News in Brief:
Arkansas: Three juvenile prisoners allegedly beat guard Leonard Wall to death during an escape from a Pine Bluff detention center on January 31, 2010. The juveniles then stole a car, but later abandoned it in a nearby town. Two of the escapees, Nicholas Dismuke, 15, and Christopher Beverage, 16, were captured the next day in Fort Smith. The third escapee, Brandon Henderson, 18, was caught in Oklahoma a few days later. Wall died as a result of head trauma suffered during the beating; another guard, Gloria Wilburn, was assaulted and injured during the escape.
California: Fresno County Jail guard Alfonso Alanis was charged with stealing property from prisoners on January 12, 2010. Alanis, who was responsible for processing the property of prisoners scheduled for release, allegedly took money and other items. He was arrested and released on $50,000 bail pending trial.
California: In February 2010, June Ann Lucena, formerly a guard at Folsom Prison, was ordered to pay nearly $400,000 in restitution in connection with her 2007 conviction for insurance fraud. Lucena began collecting disability pay and workers’ compensation after surgery for a work-related fall in 2000. She claimed she was disabled and unable to work, but investigators filmed her in 2002 on a jet ski at Folsom Lake and riding water slides at a water park. She was already serving a seven-year prison sentence for the fraud conviction when the restitution was ordered.
California: Nearly 140 health care employees at two jails in Alameda County went on strike on March 9, 2010 to protest stalled contract negotiations and unfair labor practices. Workers from the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and the North County Jail in Oakland participated in the one-day strike. All were employees of Prison Health Services (PHS). The company has a contract with Alameda County to provide medical employees and related services for both jails. PHS threatened to lock out the striking workers if an agreement was not reached. The main sticking point is PHS’s decision to increase the amount that employees must contribute toward their health insurance benefits by as much as 30%.
Florida: In January 2010, Apalachee Correctional Institution prisoner Michael W. Joseph III was charged with various offenses related to filing false tax returns on behalf of other prisoners. Joseph’s mother, Deloris Werner, was charged as a co-conspirator and agreed to cooperate with authorities. Joseph, a jailhouse lawyer who was known as “H&R Block,” filed tax returns on behalf of other prisoners, sometimes without their knowledge. The money was deposited into accounts established by Werner, who then mailed a portion of the funds into various prisoners’ canteen trust accounts. Investigators determined that most of the prisoners had no idea that Joseph’s actions were illegal. If convicted, Joseph faces up to 90 years in prison. He was nearing release when the tax scam was discovered by prison officials.
Florida: Michael Jamal Rigby, 21, escaped from the Osceola County Jail on February 19, 2010. In a scheme reminiscent of the film The Shawshank Redemption, Rigby tore out the toilet in his maximum-security cell, crawled through the hole behind it, breached a concrete wall and managed to get past two fences without being detected. Both Rigby’s father, Brian Rigby, and his grandmother, Regina Ralph, were arrested and charged with providing aid to Rigby after his escape. He was still at large as of early March 2010. It was later determined that 20 jail employees had violated rules that contributed to the escape, such as not performing cell searches.
Georgia: On January 21, 2010, a federal jury convicted former Fulton County sheriff’s deputy Mitnee Markette Jones of obstructing an FBI investigation. Jones was found guilty of lying in reports and giving false statements in connection with a federal investigation into the death of Richard Glasco, a mentally unstable prisoner who died in his cell on March 18, 2008. Jones was one of four guards who entered Glasco’s cell after he had been screaming and banging on his cell door for hours. Witnesses testified that Glasco fell silent shortly after the guards visited his cell, and that blood and skin could be seen on the shattered window of the cell door. [See: PLN, Dec. 2009, p.34]. One of the other jail guards involved in Glasco’s death, Derontay Langford, pleaded guilty to obstruction charges and testified against Jones. A third guard, Curtis Jerome Brown, Jr., is awaiting trial on similar charges plus felony civil rights violations.
Illinois: Elizabeth Hudson, a former Cook County Jail supervisor, was sentenced on March 3, 2010 to six years in prison after she pleaded guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from prisoners. She was responsible for depositing cash collected from prisoners booked into the jail, and was charged in 2008 after authorities discovered $370,000 missing from the Inmate Trust Fund over a four-year period. Hudson resigned from her position at the jail during the investigation.
