by John E. Dannenberg
Underlying the purported societal goal of prisoner rehabilitation lurks the reality of what impedes it: systemic violence that defines the adversarial relationship between all men and women behind bars, prisoners and guards alike.
Driven by racial animus, drugs, anger, gang rivalry, perceived disrespect and lack of public accountability, this violence exacts a heavy toll in human misery, injury and death. The fact that many prisoners are serving lengthy sentences as a result of tough-on-crime laws, and thus feel they have little to lose, is also a contributing factor.
In this report PLN chronicles some of the riots, protests, assaults and murders that gained media attention in 36 states and Canada during the hot summer months of June through August 2007, when temperatures soared and tempers flared. A rising tide of crowded prisons, brutal staff, medical neglect and long sentences combined with judicial and legislative indifference and hostility has resulted in a dramatic rise in rebellions and upsirings throughout the American gulag. Due to space limitations, this article is only a snapshot of the summer months. More happened before and after this time period.
This article does not include any staff-on-prisoner assaults that were reported over the same time period.
Deteriorating living conditions and a lockdown at the Atmore Holman Correctional Facility sparked a hunger strike among 1,000 prisoners that began on August 5. The lockdown had been imposed a week earlier after two prisoners fought with a guard, resulting in minor injuries.
The prisoners were upset that all of them were being punished solely because of the acts of a few. Prison spokesman Brian Corbett admitted that the protest was also based on ongoing complaints of unresolved plumbing problems and stopped-up showers.
The Miller County Correctional Facility experienced a fight over a television remote control on June 19, 2007. Capital murder suspect Brandon Stringer, 26, suffered minor puncture wounds and scratches. No weapon was found.
Less fortunate was Forrest City federal prisoner Rigoberto Lopez-Alvarado, 29, who died on June 29, three days after being attacked by an unidentified fellow prisoner. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) spokesman Mark Truman reported that the facility was placed on lockdown pending an FBI investigation. Lopez-Alvarado was serving two years for illegal reentry into the United States.
Earlier, on June 4, 2007, a 19-year-old guard at the Cummins Unit was stabbed five times by prisoner Kelvin Barnes, 39, whom he was escorting to a shower area. Prison officials said Barnes likely slipped out of his handcuffs and inflicted the injuries using a shank made from fence wire. He was transferred to the Varner Supermax Unit. The guard, who was not named, was expected to recover.
An unidentified guard at the Arizona State Prison Complex in San Luis was seriously injured on June 13 after he stopped to talk to a prisoner who approached him. Using a knife made from a shaving razor, the prisoner slashed the guard's throat but missed his carotid artery. According to Arizona DOC spokeswoman Katie Decker, "He was losing lot of blood. The cut did a lot of muscle and tissue damage." The guard spent two days in the hospital; the prisoner involved in the attack was not identified.
Well-armed guards got the upper hand in a riot at the Graham County Jail on July 4, 2007. The melee broke out after Christopher Harris and four other prisoners were disciplined for attacking and severely beating a fellow prisoner who had refused to buy something for them at the canteen. Harris was already pending trial for drug, theft and gun charges, as well as aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
In response to the attack, Jail Commander Tim Graver ordered the Tactical Response Unit (TRU) to punish the five prisoners by taking away their clothes and feeding them nutraloaf. When they later started banging on their cell doors, the TRU went into the hall and fired four large canisters of pepper spray plus 150 pepper balls, which saturated the area.
Separately, in July 2007 at the Lewis State Prison Complex in Buckeye, an unidentified prisoner was stabbed multiple times in the head, neck and shoulder by another prisoner.
An August 3 screw-up at the Saguaro Correctional Facility in Eloy, Arizona resulted in a fight among seven Hawaiian prisoners. An employee of the private prison, which is run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), pressed a button that opened twelve cell doors simultaneously. One prisoner was injured in the resulting melee while another was pepper-sprayed. The prison had been open for only two months when the incident occurred.
At another Eloy, Arizona CCA facility, the Red Rock Correctional Center, a Hawaiian prisoner was stabbed in an altercation with three other prisoners on June 26, 2007.
A riot at the Yuma County Detention Center on August 26 in the maximum security section of the facility resulted in minor injuries and about $3,000 in damage. Prisoners who were allegedly upset with the evening meal flooded their cells and broke more than a dozen "shatter-proof" windows.
In June 2007, the 1,127 maximum-security U.S. Penitentiary prisoners at Atwater staged a food strike. Although they wouldn't go to the chowhall, they took three cold meals per day in their cells.
