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News in Brief:
Protestors and supporters yelled and waved signs at each other from across the street, but were otherwise peaceful. While protesters gathered around a stage to listen to speeches by local activists, Sheriff Arpaio, never one to pass up an opportunity to hear himself talk, made an impromptu speech in support of his policies. He said he was not intimidated by the protest and was proud of the work his department does. “We treat everybody with dignity,” Arpaio said. “We have nothing to hide.” Sadly, the routine beatings, brutality and murder of Maricopa County jail prisoners elicit no protests, and Arpaio remains the most popular elected official in Arizona.
California: On May 3, 2009, Luis Patino, a spokesman for the Office of the Receiver for California Prison Health Care Services, said a prisoner at the Centinela State Prison was diagnosed with a probable case of swine flu (officially known as the H1N1 virus). “The inmate and his cellmate have been isolated,” Patino said. “They remain at the prison.”
George Kostyrko, spokesman for the state Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, said visitation at the state’s 33 adult prisons, 6 youth facilities and a few community-based facilities would be suspended until further notice. PLN readers will note that California’s inadequate prison health care system has been the subject of protracted litigation in federal district court, and has resulted in an order placing the system under receivership. Moreover, stopping visits is a meaningless gesture to prevent the spread of communicable diseases so long as staff enter and leave the prisons.
Florida: On May 2, 2009, Domingo Antonio Rodriguez, a guard at the W.T. Edwards alternative school for juvenile prisoners, was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and related offenses. Around 3 a.m., Rodriguez became involved in a traffic dispute with another vehicle in Tampa. According to police, Rodriguez fired into the other car with a .40-caliber handgun. The bullet struck the right rear window and became lodged in the driver’s seat, but no one was injured. Rodriguez was arrested by a nearby police officer who heard the shot; he is being held at the Orient Road Jail on $23,500 bail.
France: In early May 2009, French prison guards staged a four-day protest to challenge overcrowding in French prisons. The guards, who protested on their days off, staged “progressive blockades” at France’s largest prison, Fleury-Merogis. They set barricades on fire and interfered with prisoner transfers. Police ultimately dispersed the protesting guards with tear gas, and transferred prisoners under escort to court hearings. Union officials representing the guards said they started the protests to draw attention to conditions within the country’s prisons. “We need to have the resources to manage prison overcrowding,” said Jean-Francois Forget, head of the guards’ union. French prisons are the most overcrowded in Europe and have twice the rate of prisoner suicides.
Georgia: On May 5, 2009, the web-based publication The Smoking Gun reported that rapper and self-proclaimed “original gangster” Cedric “Alfamega” Zellars was a snitch for the DEA. While serving a 110-month sentence on a 1995 federal firearms charge, Zellars cooperated with authorities and testified against Ali Baaqar, who was subsequently convicted of conspiracy to distribute heroin. Zellars received an 18-month sentence reduction in 1997 for his part in securing Baaqar’s conviction. The court documents filed by government lawyers detailing Zellars’ snitching activities and requesting the sentence reduction are posted on www.thesmokinggun.com.
Illinois: Don Padgett, a union official for guards at the Federal Correctional Institution in Greenville, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis on May 1, 2009. Padgett admitted that he issued unauthorized checks totaling nearly $187,000 to himself from a union account between 2001 and 2008. He is also accused of making unauthorized purchases with a union credit card and filing falsified financial reports with the U.S. Department of Labor. Padgett will be sentenced on September 4, 2009.
Louisiana: On May 4, 2009, six Lafourche Parish deputies and five jail prisoners were hospitalized after rescuing five police horses from burning stables near the parish jail. All five horses were uninjured and the men were hospitalized only as a precaution.
Missouri: Brian Saunders, a former guard and maintenance supervisor at the Moberly Correctional Center, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to charges of conspiracy to deliver marijuana and cocaine to prisoners at the facility. Sandra White and Rebecca Best, Saunders’ co-conspirators, also entered guilty pleas. The guilty pleas were announced by the U.S. Attorney’s office on April 30, 2009.
New Mexico: In April 2009, Bruce Langston was removed from his job as superintendent of the Youth Diagnostic and Development Center, the state’s juvenile jail in Albuquerque.
His removal comes on the heels of a double escape, two escape attempts and a brawl that involved dozens of prisoners. Also, four guards have been placed on administrative leave.
State officials declined to give a reason for Langston’s firing, saying only that the decision was made “consistent with meeting the needs of the agency.” Langston, who is black, had filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission following a demotion in 2005. That lawsuit is currently pending. State officials refused to comment on Langston’s claims.
