California: Two fights at the John Latorraca Correctional Center in August 2011 have officials worried about safety at the facility. The first incident, involving Norteno gang members attacking members of a rival gang, left two prisoners and three guards with minor injuries. The second fight, on August 27, also involved Norteno gang members. Guards used batons and pepper spray to regain control, and several homemade weapons were found following the fight. The Merced County Sheriff’s Employee Association blamed budget cuts for the increase in violence.
Florida: On Sept. 21, 2011, Governor Rick Scott denied a request for clemency for state prisoner Deborah Turner, who has leukemia. Prison officials assured him that Turner, serving three years for burglary and theft, was receiving adequate medical care. Scott also denied clemency in most of the other 99 cases he considered that same day but granted one pardon: to Raymond Kevin Cross. Cross, a bookkeeper, stole $300,000 from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in the 1980s and had served 90 days in jail.
Georgia: Department of Corrections probation officer Tiffany Bishop, 24, was shot and killed during a training exercise at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson on August 31, 2011. According to a DOC spokesperson, Bishop’s death was the result of an accidental firearm discharge.
Illinois: Federal prison guard Druex M. Perkins, 26, pleaded guilty on Sept. 15, 2011 to accepting a $2,000 bribe to smuggle tobacco and other contraband into FCI Greenville. He then gambled away the bribe money at a casino. Perkins is scheduled to be sentenced on December 22.
Indonesia: Twelve prisoners escaped from the Muara Dua Penitentiary in South Ogan Komering Ulu Regency on Sept. 18. 2011 during a riot. Six were quickly captured by police and local residents, with one prisoner being killed. The penitentiary’s warden was shot to death by a prisoner during the riot and escape. According to the South Sumatra Justice and Human Rights Office, 138 prisoners at the facility were guarded by only the warden and one officer.
Iraq: A Sept. 14, 2011 fire at an Interior Ministry jail in eastern Baghdad killed eight prisoners, according to police and medical officials. The fire was reportedly caused by an electrical problem. Hakim al-Zamili, a local lawmaker, denied rumors that the prisoners may have started the fire as part of an escape attempt. “They could have escaped, but they did not,” he stated. “We understand that there is frustration and the prisons suffer from shortcomings, but the real reason of the fire is a short circuit.”
Maryland: On May 26, 2011, Wilson Lee Garrett, 37, a former U.S. Dept. of Justice legal assistant, was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, attempted and actual possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. He had been accused of conspiring to purchase 20 to 25 kilos of cocaine in 2006 and 2007. Garrett was sentenced in August 2011 to 248 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release, and ordered to forfeit $100,000.
Michigan: Matthew Leonard Bell, 43, a guard at the Newberry Correctional Facility, was arrested on Sept. 7, 2011 after a traffic stop revealed tobacco and a quarter ounce of heroin in his vehicle that he planned to smuggle into the prison. Bell was under investigation for smuggling contraband and the traffic stop was the result of a tip made to a drug task force. He was immediately suspended by the Michigan Dept. of Corrections, where he had worked for 17 years.
Mississippi: When Ronald Wade, 31, walked into the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, he was there to apply for a job as a jail guard. Instead he ended up in jail himself. A background check indicated that Wade was wanted in Florida for DUI manslaughter. He was taken into custody and has waived extradition proceedings, according to a Sept. 16, 2011 news report.
Nebraska: In August 2011, Lincoln County Sheriff Jerome Kramer adopted two cats at the county jail that are cared for by prisoners. He was inspired to adopt the felines after jail prisoners did volunteer work at a local animal shelter. “We got [the cats’] mug shots and put them in a couple of cells where we thought they would be better received. We gave the inmates a list of cat rules for caring for the cat such as cleaning their litter box. But they are waiting in line to take care of the cat,” Kramer said.
New Mexico: Two prisoners at the McKinley County Detention Center started a fire on August 13, 2011 by setting mattresses blaze. The incident occurred after guards at the jail discovered contraband alcohol. “Most likely it was a homemade hooch ... we call it ...homemade liquor in the facility,” said County Commissioner David Dallago. The facility was locked down and several prisoners were treated for smoke inhalation.
New York: A prisoner awaiting trial, who had been jailed at the Manhattan Detention Complex since 2007, used a creative way to express his frustration with the delay. On August 23, 2011, prisoner Vadim Vassilenko, 44, hired an airplane to fly a 100-foot-long banner over the jail that read, “V. Vassilenko jailed 5+ years – no trial – is this legal?” The pilot who flew the banner said the aerial stunt cost $1,250. The following month, Vassilenko’s mother hired a plane to fly a similar banner decrying her son’s lengthy pre-trial detention.
