Arkansas: On June 20, 2009, an unnamed parolee was shot and killed by guards running a contraband checkpoint outside a prison in Jefferson County. The man was returning to the prison to pick up his wife, who was visiting a relative. He had dropped her off in the morning before the checkpoint was set up. He fled because he was wanted for failing to report to his parole officer, and was subsequently shot. The exact reason for the shooting and other details were not made available to the public.
Indiana: On April 27, 2009, former Floyd County Jail guard Michelle Hurst, 39, was sentenced for trafficking with a prisoner, a class C felony. Hurst admitted to having sex with 31-year-old prisoner Chris Proctor on at least two occasions and bringing him drugs and other contraband. Although the advisory sentence for a class C felony is four years in prison, Judge Susan Orth sentenced Hurst to two years of home detention followed by two years on probation. “Judge Orth’s sentence was appropriate under the circumstances, and we appreciate the kindness she showed Michelle,” said her attorney, William Gray. “She’s excited to get this behind her.”
Indiana: On June 11, 2009, guards opened fire while breaking up a fight at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute. One prisoner was transported to a local hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound. A second prisoner was also hospitalized for unspecified injuries. The fight broke out at about 8 a.m. in the recreation yard, and “shots were fired by institution staff to prevent the possible loss of life” when the prisoners failed to stop, said Terre Haute spokeswoman Hattie Sims. No guards were injured. Sims said she had no further information on the condition of the injured prisoners. The facility was locked down following the shooting.
Iowa: On May 11, 2009, a judge awarded former Oakdale prison guard Derek White unemployment benefits because he was terminated for displaying a bumper sticker on his vehicle that other employees also displayed without disciplinary action. White’s vehicle was adorned with a sticker that said, “F##K Joakdale. I like real prisons.” He gave similar stickers to other employees who put them on their vehicles. Prison officials asked White to remove his sticker and terminated him for insubordination when he refused; however, they ignored other prison employees’ continued display of the bumper stickers. Administrative Law Judge Beth A. Scheetz found that such disparate treatment was unacceptable, and ruled in White’s favor.
Maryland: On July 22, 2009, two Frederick County Jail guards were disciplined following a prisoner suicide at the facility. Corporals Gilbert Sackett and Ryan Harris were the supervisors on duty on June 10 when 26-year-old Justin Lihvarchik hanged himself with a noose made from his shoelaces. Lihvarchik was jailed around 2:30 a.m. and found dead about three hours later. Jail policy requires guards to check on prisoners every 20 minutes.
Mexico: On May 16, 2009, an armed gang freed more than 50 prisoners from the Cieneguillas prison in Zacatecas state, including two dozen prisoners with ties to the powerful Gulf drug cartel. The raid, which started just before dawn, took less than 5 minutes and involved 20 gunmen in 10 vehicles. No shots were fired and no one was injured. According to Gov. Amalia Garcia Medina, the prison director, 40 guards and two police commanders were detained for questioning in connection with the prison break. Mexican officials have openly admitted that corruption permeates all levels of law enforcement. Gov. Medina said the raid may have been revenge for recent arrests of cartel members by the Zacatecas state police.
New York: On July 7, 2009, three former guards were convicted of obstructing justice in connection with a beating they inflicted on a prisoner at the Queens Private Correctional Facility on April 17, 2007. Supervisor Marvin Wells and two unnamed accomplices were found guilty of staging a cover-up, but Wells was acquitted of using excessive force. Prisoner Rex Eguridu testified at trial that the guards beat him because he said “Hello, baby. You look beautiful today” to a female guard named Krystal Mack. Eguridu said he was dragged into a shower room, where Wells ordered him to strip and then repeatedly punched him in the chest. Wells threatened to kill Eguridu if he ever called an officer “baby” again. The jury could not agree on a charge that Mack had tampered with a witness. The Queens facility is operated by GEO Group.
Nigeria: On June 3, 2009, 153 prisoners escaped from the Enugu prison, a pretrial facility that holds 734 prisoners. Nigerian Prisons Comptroller-General Olushola Ogundipe said one prisoner fell to his death after climbing a perimeter fence. Two more prisoners were killed during the mass escape and 36 female prisoners were gang-raped by male prisoners during the episode. Authorities continue to search for the remaining fugitives.
