California: On January 11, 2011, a woman who escaped from a California state prison in 1979 was captured in Santa Barbara. Nancy Garces, 56, was serving time for credit card forgery when she absconded from the women’s prison in Chino. Police were tipped off that she would be arriving in Santa Barbara by train and were waiting for her at the station. “I can tell you she was very surprised,” stated police Lt. Paul McCaffrey. Garces had been living under the name of Lydia Mendez.
Canada: An escapee from a South Dakota prison who had been on the run for 16 years turned himself in to Canadian authorities on January 10, 2011. Clifford Laframboise, 42, walked away from the annex at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in 1994, where he was serving an 18-year sentence for burglary. Laframboise also faces charges in Canada for sexual assault and committing an indecent act. He was free on bond on those charges when Canadian officials matched his photo to a South Dakota wanted poster.
Columbia: Three prisoners died on January 8, 2011 after they set fire to an air bed in their jail cell in the city of Bucaramanga in Santander province. “The fire went out of control,” said Gen. Jose Angel Mendoza, the city’s police commander. All three prisoners suffered third-degree burns; they were serving sentences for robbery and weapons possession.
Florida: Three guns have been smuggled into the Sarasota County Jail within the past five years. Most recently, in December 2010, Gregory Pedigo, arrested for burglary, snuck a loaded .32 revolver into the facility. He hid it in a trash can in a bathroom, where it was found by a trustee who turned it in. Jail employee Adam Shaw was suspended for not finding the gun when Pedigo was searched. Previously, in September 2005, prisoner George Dupree smuggled a gun into the jail and kept it in his cell for three weeks. A sergeant and a guard were suspended. Several months later, in early 2006, another gun was found in a trash can at the jail where it had been discarded by an arrestee; one guard was suspended in that incident.
Florida: On January 10, 2011, Terry Blair, a state prison guard at the Apalachee Correctional Institution, was charged in connection with an assault on a prisoner that occurred in June 2010. Blair, 39, is accused of aiding an attack that “caused great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement.” According to a DOC investigation, a sergeant and a captain refused a prisoner’s request for protection, called him derogatory names and physically assaulted him, then put him back in his unit where he “was in fear of other inmates.” That prisoner was attacked by another prisoner several days later; Blair reportedly observed the assault but did not intervene, then allegedly cleaned the crime scene and denied witnessing the attack in an incident report. The sergeant and captain have not been charged.
Florida: The last defendant in Operation Blind Justice, a joint FBI, state and local law enforcement investigation, was sentenced on January 6, 2011. Jerry Thicklin received 33 months in federal prison and three years supervised release after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. Operation Blind Justice targeted Florida state prison guards (and several defendants who falsely posed as prison guards) who agreed to facilitate drug trafficking in exchange for cash payments. The trafficking was actually arranged by undercover agents and involved fake cocaine. Sixteen defendants, including 13 prison guards, were indicted on federal charges in February 2010; all have since pleaded guilty. [See: PLN, Dec. 2010, p.13].
France: Florent Goncalves, 41, governor of the Versailles women’s prison west of Paris, was suspended after he reportedly fell in love with 23-year-old prisoner Emma Arbabzadeh, who is serving 9 years for posing as “sexual bait” in a 2006 kidnapping and murder. Goncalves and a prison guard admitted to having sex with Arbabzadeh in exchange for giving her money, gifts and special treatment. The sexual relationships were discovered after other prisoners complained that Arbabzadeh was receiving special privileges.
Hawaii: On January 12, 2011, a Hawaiian prisoner filed suit in state court claiming that he was sexually assaulted by a male guard while held at the CCA-operated Saguaro Correctional Facility in Eloy, Arizona. The unnamed prisoner said he was sexually abused by CCA guard Richard Ketland in October 2009. Ketland was indicted four months later on a felony charge of unlawful sexual conduct, pleaded guilty, and received probation. Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie has said he wants to return all state prisoners held in mainland facilities back to Hawaii.
Illinois: Andrew Edmondson, Jr., 54, was released from the Peoria County Jail on December 27, 2010. A week later, while walking near the jail, he was approached by security officers who made him take off and return the black-and-white jail jumpsuit he was still wearing. Edmondson said he had kept the jumpsuit to stay warm. “It’s eye-opening to see someone standing on the corner with a black-and-white jumpsuit that says Peoria County Jail, but we are glad that someone caught it and reported it to us,” stated Chief Deputy Joe Needham.
Illinois: In January 2011, Tahir Malik, 47, a convicted burglar, was charged with two counts of impersonation of a lawyer. He is accused of pretending to be an attorney and representing dozens of clients for at least five years, even though he never attended law school and never passed the bar. Malik’s father said he may have honed his legal skills by watching law shows on TV. Malik’s clients reportedly paid him between $500 and $4,500 to represent them. News reports did not describe his track record in court, where he handled cases involving traffic citations, mortgage foreclosures and low-level criminal offenses.
