath, 61, a disabled prisoner at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola hanged himself in his cell. Bernath had been serving a life sentence after being convicted of killing a sheriff’s deputy in 2001. Prior to his death Bernath had complained repeatedly of being mistreated by prison employees, including having his wheelchair taken away from him. Warden Burl Cain told media that Bernath killed himself because he was angry about having his wheelchair taken away from him.

Louisiana: While awaiting the results of his appeal stemming from the 2003 murder of a fan in a nightclub, rap singer Corey Miller, AKA C-Murder, recorded a 17 track CD titled The Truest S*** I Ever Said and filmed a music video from the confines of the Jefferson Parish jail in Gretna. The footage used in the music video Y’all Heard of Me shows Miller dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, gesturing with his hands while rapping. The footage was obtained from video shot by Court TV and Cox Communications, a cable TV company that produces a rap program called Phat Phat ‘N All That. Jefferson Parish sheriff Harry Lee says he never authorized the video or the CD, which was recorded by Miller’s attorney Ronald Rakosky, during visits to the jail. Rakosky said Miller had done nothing wrong and said the CD and video are a case of a wrongly accused man doing something positive with his time. “I know of no law or regulation that prohibited anything that we were doing,” he said. Miller’s conviction in the murder of Steve Thomas, 16, was reversed by a trial judge when it was discovered that prosecutors withheld evidence of a witness’s criminal history. Prosecutors have appealed. Rokosky is now allowed to enter the jail with only a pad and pen. Lee, for his part, wants to seize any profits form the CD. “They used my jail. I think I’m entitled to some money,” said Lee.

Louisiana: On May 25, 2005, Derrick Kilton, 23, and Samuel Carter, 18, were arrested and charged with introducing contraband into prison, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, heroin and marijuana and resisting arrest by flight. Kilton and Carter allegedly threw a package of drugs over the fence into the recreation yard of the Orleans Parish Prison and when sheriff’s deputies gave chase, ran their car into a metro bus, injuring four bus passengers.

Mexico: On May 13, 2005, Otto Herrera Garcia, 40, the alleged leader of a Guatemala based drug trafficking group who was awaiting extradition to the US, escaped from a Mexico City jail. Garcia was appealing the US extradition request within the Mexican court system when he escaped. Mexican police then arrested 45 jail employees, including the warden, for complicity in the escape.

Michigan: On March 1, 2005, the Department of Corrections announced it was no longer going to provide coffee for prisoners on its meal menus; instead, prisoners would only be able to purchase instant coffee from prison commissaries. Prison officials claim this will save $250,000 from its $1.79 billion dollar budget. This was the DOC’s contribution to resolving a $375 million deficit in the state’s general fund.

Myanmar: On December 12, 2004, the military junta announced it would summarily release 5,070 prisoners whose detentions were now deemed “irrelevant or improper.”

New Jersey: On February 23, 2005, eight guards at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton reported being overcome by fumes that leaked into a control booth at the prison. The source of the fumes was unknown.

New York: On May 12, 2005, Brooklyn judge Michael Garson was charged with stealing $163,000 from his 92 year old aunt. His cousin, former Brooklyn judge Gerald Garson is awaiting trial on unrelated bribery charges and is named in the indictment of participating in the looting of the elderly aunt’s estate.

North Carolina: In January, 2005, Jeffrey Manchester, 33, was caught living in an abandoned Circuit City store. On June 15, 2004, Manchester escaped from the Brown Creek Correctional Facility by clinging to the bottom of a truck. He lived in a 4 by 10 foot closet in the store where he had routed water and ate stolen baby food to survive. He is accused now of robbing an adjacent Toys “R” Us store at gunpoint. At the time of his escape Manchester was 4 years into a 45 year sentence for armed robbery.

Ohio: On February 16, 2005, Republican Ohio Supreme Court justice Terrence O’Donnell, 59, reported that $18,000 in cash had been stolen from his state car while he was being honored at a banquet. O’Donnell said the money was left over daily cash he had been saving every day of his adult life and had stuffed in a suit bag and placed in his car when it was stolen. O’Donnell stated he was going to deposit the money to use for repairs on a property he owned. O’Donnell told the Columbus Dispatch the money was his and not “ill gotten gain.” He conceded that it looked “terribly peculiar” for him to have that much cash.