Up to 65 prisoners at the George Bailey Detention Facility in San Diego flooded their cells and covered and broke windows on June 13. They were reportedly upset about a disciplinary lockdown. K-9 units were used to quell the three-hour disturbance, which did not result in any injuries.
At Folsom state Prison, a life-sentenced prisoner was stabbed to death in July 2007, resulting in all 3,800 prisoners at the facility being placed on lockdown. The victim was walking to class after breakfast when he was repeatedly stabbed with a flat-metal stock sharpened to an 11" blade. The murder prompted prison officials to cancel a graduation ceremony for prisoners who had completed educational programs.
On July 21, Orange County jail prisoner Dennis Sprague, 35, broke a guard's nose after he was let out of his cell to get medication. Sprague, who was being held for a previous assault, is now jailed without bond on the more serious charge of assaulting a guard.
Seventy Black and Hispanic prisoners rioted on the yard at High Desert State Prison in Susanville on July 28, 2007. Six were taken to outside hospitals while a seventh, Jamal Walker, was shot in the hip by a tower guard and treated in the prison infirmary. His hip was shattered. Most of the other prisoners were treated for stab wounds.
Walker was kicking another prisoner in the head during the four-minute fight. Guards fired three warning shots, then three live rounds. Thirteen shanks were recovered from the scene. The fight was predictable, as a CDCR lieutenant had allegedly ordered Black prisoners into the area normally habited by the Norteno Hispanic gang. The prisoners protested but were forcibly relocated; the riot occurred soon thereafter. An internal affairs investigation was pending.
In a separate incident on the High Desert Facility C Exercise Yard, prisoner Christopher John Barton, 35, was stabbed on July 23 by two other prisoners and died an hour later. One on his attackers was serving a 15-year sentence for assault with a deadly weapon while the other was serving a life sentence. High Desert houses 5,163 medium and maximum security prisoners.
Two days later, one lifer attacked another at the Mule Creek State Prison in Ione. Robert Bardo, 37, was stabbed eleven times by an unnamed 49-year-old Los Angeles County convict. Bardo was housed in a maximum-security unit at Mule Creek due to the notoriety attending his crime of murdering teenage model Rebecca Schaeffer, of the sitcom My Sister Sam, in 1989. Bardo was airlifted to a hospital in stable condition; his attacker was placed in administrative segregation.
On August 4, 2007, the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi went on lockdown after a prisoner was stabbed 30 times in the head, chest and abdomen by four other prisoners in the Level IV Maximum Security section of the prison. The unidentified prisoner was airlifted to an outside hospital.
On August 6, Tehama County Jail prisoners set fire to a trash container in their cell block, causing an evacuation of the facility. No one was injured.
The same day, Merced County officials reported that a guard suffered minor injuries when he broke up an attack on a prisoner by two others at the John Latorraca Adult Correctional Facility. Guard Sam Spangler suffered bruised ribs. The two prisoners involved in the assault, Miguel Guilar, 24, and Emilio Garza, 32, were members of the Norteno street gang and are being charged with assault on a peace officer with gang enhancements. As a result of the incident, 70 known Norteno members at the jail were placed on lockdown for a week.
At the Herman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility, a prisoner struck a correctional counselor in the head on August 14. Also in August, Richard King, a prisoner at the Bob Wiley Detention Facility in Tulare County, slipped out of his restraints and used them to attack 46-year-old prisoner Eric Manfredi. Manfredi, who was awaiting trial on child pornography and molestation charges, suffered minor injuries.
Santa Rita (Alameda County) jail prisoner Abdule Graham, 31, died on August 21, 2007 after a fight in a common shower area of the jail. Curiously, Graham suffered no life-threatening injuries and may have died from an undiagnosed pre-existing medical condition. Regardless, prosecutors were considering filing charges against the other prisoner involved in the fight.
Calipatria State Prison officials announced that Ian Turek, 53, was stabbed to death in the "A" yard on August 22 by two other prisoners. After a guard fired a warning shot from a mini-14 rifle, a second shot hit one of the assailants, who was hospitalized with injuries to his abdomen, liver and colon.
Iowa prisons were the scene of multiple attacks on guards in July and August 2007. A guard suffered superficial injuries in an assault at the Oakdale Iowa Medical and Classification Center; additionally, several guards were injured at the Anamosa State Prison following scuffles with prisoners.
