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News in Brief:

Arizona: Infamous Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, best known for his harsh and humiliating treatment of prisoners, staged a Christmas carol contest on December 21, 2010. Ten prisoners sang for a chance to get a full traditional dinner on Christmas Eve, with Arpaio judging the contest along with a jail guard and a Santa-costumed judge. Prisoner Jodi Ann Arias won the top prize by singing “Oh, Holy Night,” securing the dinner for her and her cellmate. Arias and two runner-ups also received Christmas stockings filled with commissary items, which they donated to charity.

Arizona: A December 23, 2010 fight at the CCA-operated Red Rock Correctional Center in Eloy left ten prisoners with injuries, three of them in critical condition. The lunchtime fight involved around 110 prisoners, all of whom had been transferred to the private prison from California. CCA staff used pepper spray to regain control, and both Red Rock and the neighboring Saguaro Correctional Center, also run by CCA, were placed on lockdown.

California: Malcolm Alarmo King, 38, incarcerated at the Theo Lacy Jail in Orange County, managed to get kosher meals by citing his devotion to the religious holiday of “Festivus.” According to a December 10, 2010 article in the Orange County Register, King disliked the lunchmeat served at the jail and used the religious justification to convince Judge Derek G. Johnson to get tastier kosher food – and even double portions. The judge, and jail officials, were apparently unaware that Festivus is a made-up holiday from the Seinfeld TV show. King had initially cited “Healthism” as his faith in order to obtain kosher meals, but his attorney admitted that wasn’t a real religion.

Chile: A major riot erupted at the ex-Penitenciaria prison in Santiago on December 15, 2010, resulting in injuries among at least 80 prisoners and 18 guards, according to prison staff. Luis Masferrer, head of the prison guard service, disputed accounts of the incident. “This shouldn’t be referred to as a riot. Instead, there were disturbances inside the prison,” he said. However, he noted that “the crisis of the prison system is an everyday problem. There are 7,115 convicts at this prison and it was designed for 2,900.” The riot occurred a week after a violent disturbance and fire at the San Miguel prison in Santiago that left 81 prisoners dead.

Colorado: The U.S. Penitentiary in Florence was placed on lockdown on December 21, 2010 after a prisoner attacked two staff members, striking them in the face. One of the staff members was admitted to a hospital for observation. Neither the prisoner nor the employees involved in the incident were identified in news reports. William Edwards, president of USP Local 1301, which represents guards at USP Florence, cited rising levels of prisoner-on-staff violence. “It’s a ticking time bomb,” he remarked. “One day, it’s going to catch up and someone may not be so lucky.” The FBI is investigating the incident.

Florida: On December 20, 2010, a U.S. Magistrate Judge cleared Dr. Zachariah P. Zachariah, who had previously consulted for private prison company GEO Group, of civil charges related to insider stock trading. Zachariah was accused of using insider information about GEO’s acquisition of Correctional Services Corp. (CSC) when he purchased 80,000 shares of CSC stock for less than $3 a share shortly before GEO announced it would pay $6 per share to acquire the company. [See: PLN, Dec. 2008, p.36]. Zachariah’s son, Reggie, was employed by GEO and worked on the CSC acquisition. Magistrate Judge Linnea R. Johnson wrote that the SEC had “failed entirely” to prove that Zachariah had relied on insider information when he purchased the stock.

Florida: Polk County Jail prisoners installed new basketball equipment at a church on December 23, 2010. They were familiar with the equipment, since it had previously been installed at the jail for recreational use by prisoners before Sheriff Grady Judd decided that eight basketball posts at the Central and South County Jails should be removed. Sheriff Judd reportedly justified his decision by saying he didn’t want members of the public to see prisoners playing basketball. “Going to jail is not fun and games,” he said. “If you want to play basketball, stay out of jail.”

Florida: Prison guard Ciara Lee, 24, and her 2-year-old son were killed in their house in the Victory Homes projects in Miami on December 14, 2010 during a drive-by shooting. Lee’s uncle, Tony Lee, was shot in the leg but survived. A high-powered rifle was reportedly used in the shootings; police said Lee and her son were not the intended targets. Over 60 rounds were fired at the house, which is in an area known for drug activity. Lee worked at the South Florida Reception Center as a day-shift guard.

Iowa: “Roll your own” may soon have a different meaning for Iowa state prisoners, as the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility plans to begin making its own toilet paper by January 2011. The prisons at Anamosa and Mitchellville are already testing a single-ply toilet paper produced at the Cross Roads Correctional Center in Missouri. The Iowa prison system uses an estimated 900,000 rolls of toilet paper annually, and having prisoners make their own toilet paper has been billed as a cost-cutting measure. “Our challenge is to seek out new things that we can do, and, well, toilet tissue is a high-consumption item,” stated Iowa Prison Industries Director Roger Baysden.

