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News in Brief:

Arizona: On February 23, 2006, Jamie Wanek, a guard at the Maricopa county jail in Phoenix was charged with 57 felony and misdemeanor counts of having sex with a jail prisoner Joshua Lopez, 30, and bringing him alcohol, drugs and other contraband. Lopez has also been charged with promoting contraband and unlawful sexual conduct.

Arizona: On May 10, 2006, an unidentified guard at the Perryville prison shot himself in his leg while undergoing weapons qualification training at the prisons firing range.

California: On February 2, 2006, FBI agents arrested Juan Cortes, 34, Anthony Robuffo, 39, Ricardo Campos, 26 and Juan Nieto, 30, all guards at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles on charges that they took bribes from prisoners in exchange for smuggling cigarettes and cell phones into the jail for them. According to prosecutors, the guards accepted bribes ranging from $1,000 to $6,000 to bring the contraband into the jail. For example, Cortes is accused of accepting a $6,000 bribe in exchange for providing a prisoner with a cell phone and two cartons of cigarettes. Nieto of accepting $1,000 in exchange for two cartons of cigarettes.

China: In December, 2005, the Chinese government announced it would allow the United Nations special rapporteur on torture to tour the nations prisons and meet with prisoners. The Chinese government has previously resisted such efforts and the decision to allow the inspections is seen as an effort to improve the nations compliance with human rights accords. By contrast, the United States refuses to allow United Nations inspectors to tour US prisons or meet with American prisoners.

England: During a December, 2005, inspection by members of the Prison Reform Trust of an 800 bed mens jail in Manchester, run by the private, for profit, UK Detention Services, three guards were doused with a bucket of human excrement by disgruntled prisoners. PRT reported serious safety issues at the jail which averaged over 25 assaults a month, 2,500 disciplinary charges in a six month period and 40% of all prisoner drug tests being returned positive for drug use.

Florida: In an effort to encourage informants, the Polk County sheriffs office has printed decks of cards which it distributes for free to jail prisoners that depict assorted unsolved crimes, mostly homicides, soliciting tips and information. The deck of cards has led to at least two indictments when an unidentified jail prisoner saw the card depicting the murder of methamphetamine dealer Thomas Grammar. Based on the tip police have charged Jason Seawright, 29, and Reggie Williams, with Grammars murder.

Georgia: On December 22, 2005, Cletis Heard, a jail guard at the Fulton county jail, was arrested and charged with stealing and using a jail prisoners debit card. Heard was assigned to the booking area of the jail. It was not disclosed how much money he stole from the prisoner.

Georgia: On February 23, 2006, Jesse Paul, 38, was sentenced to ten years in prison without parole and ten years probation for fighting with another prisoner in the Harris county jail while awaiting trial on auto theft charges. Assistant district attorney Dan Trimble said the sentence was warranted by the fact that since 1986 Paul had racked up seven felony convictions and spent 11 ½ years in prison, all for stealing cars. This sentence will be served concurrently with a five year sentence for auto theft. A jury rejected an aggravated assault charge in the same case which had involved Paul gouging another prisoners eye after the two exchanged words about Pauls girlfriend. The other prisoner was not injured.

Indiana: On March 28, 2006, Jason Kendall, 24, a guard at the Putnamville Correctional Facility was arrested on charges of trafficking with a prisoner.

Louisiana: On February 23, 2006, Sylvia Amato, 72, was arrested and charged with attempting to bring a loaded .22 caliber revolver into the Louisiana State Prison in Angola while visiting Peter Mule, an alleged member of the Dixie Mafia serving time for a 1971 murder. Upon entering the prison Amato declared and surrendered a .38 caliber revolver but said she forgot about the smaller gun.

Maryland: On January 18, 2006, Deidre Dee Farmer, the transsexual plaintiff in the Supreme Court prisoner rape case of Farmer v. Brennan, was indicted by a federal grand jury on mail fraud, conspiracy and identity theft charges stemming from alleged credit card fraud. Farmer had been released from prison less than a year earlier on February 15, 2005, when a judge had declared Farmer, then purportedly blind, bed ridden and dying of AIDS, to no longer be a threat to society. Farmer had been imprisoned for over a decade on credit card fraud charges as well.

Michigan: On December 6, 2006, Timothy Luoma, the warden of the Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility and deputy warden Darlene Edlund, were removed from their positions after prisoner Garfield Lawson III escaped on August 6, 2005, with the aid of prison kitchen worker Kathy Sleep. They were recaptured in Wisconsin. Apparently this is the first disciplinary action against a prison warden in the Michigan DOC in the last 20 years.