New York: In April 2009, Lisa A. Vaughn, a laundry supervisor at the Gouverneur Correctional Facility, pleaded guilty to felony third-degree rape for having intercourse and oral sex with four prisoners. Vaughn is also accused of sneaking the prisoners food, cigarettes and postage stamps. The plea agreement requires her to serve 10 years on probation and register as a sex offender. Two other Gouverneur employees, Rachael S. Patterson and Laura E. Douglass, also face charges of having sex with prisoners. Their cases are pending. The state police and Department of Correctional Services inspector general’s office conducted the investigation. A confidential source tipped off authorities about the incidents.
Ohio: On April 28, 2009, Yuntaya Hoskins, a food service supervisor and former guard at the Lebanon Correctional Institution, was arrested on obstruction charges. Police officers arrived at Hoskins’ home around 4:15 a.m. following reports of gunshots and yelling coming from inside the house. They left after Hoskins answered the door in her prison uniform stating that no one else had been home all night. Officers returned five hours later after discovering a bullet hole in her garage and a neighbor’s dining room wall. Hoskins was arrested when she used her body and arms to block the officers from entering her home. They returned with a warrant to discover approximately $50,000 in cash, four firearms, a holster and ammunition. Hoskins shared the house with her husband, Kevin Hoskins, a former prisoner who was released from the Lebanon facility in 2004 following robbery, burglary and vandalism convictions. Officials at the facility had no idea Hoskins was married to a former prisoner and said her employment records still list her as Yuntaya Carter.
Oklahoma: On April 30, 2009, Stephen Billingslea, a chaplain at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center who works with women prisoners at the McLoud prison, was arrested for lewd behavior by undercover Oklahoma City police along with 13 other men in a sting operation at Trosper Park. “We had a high number of complaints from citizens that ‘There’s men out here engaging in indecent activity right out in the open,’ and that’s why our guys went out there,” said Master Sgt. Gary Knight. Police said they were not targeting gay men.
Rhode Island: On April 9, 2009, Providence resident Darrell D. Williams, a guard at the Pondville Correctional Center in Norfolk, Massachusetts, was charged with possession of marijuana, possession with intent to deliver and possession of a firearm while in possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Investigators from the Providence office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service intercepted a package containing 4.3 pounds of marijuana using a narcotic detection dog. Massachusetts Department of Corrections officials said Williams has been “detached without pay” from his job as a prison guard.
Sri Lanka: On April 15, 2009, at approximately 3 a.m., guards at the Kalutara prison killed six and wounded four prisoners during an attempted escape. Guards were on high alert with instructions to shoot any escapees because attempts are common during this time of year. According to Prisons Chief Major General Vajira Wijegunawardane, the prisoners tried to escape by cutting through the iron bars in their cells with a sharp tool.
An investigation has been launched to determine whether the escapees received assistance from guards. “We will specially inquire as to how sharp weapons had come into the hands of prisoners,” Wijegunawardane said.
Texas: On April 27, 2009, Carl Shelton, a former guard at the Moore County jail, was arrested for allegedly having sex with a female prisoner he supervised. The charge is a felony punishable by six months to two years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Moore County Sheriff Bo DeArmond said Shelton is being held at another facility, which he did not disclose.
Washington: In early April 2009, a former King County jail prisoner filed suit against jail officials for failing to prevent his cellmate from raping him. The unnamed plaintiff was housed with Cionte West, a large man who outweighed him by 40 pounds. West was in custody for the brutal rape of a 17-year-old girl, and had threatened to anally rape other prisoners. On the night of the assault, the plaintiff awoke around 1:30 a.m. to find West naked on top of him. The cell window and intercom had been covered with wet paper to conceal the attack. The assault ended only when the plaintiff was able to yell for help.
Guards rushed him to the hospital, where he was treated for cuts to his eye and several bruised ribs. West ultimately pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and was sentenced to an indeterminate prison term.
Wisconsin: On April 27, 2009, Joshua Walters, a prisoner at the Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun, was charged with allegedly helping his cellmate commit suicide.
The charge stems from a January 10 incident during which Walters allegedly assisted Adam C. Peterson, a former college student recently convicted of murder, in fashioning a noose from a bed sheet and placing it around his neck. Walters told another prisoner, who subsequently informed police, that he laid in his top bunk while Peterson thrashed about below him. Walters called out to guards about an hour later. In addition to the informant’s statement, police found Walters’ DNA on the sheet around Peterson’s neck. If convicted, Walters faces up to an additional six years in prison. He had been scheduled for release next year.
Wisconsin: On May 4, 2009, Sgt. Christopher Jackson, a guard at the Milwaukee County Women’s Correctional Facility, was charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting a female prisoner. The attacks took place between February and September 2008; the victim said Jackson threatened to discipline her if she reported the attacks. If convicted, Jackson faces up to 240 years in state prison.
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