One Anamosa incident began with a fight between prisoners Victor Delgado, 19 and Christian Munoz, 20, on August 6. When another prisoner, Miguel Perea, began talking in Spanish to Delgado and Munoz as they were being escorted to segregation, guards ordered Perea to cease. Instead, Perea punched a guard in the face several times and had to be restrained. As he was being taken to medical he kicked another guard. The guard he had punched was sent to a hospital, and the facility was placed on lockdown.
Two earlier incidents at the facility, on July 25, 2007, involved three guards and two prisoners. Prisoner Matthew Crawford refused orders to stay out of a restricted area and became combative, while prisoner Eric Peppers intervened and assaulted several guards. Both Crawford and Peppers were placed in segregation.
In another altercation at Anamosa that occurred on July 21, prisoner Oscar Gonzales sent a guard to the hospital after seriously assaulting him. The unidentified guard suffered bruises on his face and chest.
The incident at the Oakdale facility involved prisoner Larry De Wayne Smith, 26, who cut a guard's arm with a 9" piece of sharp metal wire on July 27, 2007. Smith, already serving time for attempted murder, was prosecuted for the attack and pled guilty in January 2008.
Prisoner Peter Curtright, 21, was murdered at a medium security prison in Boise on August 1. Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney stated that Curtright died from an assault from unknown assailants. He was killed in the locker room of the gym at the 1,500-bed facility. Curtright had been serving a life term for aggravated assault and robbery, but was eligible for parole in seven years.
On August 26, Johnson County Jail prisoner Karl Anderson, 38, rushed a deputy who opened his cell door, then spit on a guard while being placed in a restraint chair. He was charged with assault with bodily fluids, a felony.
Also in August 2007, Deputy Virgil Adams was found unconscious and bleeding from his nose on the floor of the Twin Falls County Jail. He had been struck by prisoner Brian Cavanaugh while escorting him back to his cell from church. The day before, Cavanaugh had been sentenced to five years for aggravated battery.
On June 1, 2007, 46 prisoners at the Tri-County Correctional Center in Ullin locked themselves in a room and set fire to mattresses and books. They were rousted about an hour later when tear-gas was fired into the room. The 226-bed facility, which houses both male and female prisoners, is privately run by GEO Group. No one was injured but charges were being considered.
At the Pendleton Correctional Facility, 25-year veteran guard Loren "Jerry" Hartley was attacked on August 7 by 400-pound prisoner Scott Nicholson. Nicholson, who is a diabetic and missing his left hand, stood up in his wheelchair and beat Hartley with its armrest. Hartley suffered deep lacerations.
Nicholson was set to stand trial one month later on charges that he had murdered a fellow prisoner at the Miami Correctional Facility, using a part from his wheelchair as the weapon. Already serving 42 years, Nicholson had vowed to kill again if he was not given the death penalty.
On August 28, an unidentified Pendleton prisoner was stabbed three times in the back in the facility's dining hall. The weapon used to inflict the injuries was recovered. "I'm certain they'll be pursuing outside criminal charges in regard to this case," said Neil Potter, a prison spokesman.
A fight in mid-June 2007 at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth resulted in two prisoners being injured. The facility was placed on lockdown after two groups of the prisoners' friends, numbering around 30 each, faced off in the yard.
In July, the Lansing Correctional Facility was placed on lockdown after a female employee was attacked by a prisoner. Commissary manager Pam Bonner suffered cuts to her neck, arms and face. Two other prisoners in the maximum security unit intervened and rescued her.
The high-security federal prison in Pollock was twice placed on lockdown in July 2007. Following an earlier fight between two prisoners that caused a lockdown, the facility was locked down again after two prisoners were stabbed in the stomach. The injuries occurred on the recreation yard, and the prisoners were hospitalized. A third prisoner was treated for minor cuts.
At the Essex County House of Correction in Middleton, seven prisoners, who were already in segregation, used their shackles to injure five guards in a melee on June 7. County Sheriff Frank Cousin, Jr. reported that the four-minute attack was "carefully coordinated and planned." The prisoners had been taken to the shower area, but slid out under the shower stalls and used their leg irons and handcuffs, which had been removed, to assault the guards. Other improvised weapons included brooms, a toilet plunger and a chair. The whole event was caught on camera. Two of the injured guards received serious head wounds.
The seven prisoners involved in the attack, Eddy Lopez, Miguel Diaz, Raul Carraquillo Llanos, Angel Andrades, Alexis Maldonado, Jurrell Laronal and Juan Rivera, were arraigned on new charges of assault and battery on corrections officers. During a subsequent cell search, one guard suffered a sprained wrist while another was bitten by a dog that was used during the search.