Kentucky: Gregory and Mary Donathan, parents of Blackburn Correctional Complex prisoner Gregory Donathan, were arrested in December 2010 and charged with introduction of contraband. Investigators claim the husband and wife team tried to leave a package filled with tobacco products for their son, who is serving a 5-year sentence on drug-related charges. The Blackburn prison is a tobacco-free facility.

Louisiana: Two prison guards charged with kicking and Tasering a prisoner at the Richwood Correctional Center were found not guilty in U.S. District Court on December 16, 2010. The guards, Kenneth Lamar Dennis and Derome Sanchez Proctor, were accused of assaulting a prisoner in November 2004, falsifying a report related to the incident, and making false statements to the FBI. They argued that their use of force was justified.

Mexico: On December 16, 2010, at least 140 prisoners escaped from a prison in Nuevo Laredo in the state of Tamaulipas. According to public safety secretary Antonio Garza Garcia, prison staff may have facilitated the break-out. The Interior Ministry criticized local authorities for failing to prevent escapes, which occur frequently in Mexico. In March 2010, 40 prisoners were freed by gunmen in Matamoros, while 89 prisoners escaped from a prison in Reynosa in September. In August 2010, a prison director was arrested in the state of Durango for letting prisoners leave the facility with weapons to attack rival gang members.

Missouri: It was reported in December 2010 that the Missouri National Guard is proposing to train state prisoners to assist during national disasters and other emergencies. According to Guard Major Tammy Spicer, prisoners would be used as part of the agency’s disaster response, performing such tasks as filling sandbags and removing debris. The proposal would merely formalize a pre-existing relationship between the Guard and the Department of Corrections. Over the past several years Missouri prisoners have been used to stack sandbags, fortify levees and protect infrastructure from floodwaters.

Missouri: A December 18, 2010 brawl at the Jefferson County Jail sent one prisoner to the hospital with critical injuries. According to Sheriff Glenn Boyer, the fight, which broke out during lunchtime in one of the jail units, involved a dispute over food. The unnamed prisoner who was injured was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion.

Pennsylvania: Two employees at the George Hill Correctional Facility were suspended following the mistaken December 2010 release of prisoner Christianus Felten. At least seven prisoners were erroneously released from the jail in 2010; during that time the facility has been operated by Community Education Centers (CEC), a private company. CEC officials said they were “using this experience during this transition phase in order to continue to improve procedures at the facility.” The suspended employees, an intake clerk and a sergeant, failed to verify Felten’s eligibility for release on home-monitoring before setting him free.

Pennsylvania: Actor Wesley Snipes, known for such movies as Demolition Man, Art of War and the Blade series, reported to federal prison on December 9, 2010 to begin serving a three-year sentence for failing to file income tax returns. Snipes, 48, will do time at the minimum-security FCI McKean, which does not have a perimeter fence. He was unable to overturn his April 2008 conviction on appeal, and said he felt the criminal justice system “doesn’t seem to be working” for him.

Rhode Island: Prison guard Matthew Lacroix, 27, may be headed to prison himself after being charged in December 2010 with use of fraudulent information. His offense? He set up a fake page on well-known social networking site Facebook, pretending to be Rhode Island DOC director A.T. Wall. Lacroix was also placed on administrative leave and ordered not to contact Wall. State police traced the fraudulent Facebook page to the home of Lacroix’s neighbors, who said he frequently visited and used their computer.

Russia: On December 17, 2010, the regional court in Sverdlovsk sentenced 45 prisoners who participated in a 2007 riot to additional prison terms ranging from 2 to 12 years. The rioters were also ordered to pay over 3.8 million rubles (approximately $124,000) in fines. The October 2007 riot at the Kirov prison involved an escape attempt; two prisoners and a prison employee were killed, and 73 police officers and a dozen prison staff members were injured. Almost all of the prisoners were under age 18 at the time. Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov criticized “inappropriate” conditions in Russian prisons that require prisoners to “fight for survival.”

Tennessee: A December 23, 2010 brawl at the Lawrence County Jail resulted in the death of prisoner James Heatherly, 43, reportedly due to a liver injury. At least two other prisoners, Mark Allen Whitt and Jason David Wilburn, were involved in the incident and may be charged in connection with Heatherly’s death.

Washington: Prisoners at the Monroe Correctional Complex were placed on lockdown on November 16, 2010, not due to a riot or fighting but as a result of budget cuts that impact the Department of Corrections. The lockdown was a trial run for modified monthly lockdowns that started in December. Under the modified lockdowns, prisoners only leave their cells to go to meals; there is no recreation or library time, and no education classes. The lockdowns will also affect prison staff, and Teamsters Local Union 117, which represents state prison employees, announced it will launch a protest. Prison officials are unsure how much money – if any – the modified lockdowns will save.

Wisconsin: Eau Claire County Jail prisoner Christopher J. Fischer, 30, broke both of his ankles after jumping 14 feet from a second-floor railing in his unit to win a bet valued at $20-25. Fischer, who had since been released from jail after serving two months, was rearrested in December 2010 in connection with the jumping incident; he faces charges of obstructing an officer and disorderly conduct.

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