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News in Brief:

Argentina: On November 5, 2007, 29 prisoners died in a fire at the maximum security prison in Santiago del Estero. The fire was set to distract guards from an escape attempt and quickly spread. Most of the victims died of smoke inhalation. No escapes occurred. Riot police restored order after almost 200 relatives of prisoners tried to break through barricades into the prison.

Arizona: On October 17, 2007, Elsa Gutierrez, 33, a guard at the men's prison in Yuma was charged with sexually assaulting a male prisoner.

California: In September, 2007, Christina Rojas, 25, and Imelda Radillo, 22, were arrested by Merced police on charges they had used stolen credit cards to fund phone accounts for prisoners in the Merced county jail. In July the women had carried out a protest outside the jail where they wore mock orange jail jumpsuits to show solidarity with the jail prisoners after guards had stormed four cells and brutally beaten the prisoner occupants and shot them with bean bag rounds and rubber pellets.

Prosecutors claim the women activists are members of the Norteños street gang and have sought gang enhancements against them. The women could not be reached by the media for comment but Radillo?s brother Pablo Guiterrez said he believed his sister was being targeted by police for organizing the protest. Police denied the allegation.

Colorado: On September 13, 2007, Richard Harris, 52, a guard at the Arkansas valley Correctional Facility was arrested and charged with attempted sexual exploitation of a child. Harris allegedly trolled internet chat rooms, contacted an undercover policeman posing as a 15-year-old girl, requested sexually explicit photos, and attempted to arrange a meeting as well.

England: On September 3, 2007, prison guard union leaders expressed indignation that during a strike by guards upset over being paid their 2.5% raise in two installments, prison administrators had paid prisoners two pounds a day (almost $4 US) for good behavior. This occurred primarily at prisons housing male sex offenders. Prison administrators defended the decision saying it the prisoners were paid to compensate them for money they would have otherwise earned by working but due to the strike induced lockdown they were unable to work.

Indiana: On October 3, 2006, Anthony Tyler, 33, a guard at the Marion county Juvenile Detention Center in Indianapolis pleaded guilty to sexually abusing female prisoners between the ages of 13 and 15. As part of his plea bargain to official misconduct charges, prosecutors dropped sexual misconduct with a minor and child solicitation charges against him. He was sentenced to one year of home detention. The sentence reflects the concerns of the state when child molestation victims happen to be prisoners and their captors are the perpetrators.

Indiana: On September 15, 2007, Jesse Johnson, 31, a prisoner at the Industrial Correctional Facility in Pendleton was arrested on domestic battery charges after he strangled his wife Theresa Johnson during a visit. The two are in the midst of divorce proceedings and Jesse was angry Theresa had not brought $70 he needed to repay a debt to another prisoner and accused her of cheating on him. When she tried to leave the visiting room Jesse wrapped his hands around her neck and began to strangle her while she held their four month old daughter. Jesse is serving a 12 year sentence for burglary.

Maryland: On October 15, 2007, Darius Solers, 27, was stabbed to death in the Baltimore Detention Center by other prisoners. No motive was given for the assault.

Massachusetts: On June 23, 2007, Francine Melanson, 46, the chief court officer for the Dudley District court was charged with stealing prescription painkillers from prisoners in her custody. After a female prisoner complained that her Hydrocodone pills were missing after a court appearance, state police installed a surveillance camera which caught Melanson stealing prisoners' drugs. She was suspended without pay pending the outcome of the criminal charges.

New Jersey: On September 21, 2007, infectious disease and environmental experts conducted tests at the Edna Mahon Correctional Facility for Women after a woman prisoner contracted Legionnaire's disease. No other prisoners were diagnosed with the sometimes fatal disease which is caused by contaminated water in aerosol form.

North Carolina: On June 19, 2007, Christopher Conner, a guard at the federal Rivers Correctional Facility in Winton pleaded guilty to depriving a prisoner of his civil rights and making a false statement. The charges stem from Conner and two other guards beating prisoner Demarrieo Davis in March 2006, and then trying to cover up the incident.
Ohio: On July 25, 2007, Robert Cline, 26, a guard at the Dayton Correctional Institution was arrested and charged with drug possession after police pulled his car over and discovered marijuana, Oxycontin and cash inside his car.

Tennessee: On October 12, 2007, Omega Leach, 17, a prisoner at the Chad Youth Enhancement Center in Clarksville, was strangled to death in a confrontation with two employees at the prison for troubled youth. Leach was a Philadelphia native sent to the facility by Pennsylvania authorities along with dozens of other emotionally troubled youth claiming no other facility would take them.

Texas: On October 26, 2007, the guard driver of a prison van employed by Wackenhut Corporation died when the vehicle swerved off a rural highway near San Isidro and flipped over. The van was transporting a 9-year-old-boy from El Salvador who is a prisoner of the Immigration, Customs Enforcement agency. The child was not injured.

Vermont: On September 20, 2007, 75 prisoners and an undisclosed number of prison employees at the 350 bed Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield were diagnosed with strep throat. The prison was placed on "medical lockdown" to halt the spread of the disease. The lockdown was lifted after 3 days.

Virginia: On November 1, 2007, Alfreda Best, a guard at the Federal Correctional Center in Petersburg pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and carnal knowledge of an inmate. Best admitted she received $5,106 in bribes from relatives of prisoner Miguel Cabrera in exchange for providing him with clothing, alcohol, Percocet pills and vitamin supplements. She also admitted to engaging in a consensual sexual relationship with prisoner Rodney Simmons.

Virginia: On November 5, 2007, the Virginia Supreme Court removed Juvenile and Domestic Relations court judge James Shull of Gate City from the bench. Among the reasons for his removal were deciding a child visitation case by flipping a coin. In another case, a woman with a history of mental illness sought a protective order against a partner she claimed had stabbed her in the leg. Shull insisted on seeing the wound and she had to drop her pants so Shull could see it, then again when Shull left the bench for a closer look. At a hearing before the judicial commission, a bailiff testified he had asked Shull, "Did you see what that lady had on?" And Shull replied: "Yeah, a black lacy thing. It looked good, didn't it?" In 2004 Shull had appeared before the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission after complaints that he had called a teenager a "mama's boy" and a "wuss" and ordered a woman to marry her abusive boyfriend. Those complaints had been dismissed.

Virginia: On September 12, 2006, Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail guard David Walmsley, 42, pleaded guilty to one count of assault and battery for attacking and beating a prisoner who threw a liquid on him. Circuit judge Samuel Powell sentenced Walmsley to one year in jail, with eleven months suspended and the remaining month to be served on weekends.

Wisconsin: On November 30, 2007, Cindy Bartoshevich, 31, a guard in the Milwaukee county jail, was charged with sexually assaulting jail prisoner Michael Carroll, 21 and misconduct in office. Bartoshevich denied the charges but prosecutors claim that letters and phone calls prove she violated her job terms. In the month prior to her arrest Bartoshevich paid $5,000 in cash to bail Carroll out of jail.

Wyoming: On September 22, 2007, a building housing the medical department at the Wyoming Honor Farm in Riverton was evacuated after toxic mold and asbestos dust was found in the building. Ironically, the toxic substances were discovered after complaints were made by employees of Prison Health Services who worked in the building. An investigation and tests by the Department of Environmental Quality discovered the mold and asbestos.

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