Pennsylvania: On December 28, 2004, Aquil Bond, 26, and another prisoner at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center, were attacked and stabbed by eight other prisoners. Bond suffered a punctured lung and wounds to his head, hand, shoulder and neck. Seven of the alleged assailants are awaiting trial on murder charges while Bond is charged with several murders committed by a drug gang he was a member of. While the attack occurred in front of prison guards, no weapon was recovered.

Texas: On May 12, 2005, Dallas district court judge Faith Johnson was publicly admonished by the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct for “bringing public discredit upon the judiciary.” Billy Wayne Williams had been granted bond by Johnson while awaiting trial on charges he has choked his girlfriend unconscious. He fled while awaiting trial and was convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison. When Williams was captured in October, 2004, Johnson had him brought to her courtroom which she had decorated with balloons and streamers and was celebrating his return with cake and ice cream. Johnson also notified a television crew which was on hand to record the event. Johnson told Williams: “You just made my day when I heard you had finally come home. We’re so excited to see you; we’re throwing a party for you.” Texas, like most states, elects its judges.

Texas: On May 14, 2005, federal prisoner Javier Garza, 20, was handcuffed, removed from his cell in the Cameron County jail in Brownsville and beaten by guards. Garza suffered a broken jaw and broken rib. Garza was removed to federal custody after the beating and six jail guards and a sergeant were suspended during an investigation into the beating.

Texas: On May 20, 2005, 50 prisoners in the Limestone County Detention Center rioted. Police gave no details to media and claimed no injuries occurred during the uprising. The jail is run by the for profit company Civigenics.

Virginia: On December 30, 2004, 64 juvenile prisoners at the St. Brides Correctional Center in Chesapeake rioted in Unit F of the facility. Officials say the unit sustained extensive damage and was rendered uninhabitable. Some prisoners suffered mild injuries while no staff was injured. A prison “strike team” retook control of the unit several hours later.

Virginia: While attempting to escape from the Rappahannock Regional Jail on December 21, 2004, Horace Lavigne Jr., 31, got out of his handcuffs, broke through the Plexiglas shield of the marked police cruiser and tried to get the gun of the deputy who was transporting him back to the jail from a court hearing. The unnamed deputy kept control of his gun and was able to get a tactical knife out of his pocket and stabbed Lavigne twice and crashed the cruiser into a culvert, ejecting Lavigne from the car. Lavigne was later spotted hiding behind trash containers and ignored police commands to surrender and was shot in the thigh. The deputy was severely beaten in the incident. Lavigne was charged with attempted capital murder, malicious wounding and felony escape. He was described by media as a “career criminal” that had been in prison most of the past 12 years.

Washington: In December, 2004, shortly before leaving office Governor Gary Locke issued a pardon to Susan Cummings, 37, who was serving a life sentence for the 1983 murder of an 88 year old Walla Walla woman. Cummings was an accomplice to two friends who beat, raped and robbed the elderly woman during a burglary. The actual rapists and killers, Joe Aguilar and Lillie Rowland, received lesser sentences in exchange for their testimony against Cummings. 50 current and former Department of Corrections employees wrote letters supporting Cummings clemency bid. Cummings will have spent 20 years in prison since her 1985 conviction. Locke also pardoned Ray Spencer, 56, a former Vancouver county policeman who was convicted of rape in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison. Locke cited legal problems in the case against Spencer, including the fact that the lead investigator in the case was having an affair with his wife.

Washington: Pam Roach is a political office shopping Republican state senator who is probably the most vicious anti-prisoner legislator currently in office in Washington state. She has successfully sponsored efforts to increase sentences and sanctions for criminal defendants and remove what few amenities prisoners in Washington have. She has also successfully killed legislative efforts to remedy injustices such as Washington’s law that mandates the seizure of 35% of all funds sent to prisoners by their families. On February 14, 2005, Stephen Roach, 24, Pam’s son, was arrested by Pierce county police on drug charges after he sold Oxycontin pills on three occasions to an undercover informant from a home owned by his parents. When the home was searched at the time of the arrest, young Stephen was found in possession of more Oxycontin pills, $3,500 in cash, marijuana packaged for sale and three guns. Senator Roach could not be reached for comment. PLN predicts a quiet deal and no prison or jail time for Mr. Roach for committing a crime that would lead to a lengthy prison sentence if committed by someone who is not politically connected. Which once more illustrates the fact that America’s “tough on crime” politicians lack the courage of their purported convictions when it comes to crimes committed by themselves and their friends and families.

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