In a special-needs unit at SCI Somerset on August 3, 2007, two prisoners refused to leave their cell for more than 10 hours, resulting in the facility being placed on lockdown while prison officials dealt with the situation. When one of the prisoners attacked the other, guards moved in and extracted them from the cell. No injuries were reported.
On June 1, eighteen prisoners were injured in a major fight at the Metropolitan Transition Center (MTC) in Baltimore. Nine had potentially life-threatening stab wounds; three were in critical condition. The fight was between two rival gangs, with 10 prisoners in one group and 35 in another. Guards later appeared with shotguns to maintain order.
The following day, two prisoners went at it with knives in the 1,300-bed maximum security Jessup Correctional Institution. Both suffered torso stab wounds and were hospitalized.
On August 16, 2007, another fight among prisoners on the exercise yard at Jessup sent seven to the hospital with stab wounds. While no staff were injured in either event, a representative of the guards union expressed hope that the planned hiring of 155 new guards would reduce prison violence. There were 105 prisoner-on-staff assaults reported in 2006 at three Maryland prisons.
Three prisoners at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Sharpsburg were hospitalized for injuries suffered in two fights on June 9. Guards found six weapons at the yard fight scene. Approximately one hour later, another prisoner was injured in a separate incident in a different yard.
More violence erupted at the Sharpsburg facility a week later, when guards had to use tear gas to break up two fights. Sixteen prisoners were injured, one with serious stab wounds. As many as 225 prisoners were involved in the clashes, which were described by prison officials as "simultaneous fights."
Otsego County jail prisoner James J. Platte, Jr., 30, was charged with aggravated assault with intent to commit great bodily injury after he beat his cellmate, Keith Cherniak, 49, with his fists and a milk crate on June 14, 2007.
Platte was already pending trial on an attempted murder charge and had a recent drug conviction. Cherniak lost four teeth. Sheriff James McBride said the incident happened because the jail was 20 prisoners over capacity. "You can't watch every area of the jail," he said.
Sex-offender Douglas Dettman, 55, was injured in a serious assault that involved several prisoners at the Stillwater Prison in June 2007. The cell hall was locked down following the fight.
The maximum security Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman experienced a killing on July 25, when 26-year-old double-murderer Donald Reed, Jr. was fatally stabbed 14 times in the head, chest, thigh, shoulder, back and fingers while in an exercise pen. Two other prisoners were seriously injured in the fight, in which ten prisoners attacked seven others.
Just over a month later, on August 28, 2007, another Parchman prisoner, Earnest Lee Hargon, who had been sentenced to death, was fatally stabbed by fellow prisoner Jessie Wilson. Hargon was cleaning outside Wilson's Unit 32 cell when Wilson broke out and stabbed him 30 times.
In Gulfport's Harrison County Jail, prisoner Cedric Grayer attacked female guard Carol Stewart on July 27. Grayer was awaiting trial on vehicle theft and drug possession charges; he now faces the additional charge of assault on a peace officer. Warden Don Cabana blamed increased unrest at the jail on higher numbers of gang members in the facility.
The previous month, on June 24, Jeffery Hargro, a prisoner at the Jackson Co. Adult Detention Center, attacked a guard who had stepped on his foot. The guard claimed it was an accident but Hargro became combative. He hit his head during the fight, which required stitches. Hargro faces a new charge of assault on an officer.
Prisoner Pleasant J. Hurst, 48, was killed in a fight in the gymnasium of the South Central Correctional Center on August 4, 2007. He was serving 52 years for child molestation and kidnapping, and had served two prior prison terms for sodomy and sexual abuse. Authorities suspect the fatal attack may have been motivated by the nature of Hurst's offenses.
On August 8, a small riot in the form of a food fight erupted among seven "hard-core" prisoners in a 22-bed area at the Lewis and Clark Detention Center in Helena. The prisoners were throwing their dinners, stuffing food into the drains and destroying other prisoners' property. The jail was locked down and a K-9 unit brought in to control the situation. Sheriff Cheryl Liedle complained that recent disturbances resulted in part because 85 prisoners were held at the 53-bed facility.
Just three weeks earlier, a prisoner had damaged part of the fire sprinkler system and flooded the jail.
In early June, a prisoner was stabbed and hospitalized after a fight at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility. The facility was locked down.