India: Court officials in New Delhi ordered an investigation in December 2010 after two prisoners, brothers Amit and Nishant Prasad, claimed they had been armed by prison officials and ordered to kill two of three senior Delhi Commonwealth Games officials who were being held on corruption charges. The Prasads alleged they were given a knife and gun and told to assassinate two of the officials; a knife was later found in the unit where the brothers were housed. Prison spokesman Sunil Gupta denied the brothers’ claims. “One of them is a convicted criminal, the other one is an accused, and both are habitual criminals facing multiple charges. This is a mischievous attempt by the two to divert the attention of the court,” he said.
New Mexico: On January 10, 2011, Vincent Peele, a former Albuquerque jail official who supervised the house arrest program at the Metro Detention Center, pleaded not guilty to charges of taking bribes from prisoners to place them on house arrest. He was released on $50,000 bond following his arrest in June 2010.
New York: The state’s oldest prisoner, Theodore Sypnier, 101, died of natural causes at a state prison in Coxsackie on December 7, 2010. Sypnier was serving time for child sexual abuse; he had been in and out of prison since 1987. He was quoted in a 2009 interview as saying his time in prison wasn’t different from other prisoners despite his age. “You just count the days until you’re out,” he said.
New York: In January 2011, a federal judge ruled that Peter Solomon could proceed with his lawsuit alleging that a rodent bit him on his penis while he was held in a Nassau County jail. According to Solomon, he was in jail for menacing his wife in February 2007 when he suffered the injury. He received a rabies shot, then later sued the county for “deliberate indifference to his health and safety in failing to adequately protect him from rodents.” Solomon reports that he has “complete sexual dysfunction” as a result of the rodent bite. “The county is in trouble,” observed Solomon’s attorney, Ambrose W. Wotorson. “There was a long-standing practice and pattern of not taking complaints about rodents seriously. I guess because they are inmates.”
Tennessee: Two Cocke County jail guards were charged with misconduct in January 2011 following a three-month investigation. Matthew B. Stoltz, 30, is accused of having sexual contact with a prisoner; he had previously been accused of sexual indecency with a prisoner in a separate incident. Also, jail guard George “Bubba” Trent, 33, was charged with sale and delivery of Oxycodone and introduction of contraband into a penal facility.
Texas: The Harris County Jail has started a new program that rewards prisoners who call a Crime Stoppers hotline with up to $5,000 for helping to solve or prevent crimes. The program, announced on January 12, 2011, allows prisoners to make anonymous tips. “When people are coming into the jail environment, we recognize they’re vulnerable,” said Sheriff Adrian Garcia. “They’re caught and being processed. We wanted to take advantage of that psychology. If they are the only one caught and they’ve been involved in a crime someone else planned, it may be a good idea for them to speak up.” Garcia noted that prisoners could use the reward money to post bond or hire a paid attorney for their criminal cases.
Texas: On January 14, 2011, Tarrant County jail Major Don Curtis Taylor was sentenced to one year in jail, suspended to two years probation, for punching a prisoner who had thrown food at another guard. Taylor, 47, was charged with official oppression following the May 2009 incident. Jail guard Tariq Salahuddin, 32, was also charged, and also received probation when he was sentenced in February 2010.
Virginia: A defendant in a murder case tried to smuggle drugs into a Norfolk jail in the clothes he was going to wear to trial. Rolland Doyle, who is facing first-degree murder and weapons charges, asked a female friend to give his trial clothes to his attorney, and asked her to hide half an ounce of marijuana and ecstasy pills in the shoes. She complied, and Doyle’s lawyer, who was unaware of the drugs, delivered the clothes to the jail. Jail authorities had been tipped off, however, and Doyle was charged with three felony offenses and a misdemeanor for attempting to smuggle and distribute the drugs. He pleaded guilty on January 4, 2011 and will be sentenced in May.
Virginia: On January 19, 2011, Norfolk police officer Sharron Paige was arrested for meeting with a female prisoner at the city jail under false pretenses and giving the prisoner a cell phone. Although Paige told jailers that she was investigating a case and needed to interview the prisoner, she was actually on inactive status with the police department because she was on active duty with the military, and thus was not involved in any police investigations.
West Virginia: Lori Sue Helmick, 39, a nurse at the U.S. Penitentiary in Hazelton, pleaded guilty in August 2010 to having a sexual encounter with an unidentified prisoner in 2009. Helmick was sentenced in December 2010 to five months in prison, five months on home confinement and five years of supervised release. The sexual misconduct was discovered when prison authorities intercepted a letter Helmick sent to the prisoner that mentioned she had had sex with him.
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