New York: Former Nassau County jail guard Kim Wolfe pleaded guilty in September 2011 to two counts of murder plus kidnapping, assault and a weapons offense. She had shot and killed her uncle and her former girlfriend, wounded her 88-year-old grandfather and taken her niece hostage. Wolfe was sentenced to 22 years to life on November 22, 2011; she had been employed as a jail guard for 19 years.
North Carolina: Three former Maury Correctional Institution guards pleaded guilty on July 12, 2011 to charges of beating a prisoner at the maximum-security facility. Captain Gregory Allen Beck, Sgt. Terry Lynn Bell and guard Brian Steven Bostick admitted they conspired in March 2008 to assault prisoner David G. Richardson with nightsticks while he was handcuffed and shackled. Beck was sentenced to 10-12 months, suspended, and ordered to pay a $500 fine; Bell also received a 10-12 month suspended sentence. Bostick was sentenced to 20-24 months, suspended, plus a $2,500 fine. All three former guards were also placed on probation for 36 months.
Ohio: A federal judge ruled in August 2011 that Franklin County officials could not be held liable for the actions of two jail guards who gave a prisoner a bologna sandwich that had been rubbed on another prisoner’s genitals. In March 2009, Deputies Joseph M. Cantwell and Phillip Barnett took a cell phone photo of a prisoner with his penis on a sandwich, then gave the sandwich to another prisoner, Joseph Copeland, and showed him the photo after he ate it. Both guards were fired; Cantwell pleaded guilty to misdemeanor health code violations and received five years on probation, a $500 fine and a 90-day suspended jail sentence. [See: PLN, Nov. 2009, p.50]. The federal court ruling was in a lawsuit Copeland had filed against the county.
Oklahoma: On August 22, 2011, a brawl involving over 40 prisoners erupted at the Lawton Correctional Facility, operated by private prison firm GEO Group. At least 15 prisoners were reportedly injured; seven suffered stab wounds and six were transported to an outside hospital. The facility was placed on lockdown. According to police and Department of Corrections officials, the fight may have been in retaliation for an unspecified gang-related incident at another Oklahoma prison.
Pennsylvania: When Coal Township SCI prisoner Michael Baynard, 37, submitted a public records request to the Pennsylvania Department of State for a copy of the state constitution, he probably did not expect his request to be denied – but it was. Baynard appealed to the Office of Open Records, which on Sept. 7, 2011 held that he was entitled to a copy of the constitution as it was a public document. The initial denial of Baynard’s request “almost leaves me speechless” said Open Records Office executive director Terry Mutchler.
Pennsylvania: Magisterial District Judge Isaac H. Stoltzfus was cited for disorderly conduct in September 2009 for distributing acorns stuffed with unwrapped condoms to women on the grounds of the state Capitol. Stoltzfus claimed he was just joking when he gave the acorns to two women and told them they would make “a nice afternoon snack.” However, the Court of Judicial Discipline, considering an ethics complaint against Stoltzfus, wrote that “his preoccupation with acorns is mystifying.” Nevertheless, the Court dismissed the ethics complaint on August 17, 2011, finding that Stoltzfus’ actions did not constitute a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
South Carolina: On Sept. 8, 2011, Fairfield County Detention Center guard Marcus Woodard was arrested after he tried to purchase methadone from an undercover officer. It was suspected that he was going to smuggle the drugs into the jail. Woodard was charged with misconduct in office, possession with intent to distribute and attempting to bring contraband into jail property.
South Dakota: Eric Roberts, 49, pleaded guilty on Sept. 16, 2011 to killing prison guard Ronald “R.J.” Johnson during a botched escape attempt at the South Dakota State Penitentiary. Roberts hit Johnson with a pipe and then covered his face with plastic wrap; he donned Johnson’s uniform and tried to leave the prison but was caught. Roberts, who had been serving an 80-year sentence for kidnapping, may face the death penalty. Another prisoner who participated in the attempted escape, Rodney Berget, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Johnson. [See: PLN, July 2011, p.50].
United Kingdom: According to an August 29, 2011 news report, two officers employed by G4S, a private security company that contracts with the Ministry of Justice, were fired after they attached an electronic monitor to an offender’s prosthetic leg. When Christopher Lowcock, 29, wanted to leave his house, where he was on a court-ordered curfew, he simply removed his prosthetic leg with the monitor. The G4S guard who attached the monitor was terminated, as was another employee who failed to properly check the electronic monitoring equipment.
Washington: If you’re going to embezzle funds, you shouldn’t steal from a group of judges. Barbara Jo Ericsson, aka Barbara Jo Fulton, 56, learned that the hard way on Sept. 16, 2011 when she was sentenced in federal court for stealing over $450,000 from the Washington State Superior Court Judges Association, where she served as the organization’s bookkeeper. Ericsson, who had pleaded guilty to three counts of federal bank fraud, received a two-year prison sentence plus five years of supervised release. She also was ordered to repay $451,909 she had embezzled from the judges’ association over a seven-year period by forging checks.
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login