Two prisoners were inexplicably double-celled in the mental health ward of the Passaic County Jail in July 2007. As a result, 19-year-old Samuel Ramos is now charged with murdering Ramon Aponte, 50. A Sheriff's spokesman said the two were housed together because they had similar classifications. Apparently the Sheriff believed that housing two suicidal mentally ill prisoners together was reasonable. The unit they were in had 24-hour surveillance cameras, which apparently were not monitored.
On July 20, 2007, two guards were injured at the South Woods State Prison after being assaulted by prisoner James L. Harvey during a transport. Harvey, whose criminal background includes aggravated assault, terrorist threats, armed robbery and weapons offenses, was transferred to New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.
According to officials at the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility, the June 17 murder of prisoner Freddie Sanchez, 46, was gang related. New Mexico police were investigating while the 459-bed prison remained on lockdown.
On June 23, 2007, a disturbance occurred at the Cibola County Detention Center. Details were sketchy, but the SWAT team from the Western New Mexico Corrections Facility was called in to assist. No injuries were reported. "It's summer time, and the inmates simply had some complaints about different things," stated David Ulibarri, the County Manager.
An unnamed prisoner was injured in a fight at the Otsego County Jail on June 5. Prisoner Conrad W. Callender, 20, was charged with second-degree assault, a felony offense that can carry up to seven years on top of his three-year term for drug possession. The prisoner he attacked was treated at an outside hospital.
Bradford County Prison was the site of a July 24, 2007 fight between two prisoners that was broken up by guards. Jonathon M. Evans, 20, and Timothy S. Hendershot, 42, fought in a cell and had to be separated.
In the Schenectady County Jail, four 18-year-old prisoners beat 17-year-old Zechariah Fay on August 15 without intervention by guards. Jullian Vanness, Nicholas Coons, Nicholas Price and Corinth Snipes were charged with felony gang assault. Fay, who had been in jail only one day for possession of marijuana and theft, suffered a broken cheek bone during the attack, which lasted more than 40 minutes. Jail guard David Teller later resigned due to lax oversight which allowed the brutal assault to occur.
Churchill County jail prisoner Anthony Spina, 67, was charged with battery with intent to kill when he stabbed fellow prisoner Walter Anderson on June 21, 2007 with a pencil. Spina was awaiting trial for a shooting death and was transferred to the Nevada State Prison in Carson City for safekeeping.
In late August, Jeffrey Wronek, 48, incarcerated at the Douglas County Jail, assaulted jail sergeant Robert Duffy. Sgt. Duffy had observed Wronek peeling paint chips from the floor in a mental health holding cell, and told him to stop. Wronek struck Duffy in the ensuing confrontation; he now faces additional felony charges.
Eleven prisoners were injured in a July 17 melee at Raleigh's Wake County Jail. Seventeen of 41 prisoners charged with violent crimes were sleeping on the floor of the overcrowded maximum security cell block on the eighth floor. The dispute, which may have started over laundry, resulted in 13 prisoners facing felony charges for rioting and assaulting three guards, one of whom was injured. The jail held 97 prisoners over its capacity of 577 at the time.
North Dakota's 520-bed prison was locked down in July 2007 after a fight, to search for weapons. Disturbances result in lockdowns about once a year, said Warden Tim Schuetzle.
On June 9, 40-year-old Rodney Starcher was killed by his unidentified cellmate in a segregation cell at the Pickaway Correctional Institution. Starcher was serving a one-year sentence; an investigation is being conducted by the State Highway Patrol.
Also in June, a rookie guard at the Lebanon Corr. Institute was assaulted, seriously injured and flown by AirCare to a hospital in Dayton. Jared White, 23, was attacked by prisoner Jerome Brown, who was serving 20 years to life.
Two dozen prisoners rioted at the overcrowded Kay County Jail on August 4, resulting in a guard being hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Prisoners in one pod of the 108-bed jail were upset because they were not fed first, and because four men were housed in two-man cells. With 136 prisoners and two guards, things got out of hand and $50,000 in property damage resulted.
A similar incident occurred at the 65-bed Pittsburgh County Jail on June 26, 2007, where 105 prisoners were housed, and resulted in $10,000 in damage. The eight-hour riot involved about 40 prisoners and was attributed to overcrowding.
On August 10, dozens of armed officers from the Oklahoma City Police Department and County Sheriff's office were called in to quell a melee at the Oklahoma County Juvenile Detention Facility. Several staff members were assaulted by at least five youth wards, who temporarily barricaded themselves in the facility. The standoff ended without further violence.