North Carolina: On July 18, 2009, former state court judge, federal prosecutor and state Republican Party chairman Sam Currin was released from federal custody. Currin was originally sentenced to 70 months in prison for laundering $1.3 million on behalf of David Hagen, an email spammer who allegedly ran one of the most prolific spamming operations in the world. Federal prosecutors recommended in May that Currin’s sentence be reduced by half due to his testimony against Hagen. Currin’s defense attorney asked that the sentence be reduced to 29 months so Currin could attend his son’s law school graduation. But Senior U.S. District Court Judge W. Earl Britt, who handed down Currin’s original sentence and presided over the Hagen trial, went even further and commuted Currin’s sentence to time served. Judge Britt cited Currin’s extensive cooperation with prosecutors. Currin, who had been held at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Devens, Massachusetts for undisclosed health problems, was originally scheduled for release in 2013. Hagen, convicted of multiple crimes due in large part to Currin’s testimony, faces up to 45 years in prison. It appears that cronyism has paid dividends for Currin, while Hagen has not fared as well.
Pennsylvania: On July 10, 2009, Philadelphia lawyer Randall J. Sommovilla, 61, was arrested and charged with attempting to smuggle heroin into the Delaware County Jail. Sommovilla allegedly went to the facility after visiting hours to see Amber Knox, a client awaiting extradition to New Jersey on unknown charges. A routine ion scan used to detect illegal drugs registered positive, and a plastic bag was found near Sommovilla’s feet. The bag contained heroin and pills. Cocaine and three glass pipes were found in his vehicle. He told police that Knox had called him from the jail and said she was sick and needed drugs, and that another woman, “Brittany,” had asked him to take the drugs to Knox. Sommovilla would not acknowledge possessing the drugs. He told police, “My suspicion is that Brittany placed the drugs in [my] clothing, and when I got out to the facility Amber would convince me to give her the drugs.” He has since been released on bail.
Rhode Island: On July 28, 2009, Glenn Rivera-Barnes, who worked as a medical technician at the privately-run Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, pleaded guilty to a felony charge that he lied to federal investigators about having sex with an unnamed immigration detainee. Federal authorities contended they had DNA evidence proving that Rivera-Barnes had sex with the detainee on May 11 and May 24, 2008. He was fired from his job shortly after the allegations surfaced. Although a hearing has not been scheduled, federal prosecutors are recommending a one-year sentence on home detention with electronic monitoring.
Texas: In May 2009, Ellis County Commissioners approved an ordinance to charge prisoners at the Wayne McCollum Detention Center for medical visits and medication. Prisoners will now be charged $5 to see a nurse, doctor or dentist; for prescription medication, they will be charged $3. They will be charged $1 for over-the-counter medication. The money will come from each prisoner’s commissary fund. “We’re not going to refuse anyone medical care if they need it, but we need to recover costs and cut back on the frivolous use of doctor visits,” said Charles Sullins, detention center chief.
Texas: On May 12, 2009, Coffield Unit prisoner Derrik Ross, 38, received a 60-year sentence for possessing a cell phone in prison. According to the prosecutor, Allyson Mitchell, a guard attempted to stop Ross because he was acting suspicious. He ran through the prison and tossed the phone onto a rooftop. Guards subsequently recovered the cell phone, which was stuffed in a sock with a charger. The jury took less than an hour to convict and sentence Ross as a habitual offender. He will serve the 60-year sentence consecutive to a 25-year sentence he was already serving for stealing a car. The sentence is one of the longest in state history for this type of offense. Mitchell said she was pleased with the result, and hoped it would “send a message to the TDCJ inmates that still have cell phones and the visitors and unethical officers that provide them cell phones.” The guards who smuggle the cellphones in to prisoners will however continue to receive probation and light sentences.
Texas: On May 22, 2009, two Gregg County Jail guards, 20-year-old Gracie Carrillo and 25-year-old Yvonne Oliver, were arrested and charged with facilitating the escape of two prisoners who broke out of jail on May 19. The prisoners, Desmond Dewayne Jackson, 27, and Bruce Danjuane Kelly, 22, were both captured shortly after the escape. Kelly was caught as he stood beneath a nearby carport just hours after the escape. Jackson was arrested the next day when police stopped a van he was riding in. Jail officials have not disclosed how the guards facilitated the escape, but said policies have been changed to prevent similar occurrences. Both women are being held on $175,000 bail pending trial.
Wisconsin: On July 17, 2009 at approximately 10:30 p.m., 24-year-old Michael Lozano was traveling in a van from a work release program at the Kenosha Correctional Center to a nearby meatpacking plant where he worked the graveyard shift. The van lost control, rolled on its side and ejected Lozano. He died at the scene. Nine other passengers were injured, and three were taken to a hospital. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
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