Kentucky: March 2, 2010 was the first full day of operations for the new Adair County courthouse and its staff. Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Wright was working as a court security officer when he accidentally locked himself in a basement holding cell. Wright, who apparently suffers from claustrophobia, panicked and tried to shoot his way out of the cell. Fortunately no one was injured, but the incident created quite a commotion at the new courthouse. Locals have jokingly begun referring to Wright as “Barney Fife.” The incident, however, is not a laughing matter for Wright, who was fired and will have to pay for repairs to the cell damaged by his gunfire.
Kentucky: On March 7, 2010, 20-year-old Ashley Cox was visiting prisoner Justin Bell at the Roederer Correctional Complex when she abruptly left the visitation area and disappeared into the women’s restroom. Guards checked on her about ten minutes later and found her bleeding. She was transported to a nearby hospital, where doctors discovered she had just given birth. A search of the restroom revealed an infant’s dead body in a trash can. Cox had apparently killed the newborn by stuffing its mouth with paper towels. She was charged with murder and concealing the birth of an infant, and is being held on $2.5 million bond. Her family released a statement saying that no one, including Cox herself, knew she was pregnant.
Maryland: Raymond Taylor, 26, a prisoner at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore, was erroneously released after he impersonated his cellmate on February 25, 2010. Taylor was serving three consecutive life sentences at the time. He simply presented himself to guards claiming to be his cellmate, who was scheduled for release, and recited his cellmate’s ID number from memory. He was then escorted out of the prison. The error was discovered later that evening when the cellmate began demanding to be released. Corrections officials had no explanation as to how guards could have been so easily duped into releasing the wrong prisoner. Taylor was captured in West Virginia one day after he was mistakenly set free.
Netherlands: On February 5, 2010, the Netherlands government announced it will lease 500 prison beds to Belgium. Belgian officials will pay just over $40 million a year for three years for the additional bed space. The Netherlands has about 2,000 unused prison beds, while Belgian prisons are overcrowded and in need of major structural repairs. This is the first time in modern history that one European country has rented prison beds to another nation. As reported extensively in PLN, that practice has been commonplace for many years among states in the U.S.
Pennsylvania: Kito Dixon, 30, a former Cornell Abraxas mental-health aide at a secure residential treatment facility in Erie, pleaded no contest on March 5, 2010 to charges that he had indecent contact with a 14-year-old female resident at the facility. The girl claimed Dixon made inappropriate comments and touched her breast as she was getting ready for bed. Surveillance footage showed Dixon lingering outside the girl’s room and then entering. He will be sentenced on April 21.
Pennsylvania: On January 7, 2010, Charles L. Walker, 39, a former guard at the Allegheny County Jail, was charged with sexually assaulting a female prisoner. Walker allegedly forced the prisoner to touch his genitals several times and perform a sex act on him on December 27, 2009. In his defense, Walker said he allowed the female prisoner to touch his penis after she tried to kiss him, but denied sexually assaulting her. He was fired following his arrest.
Texas: Five prisoners attempted to escape from the Polunsky Unit after church services on the evening of January 29, 2010. Three of the five men were shot by guards while trying to scale the prison’s perimeter fence; the other two were injured by razor wire. The prisoners were treated at a local hospital and are expected to make full recoveries. All five of the would-be escapees are serving life sentences. They were placed in solitary confinement and will face additional charges of attempted escape.
Texas: On February 4, 2010, Jeffrey Cole, 31, a former guard with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice who worked at the Stiles Unit, pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter for beating a neighbor to death with his bare hands in 2008. No motive was given for the killing. Cole was sentenced to 10 years in prison on March 4.
United Kingdom: Amit Kajla, 22, claimed she was forced to quit her job at the Brinsford Young Offenders Institution near Wolverhampton after she was criticized for being “too attractive.” Kajla, who worked at the facility from July 2007 to May 2008, said she suffered harassment and discrimination for being a young, attractive female working in a predominantly male environment. One co-worker referred to her as a “stupid little girl” who knew “nothing about jailcraft.” Another made demeaning comments about her snug-fitting uniform. Kajla won an employment discrimination claim against Her Majesty’s Prison Service in 2009, and was scheduled for a damages trial on February 25, 2010. The case settled for an undisclosed sum on that day.
Washington: On February 9, 2010, William Larry Findley, 66, a bookkeeper at the King County Jail, was charged with 22 counts of embezzlement for stealing funds from prisoners between February and August 2007. Investigators identified a total of 66 suspicious transactions dating back to 2006, but most of those incidents fell outside the 3-year statute of limitations for theft prosecutions. Findley allegedly stole over $28,000. He was fired but remains free pending trial, and has filed for bankruptcy.