Life-sentenced prisoner John Pierce was fatally stabbed by four fellow prisoners at the Dick Conner Correctional Center on August 14. State official Jim Rabon stated there had been five prisoner homicides between July 1, 2006 and May 1, 2007 in the Oklahoma prison system. In addition, there were 1,142 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults and 189 assaults on staff.
The 250-man Luzerne County prison, overcrowded with 600 prisoners, was locked down on June 15, 2007 when gang members instigated disturbances. In one incident, prisoners tried to push guards into a cell. The next day a dozen prisoners refused to lock up and made death threats. Disciplinary charges were filed against 42 prisoners. All were found guilty.
In Philadelphia's Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, a guard was stabbed three times in the back on August 16 while attempting to break up a prison fight. A total of five guards were sent to the hospital with minor injuries. The facility was locked down and searched.
A prisoner was stabbed to death at the Federal Detention Center in Center City on August 25, 2007. No further details were available.
At the House of Corrections in Philadelphia, prison guard Patricia Brown, 48, was attacked by several prisoners on August 8. They threw a sheet over her head and tried to force her into a cell; she suffered back, face and neck injuries. The attack occurred the day before a federal court hearing on prison overcrowding.
The following day, four prisoners at the Allegheny County Jail, Howard Kelly, Dawaan Smith, Chester White and Glenn Davenport, severely beat fellow prisoner George Kevin Hooper. Hooper was hospitalized in critical condition with head injuries. His attackers were charged with attempted homicide.
Also, two staff members and two residents at a privately-operated juvenile detention facility in Pittston Township were taken to hospitals following a June 17 riot that involved 13 youthful offenders. More than 100 law enforcement officers responded to the incident; 14 other minor injuries were reported. Luzerne County has a 20-year, $58 million lease to house juveniles at the facility, which is owned by Pennsylvania Child Care LLC and run by Mid-Atlantic Youth Services Corp.
There were three disturbances at the Anderson County Detention Center in June and July 2007. In one, prisoner Eddie B. Lindsey, 42, struck prisoner Jason A. Cottrell, 28, in the head with a broom handle on July 25. Earlier, on July 17, prisoner Anthony Patrick Dwyer, 35, threw prisoner John G. Dennis, 47, on his face after Dennis first injured Dwyer's hand. The fight occurred during a card game; Dennis suffered a broken nose and also required brain surgery.
Prior to that incident, guard James Adam Sizemore received lacerations on his head after being attacked by two jailed murder suspects on June 20. The two prisoners, Stanley DeHart and Johnny Earl Mahaffey, took Sizemore's radio and hit him with it, then tried to strangle him with a sheet. Now DeHart and Mahaffey face additional charges of assault and battery with intent to kill.
On June 13, 2007, a prisoner struck a guard at Nashville's Charles Bass Correctional Complex. The guard fell, had a seizure and was hospitalized.
A prisoner at the Monroe County Jail attempted to hurt a jailer on June 23. Guard Larry Presley was putting shackles on Bruce Dean Hawk, 53, when Hawk grabbed the cuff keys and tried to stab Presley with them. Hawk reportedly had serious mental health problems; a nurse at the jail could not confirm whether he was on his medications.
On July 30, a riot occurred at the CCA-operated South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton when a group of prisoners refused to return to their units. Quelling the disturbance took a show of force from the company's riot squad, which disbursed chemical agents and fired non-lethal projectile rounds. In one amusing moment, the riot squad was delayed in accessing several housing units because the gate guard had left his post and no one had the keys.
According to a statement sent to outside sources, the South Central prisoners were dissatisfied with a recent smoking ban, lack of law library access, poor food quality and inadequate recreation time.
Two Grayson County jail guards were injured on June 10, 2007 by prisoner Jamie Deontrey Wilson, 22. Wilson bit both guards. He had been jailed on a minor charge of not having a headlight on his bicycle, and had a previous aggravated assault charge pending. Wilson now faces an additional charge of aggravated assault on a public servant.
In Collin County, Jared Steven-Case Kirby, 19, who was being booked on three misdemeanor warrants on July 7, picked up a felony charge when he struck a guard and broke the guard's finger. The guard, Joshua Frazier, had asked Kirby to remove his hooded sweatshirt and Kirby refused.
The Federal Correctional Facility in Three Rivers was the site of a stabbing in June 2007. Ernest Rodriguez, 47, was in critical condition after being assaulted in the prison's television room. He was life-flighted to a local hospital. The FBI is investigating.
