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News in Brief:

Afghanistan: On July 10, 2005, four captured Arab guerrillas escaped from the Bagram Air Base where they were being held and tortured by United States military forces. They were the first political prisoners to escape from the torture camp since it was opened in 2001 shortly after the US invasion of the country. The US did not identify who they were, how long they had been held captive, etc.

Colorado: On December 12, 2005, a federal jury convicted Colorado state prisoners Shawn Shields, Vernon Templeman, Carl Pursley and Wendell Wardell, of retaliating against a witness stemming from their beating of an unidentified Canon City prisoner who had testified against the men who were earlier convicted of obtaining thousands of dollars in fraudulent income tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service. The defendants represented themselves pro se in the case.

Ecuador: On March 21, 2006, prisoners at a prison in Quito burned down the prison which was designed to hold 350 but which held 900, to protest their living conditions. One prisoner died during the blaze, which destroyed 70 percent of the prison. Seven prisoners and two firemen were treated for smoke inhalation. The fire took three hours to extinguish, in part because prisoners inside the prison fired on fire workers trying to put out the fire.

England: Drug addicted prisoners at the Saughton prison have been having free associates throw the carcasses of dead animals stuffed with drugs over the walls of the prison. Some prisoners have complained that the tactic has left the prison yard looking like an animal morgue.

Florida: On march 3, 2006, the privately run Polk Juvenile Correctional Facility in Polk City closed its school due to persistent mold problems caused by a leaking roof, bad plumbing and spotty air conditioning. The prison houses 205 children prisoners and employs 33 teachers and administrators of the Polk County school district, 19 of whom have filed workers compensation claims alleging they have suffered respiratory problems working at the prison due to mold. The school was closed for two months in 2005 for similar mold problems. Prison officials claim the building is not repaired due to a shortage of money from the Juvenile Justice System which is responsible for the prison.

Illinois: On May 12, 2006, John Spires, 50, a prisoner at the Dixon Correctional Institution took his female therapist hostage at knifepoint in a treatment room for the mentally ill at the prison. After 25 hours of negotiation, Spires surrendered and the therapist was released unharmed. Family members said that Spires, who has been in prison since 1986 on charges of raping four girls and was found mentally ill but guilty and sentenced to 60 years in prison, had grown despondent after the death of his son two years ago and several adverse court decisions. Prison officials faxed a hand written letter from Spires to the Chicago Tribune which was one of his demands.

Iowa: In March, 2006, Waterloo police officer Richard Knief, 47, was acquitted of having sex with a 19 year old female prisoner of the Black Hawk county jail. In September, 2005, Knief took the woman, who has been addicted to methamphetamine since she was 13, to a police training center where they had sex and he returned her to the jail. Knief admitted that he had sex with the woman but a jury acquitted him because Knief was a city employee, and the statute criminalizing sex between staff and prisoners only prohibits it between state and county employees and prisoners, not city employees.

Iowa: On September 21, 2005, Carrie Masden, 21, and Paul Vance, 38, employees of the Muhlenberg County Humane Society were charged with aiding in the escape of prisoners James Crouch and Dennis Wilburn by driving them to the home of Crouchs brother and leaving them there. The prisoners were work release prisoners employed at the animal shelter and nominally under the supervision of Masden and Vance.

Israel: On January 3, 2006, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra signed a contract with Africa Israel Investment for the construction and opening of Israels first private prison which is slated to open in 2009. Africa Israel is a diamond mining firm with no prison experience. They have hired US based Emerald Corrections as consultants for the project. Pini Cohen, the chairman of Africa Israel, promised that the new prison would have factories in it so prisoners can make money and support their families while carrying out their sentences. A lawsuit has been filed challenging the legality of privatizing prison services.

Kansas: On March 27, 2006, Travis McBride, 28, an Atchison county jail guard, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and one year of probation for having sex with jail prisoner Sheena Kley, 18. McBride claimed the sex was consensual and apologized to his wife and family and jail co-workers for making the worst mistake of my life. Kley has filed a tort claim as a prerequisite to suing the county for what she claims was a rape.

Kentucky: On July 13, 2005, Avery Roland, 26, and Michael Talbot Jr., 24, prisoners at the Kentucky State Reformatory attempted to escape the prison by hiding in a dumpster and then being loaded into a garbage truck. The plan failed when the men were, instead, crushed to death by the garbage truck. Police and prison officials searched for the would be escapees for over a day before their bodies were found in a landfill.

Kyrgyzstan: On October 18, 2005, prisoners at the prison colony in Bishkek, rioted to demand better living conditions, forcing the evacuation of all employees. At least 3 prisoners were killed before riot police regained control of the prison.

Louisiana: Kerry Washington, 39, died in the Orleans parish jail on April 29, 2006 after a scuffle with guards. The cause of death remains unknown. It took over two weeks before the sheriffs office notified Washingtons family of his death as they repeatedly told family members Washington had been released.