Missouri: On January 22, 2006, the Cape Girardeau county jail was partially evacuated due to a carbon monoxide leak in a natural gas vent. The leak was discovered after prisoners and guards in one unit began complaining of headaches and nausea. 32 prisoners and seven employees were affected by the leak.

New Jersey: On May 6, 2006, the Department of Corrections announced that it would sell 16 houses located near prisons where seven prison wardens, who each earn $91,000 a year, are now living rent free at tax payer expense. The move came as legislators expressed shock that high paid prison officials were living rent free in prison owned house, a practice that has been going on for decades.

New York: On May 12, 2006, Christine Sullivan, 50, a former administrator at the Federal Correctional Institution in Raybrook pleaded guilty to altering Bureau of Prison records to allow for the transfer of a medium security prisoner from that facility to a low security in a different state. Prosecutors did not disclose the name of the prisoner involved nor Sullivans motivation in falsifying the records.

New Zealand: The government announced on May 12, 2006, that it would no longer store semen for prisoners convicted of murder and other serious crimes while they undergo medical procedures. The ban was announced after media revealed the government had paid to store the semen of a sex offender prisoner undergoing treatment for cancer.

Nigeria: On January 3, 2006, the federal government ordered the immediate release of almost 25,000 prisoners, mostly pre trial detainees, from the countrys 277 prisons, to relieve overcrowding. The government also announced the creation of a Chief Inspector of Prisons and Board of Visitors to monitor conditions in the nations prisons, which also house pretrial detainees who have not been convicted of anything.

Ohio: On January 16, 2006, Ronald Pruitt, a guard with the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, was arrested and charged with felonious assault stemming from his shooting of his fellow guard Daniel Thomas, 40, in the arm and leg at an Ohio State University parking lot. Both men guarded prisoners brought to the OSU hospital for medical exams. Pruitt used his own pistol in the shooting, not the states. Pruitt was released on bond awaiting trial.

Oklahoma: On January 17, 2006, Oklahoma county deputy prosecutor Monty Mayfield, 34, was fired from his job after being arrested on public drunkenness charges at a Bon Jovi concert.

Rhode Island: On May 5, 2006, Captain Gualter Botas, 37; Lt. Kenneth Viveiros, 53, and guard Ernesto Spaziano, 37, were arrested and charged with beating state prisoner Michael Walsh, 30. Walsh claims the defendants also forced him to eat his own feces. The defendants were released on their own recognizance.

Texas: In February, 2006, vice president Richard Cheney accidentally shot Harry Whittington, 78, with a shotgun while the two men were quail hunting on a Texas ranch. Whittington was shot in the face and chest and recovered from the wounds. Whittington is an Austin attorney who has served on the Texas Board of Criminal Justice where he advocated reform and improvement of the Texas prison system.

Texas: On December 30, 2005, Damien Wheeler, 23, a prisoner at the Civigenics run Bi-State Jail in Texarkana died shortly after being involved in a fist fight with prisoner Nathaniel Cleveland, 19.

Utah: In February, 2006, Bert Jackson, 99, was released from prison after serving 3 years of a 15 year sentence for child molestation. Jackson had the distinction of being Utahs oldest prisoner.

Utah: On February 24, 2006, the Utah Supreme Court ordered that Hilldale judge Walter Steed be removed from the bench because he is a polygamist with three wives. This violates Utahs law against bigamy. Steed had served as a judge for 25 years and been married to the three women, who are sisters, since 1965, 1975 and 1985. He has a total of 32 children with his three wives. Prosecutors have declined to prosecute Steed and other polygamists criminally unless the bigamy also involves another crime such as domestic violence or child rape due to its prevalence in Utah.

Uzbekistan: On December 22, 2005, the Uzbek Military Court sentenced 24 former prison guards and officials from the Andijan prison to one to three years in prison after convicting them of abusing their power and neglecting their duties.

Wisconsin: In 2001 Christopher Ochoa, 39, was freed from prison after being exonerated in the murder of an Austin, Texas Pizza Hut worker. In May, 2006, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin law school with a law degree. Ochoa said he hopes to become a prosecutor so he can control investigations. As previously reported in PLN, Ochoa and his also wrongfully convicted co-defendant Richard Danziger both received a multi million dollar settlement from Austin police stemming from their wrongful conviction and the 12 years they both spent in prison as a result.

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