In Beeville's McConnell Unit, prisoners James Cutsinger and Christopher Yow were being questioned about a June 5 attack on 24-year-old prisoner Brandon Alsup, who was stabbed 18 times in the head in a shower room. Needless to say, Alsup was hospitalized.
On August 14, 2007, CCA's 2,100-bed Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility was locked down after 400 prisoners broke windows, tried to set fires and refused to enter their cells. Two employees were slightly injured during the 3-hour standoff, and chemical agents were used by 30 Mineral Wells police officers who were called in to assist CCA staff.
Transport guard Stephen Anderson, 60, was shot to death by white-supremacist prisoner Curtis Allgier, 27, on June 25 after Allgier grabbed Anderson's gun while he was unshackled for an MRI scan at the University of Utah medical clinic in Salt Lake City.
Police caught the fleeing Allgier, covered with Neo-Nazi tattoos and still wearing his orange jump suit, at a nearby Arby's restaurant where he had been subdued by a customer. Utah prisons send as many as 15 prisoners per day to the University for treatment; they are often accompanied by only one guard. That policy has been changed and Utah DOC officials have asked the state legislature for $1 million to hire 15 more escort officers. Allgier now faces the death penalty and a possible firing squad for murdering Anderson.
Prisoner Shannon Delage, 31, was charged in connection with a felony sexual assault that occurred at a Chittendon County women's detention center on June 11, 2007. Deluge and two other female prisoners, Lindsey Costello and Misty Foster, allegedly restrained and sexually assaulted a new arrival; they used a latex glove to search her body cavities, hoping to find drugs. No drugs were found.
Although Delage pleaded not guilty in District Court, the whole episode was recorded by video cameras. Delage has several past prison commitments and was awaiting pending charges when she was arrested for aiding in the sexual assault. On March 25, 2008, Misty Foster pled no contest to aggravated assault for her part in the incident, and was sentenced to nine months to eight years.
At the Northeast Regional Correctional Facility, two prisoners caused a disturbance on June 23 when they attacked guards and other prisoners. The names of the two prisoners, who broke a television, damaged a sprinkler system and threatened guards with pieces of broken glass, were not released. The Vermont State Police is investigating.
On July 29, three prisoners at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw armed themselves with shanks and barricaded themselves in a hallway using bookshelves. The shanks were made with metal taken from the jail library's ceiling. The standoff lasted 2 1/2 hours until two dozen riot team members in full gear threatened to use force. No one was injured in the incident, and the prisoners made no demands.
In June 2007, Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) prisoner Wilson Hunt, 28, was taken by air ambulance to a hospital after he was stabbed in the eye with a pen. He was attacked in a stairwell in close-custody Unit 8. The prisoner who stabbed him was placed in segregation pending an investigation.
The following month, on July 20, three WSP staff members were injured during two altercations with prisoners. One prisoner had resisted being placed in a holding cell, and another incident involved a fight in the dining hall. Another guard fell and was injured when he responded to one of the incidents. More than 300 prisoners in the affected cell blocks were locked down briefly.
In the Yakima County Jail, prisoner Damian Long, 30, died after injuries sustained when he was attacked by four other prisoners on August 9, 2007. The attack was not reported until four hours after it occurred. Jail officials theorized that Long, who had been beaten in the chest and abdomen, was fearful of being labeled a snitch. He had been incarcerated on domestic violence and assault charges.
The 1,536-bed main unit of the Airway Heights Corrections Center was placed on lockdown on July 27, and 48 prisoners were put in segregation following a series of four fights in the recreation building, dining hall and a cell block. One prisoner was hospitalized; no weapons were reported involved.
A DOC guard at the Tygard Valley Regional Jail was held hostage by a prisoner in his cell for over seven hours on August 24, 2007. The prisoner, who threatened the guard with a sharpened toothbrush, demanded to be moved to another prison. No injuries were reported and an internal affairs investigation is pending. The unnamed prisoner was not transferred.
Prisoner Raziga Imani, 25, stabbed a guard in the head and arm at the Waukesha County Jail on June 2. Imani had been in the jail for one year awaiting trial for armed bank robbery; he rushed out of his cell with a fist full of pencils and stabbed guard Jacob Drahonovsky three times. A day earlier he had threatened to kill a guard, saying it would make him feel better.
On top of his preexisting charge he now faces attempted first-degree intentional homicide. Imani had been upset with the delay in his first trial – he now has a more serious criminal charge to worry about.