Louisiana: On July 14, 2005, sergeant Vanessa Turner, 33, an employee at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola was arrested and charged with malfeasance and conspiring to introduce contraband into a penal institution. Warden Burl Cain said she accepted $100 from a prisoner to give to another prisoner and assisted in smuggling two ounces of marijuana into the prison inside a condom.

Mexico: On March 12, 2006, Alejandro Ferrer Perez, 26, the leader of a gang known as the Aztecas, was killed by his fellow gang members at the prison in Ciudad Juarez, 6 days before he was due to be released from prison. This caused a rebellion among the prisoners in which another 8 prisoners were killed and 43 wounded. This follows a riot in December, 2005, that left seven prisoners dead.

Michigan: On August 15, 2005, Pontiac jail prisoners Jahmail Dillahunty, 23; Michael Rutherford, 36; Maki Ragland, 20 and his brother Joseph Ragland, 17, escaped from the local courthouse by overpowering a guard and taking his pistol and keys. All four men were later recaptured the same day and face additional escape charges.

Michigan: On March 16, 2006, Dr. Rafael Mercado Combalacer, 64, was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting and grabbing the genitals of a 40 year old male prisoner at the Ernest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon. Combalacer was employed by the state Department of Mental Health and then employed under contract by the Department of Corrections. In addition to the six months in jail, Combalecer was also sentenced to 18 months probation, a $420 fine and a $10 monthly probation fee. His psychiatric license was also suspended. The victim complained to prison officials that Combalecer fondled him during a therapy session and also sent him sexually explicit letters. The victim told the sentencing judge: I thought the guy was trying to help me, and then he put his hands up my shorts.

New York: On March 9, 2006, Michael Regan, a part time Alleghany county deputy prosecutor was fired when it was discovered that he had attended a meeting of the New Century Foundation in Virginia. The foundation is a white supremacist organization.

Ohio: On October 19, 2005, Jessie Collins, 31, a prisoner a the Warren Correctional Institution and his wife Pamela, 35, were indicted on charges of illegal conveyance of drugs into a prison after Pamela was arrested on September 15 attempting to smuggle 10.5 grams of marijuana into the prison. Pamela was the fifth visitor at the prison to be charged with smuggling drugs in 2005.

Pennsylvania: On September 28, 2005, the federal government announced the arrest of almost 24 members of a Colombian drug ring that imported cocaine into the US. Two of the ring leaders, Jose Escobar Orejuela and Jorge Figueroa, 46, allegedly ran the operation from their federal prison cells in Pennsylvania.

South Carolina: On September 29, 2005, James Turner, a state prisoner employed in a community work program, allegedly stole a sheriffs car from the sheriffs office where he was cleaning carpets, fled to Florida and is now accused of killing one woman and stabbing another at a motel. Turner was about four months from being released on the sentence of violating parole on domestic violence charges when he fled. Newberry county sheriff Les Foster defended the use of prison slave labor by saying You always have certain issues with inmates,&. Police later arrested Donna Turner, James ex wife, and charged her with giving him a cell phone.

South Carolina: Stephen Stanko, 37, a former prisoner who authored Living in Prison: A History of the Correctional System with an Insiders View, was arrested in 2005, a year after his release and charged with the murder of Laura Ling, 43, his roommate, and Henry Lee, 74, and the rape of a teenage girl. He had previously been convicted of kidnapping. Stanko will go on trial later this year. It is unknown if he is working on a sequel to his book.

Texas: On August 13, 2005, Jose Jaimes-Martinez, 38, a prisoner at the Federal Correctional Institution in Beaumont was stabbed to death by unidentified prisoners.

Texas: On October 11, 2005, a 1998 Ford van owned by the Tennessee Department of Corrections but on loan to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice lost control and flipped near the town of Waynesville. The two guards in the truck, Danny Phillips, 59, and James Harding, 52, received modest injuries. No prisoners were being transported at the time. TDCJ officials claim a shortage of vehicles has forced them to borrow transport vans from other prison systems.

Vermont: On March 25, 2006, Stephen Bedell, 42, became the first person to be convicted of smuggling heroin into a detention facility in Vermont after pleading guilty to smuggling three bags of heroin to a female prisoner at a prison in South Burlington in 2002. He was sentenced to 2 ½ to 3 years in prison.

Virginia: On May 13, 2006, Trenton Holliman, 27, escaped from the Western Tidewater Regional Jail by exiting through a door that had been left open while he was in a dayroom using the telephone. Holliman turned himself in 8 hours after he escaped. Jail officials say the escape occurred because the jail is in the midst of switching to a new, more elaborate electronic security system and in the meantime jail guards are using manual locks and keys to let prisoners in and out of their cells and common areas. This was the jails first escape in 14 years.

West Virginia: In June, 2005, Logan county magistrate Danny Wells was sentenced to seven years, three months in federal prison after being convicted of taking money from criminal defendants to keep them out of jail or prison. John Nagy, Wells court bailiff, was sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty to lying to FBI agents about his knowledge of the corruption.

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