On July 9, 2007, two Ozaukee County Jail prisoners started a fight over differing opinions regarding actor Woody Allen. One, James F. Lala, was in jail for child porn and having sex with a 15-year-old girl. He was punched in the face by prisoner Corey T. Wilson, 36. Each faces additional prison time for new felony assault charges. They fought after disagreeing about Woody Allen's marriage to the adopted daughter of his companion, Mia Farrow.
Our usually sedate neighbor to the north had a number of violent incidents last summer. In the Matsqui, British Columbia federal prison, a June 27 lockdown followed an assault by two prisoners. "It appears the person who was assaulted was a jailhouse tattooist who tattoos illicitly inside the jailhouse. He had apparently given a couple of tattoos that were not of acceptable quality," said assistant warden Randie Scott. Prison officials searched the prison and uncovered a number of knives, a substantial amount of drugs, cell phones and a tattooing kit.
At the 422-man BC Fraser Regional Correctional Centre, a small army of armed guards with tear gas and dogs quelled a near-riot in August 2007 when 31 prisoners refused to return to their cells and tried to set fires. Prison guards were aided by 12 members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's emergency response team. The prisoners were complaining about poor conditions that resulted from overcrowding. A 100-bed expansion to the Fraser facility is in progress.
A June 11 fight at the Joyceville Institution resulted in a lockdown; one prisoner received injuries to the head and neck.
Three days later, a Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre guard was assaulted by prisoner Damon Knott, 27. The guard was repeatedly punched in the head and suffered swelling, contusions and a split lip. The facility was reportedly understaffed.
An unidentified prisoner at the Warkworth Institution was stabbed on June 13, 2007. A week earlier, the Springhill Institution was locked down after two prisoners started small fires and barricaded themselves in the segregation unit.
A two-alarm mattress fire in Toronto's Don Jail caused a prisoner to be hospitalized from smoke inhalation in late July 2007, three days after two prisoners were stabbed at the facility. Because the jail had been on lockdown due to the stabbings, with all windows and doors closed, the smoke was trapped in the building.
Finally, on August 17, a female prisoner at the Nova Institution for Women took a female guard hostage. The situation was resolved without violence three hours later. The unidentified prisoner was armed with a homemade weapon, and had handcuffed and tied the guard to a chair. The facility houses minimum, medium and maximum-security prisoners.
A Pattern Emerges
It is apparent that many prisoners, often awaiting trial for lesser charges, become embroiled in the reality of dangerous detention conditions and find themselves in much more serious trouble as a result. For the unwary, the pitfalls of short-term incarceration can lead to a lifetime in prison, such as when fights turn deadly.
In other cases, long-term prisoners with little hope of ever getting out turn to jailhouse justice to settle disputes, sometimes with fatal consequences.
While overcrowding and repressive conditions serve to foment unrest, the ironic result is that detention facilities become even more jammed with men and women doing time for crimes that occurred as a result of harsh and frustrating prison and jail environments.
As prisoners are left with little ability to access the courts and assert their human and civil rights, the alternatives are direct action ranging from food strikes to assaults on staff. There is a reason courts became involved in prison reform in the 1970s in the first place. Sadly, a lack of executive and legislative leadership ensures prison and jail conditions will continue to worsen with a resulting increase in all levels of resistance, violence and mayhem.
The level of violence and rebellion in supposedly secure penal facilities begs the question: Is society any safer?
Sources: certops.com, eacourier.com, Merced Sun-Star, Lompoc Record, kpbs.com, signonsandiego.com, Union-Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, Orange County Record, Associated Press, Lassen News, Ledger-Dispatch, Record-Searchlight, dailybulletin.com, visaliatimesdelta.com, Tri-Valley Herald, KXO radio, Honolulu Advertiser, kcci.com, Global Gazette, Altoona Herald, nwitimes.com, Magic Valley Times, The Herald-Bulletin, Tribune-Star, The Star-Press, Arizona Republic, Boston Herald, Sun Reporter, Baltimore Sun, abc2news.com, Record-Eagle, Southeast Missourian, Clarion Ledger, Montana Standard, Great Falls Tribune, Daily Star, northcountrygazette.com, fox5vegas.com, News-Observer, Burlington County Times, Herald News, Courier Post, Tulsa World, kotv.com, kswo.com, phillyburbs.com, Independent Mail, Herald-Democrat, Courier Gazette, Port Arthur News, Salt Lake Tribune, Times Argus, mtvr.com, Union-Bulletin, Yakima Herald-Republic, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Journal-Sentinel, Vancouver Sun, Mapleridge News, Toronto Sun, Chronicle Herald
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