Indiana: Shaun Michael West, a prisoner at the Delaware County jail, was sentenced on April 7, 2011 to six years in prison for smuggling a cell phone and charger into the jail through a broken cell window. West, 19, admitted that the consequences of smuggling the cell phone were “more serious than I thought it was going to be.” He was also ordered to pay $278 to repair the damaged window. Another prisoner who assisted in the scheme, Spencer Robert Norvell, 23, received an 8-year sentence.
New Mexico: On January 20, 2011, former San Juan County Detention Center contract food service worker Donald McDonald, 47, pleaded guilty to 21 felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of tampering with evidence. McDonald was caught with hundreds of photos and videos depicting child pornography, including extreme content involving babies, preteens and bondage. He was turned in by his wife, who later divorced him. McDonald was sentenced in March 2011 to six years with all but nine months suspended. He was also approved for work release.
North Carolina: Eric Lashawn Askew, 28, a sergeant at the GEO Group-operated Rivers Correctional Institution in Winton, turned himself in to the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office on March 9, 2011 to face charges of second-degree rape, assault and sexual battery. He is accused of sexually assaulting a female guard who works at the Rivers facility, and was released on a $25,000 secured bond the same day.
Ohio: Former Obetz police officer Vernon Wolford, serving a four-year sentence for sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman who was handcuffed and in custody, was granted early release on March 1, 2011. The sexual assault occurred in November 2009, and Wolford was sentenced in March 2010; he had served a year in prison prior to his early release. “The reason for this court allowing you judicial release is because you have had to be separated from the rest of the prisoners for the last year because you were law enforcement, and as such you were an undue burden to the entire citizenry that is paying for your incarceration,” said Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Julie Lynch. In other words, because Wolford was a former cop who had to be kept in protective custody, it was cheaper to just let him go. He must serve nine months on house arrest and will remain on probation for five years.
Ohio: Of all the things you shouldn’t steal, a judge’s gavel is near the top of the list. Christopher Collins, 47, learned that in April 2011, when he was spotted on surveillance video taking a gavel from the bench of Lorain Magistrate Daniel Cook. Collins admitted to police officers that he stole the gavel but said he couldn’t return it because he had left it in someone else’s vehicle. He was arrested on a charge of petty theft.
Pakistan: A protest at the Central Jail in Hyderabad on March 15, 2011 resulted in seven prisoners being killed and more than 20 injured. The prisoners were demonstrating against police officers, who used tear gas and live ammo after negotiations to end the protest broke down. One police officer was injured. A subsequent search of the jail found 600 contraband cell phones, six handguns and two Kalashnikov rifles.
Pennsylvania: On April 6, 2011, Mifflin County magisterial district judge Tammy Hunter, 42, was charged with misconduct. Hunter is accused of covering for her boyfriend, state constable Brian Frankhouser, 47, who allegedly removed a prisoner from the county jail on January 28 to take him to Hunter’s office. However, Frankhouser instead let the prisoner, Justin Davis, smoke cigarettes and use a cellphone to check on his family before returning him to the jail. Hunter was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond. Frankhouser has been charged with permitting or facilitating escape and interfering with the custody of a prisoner. He also faces charges in an unrelated incident for allegedly retaliating against and threatening Mifflin County District Attorney Steve Snook.
Portugal: An enterprising Portuguese prisoner managed to escape from custody after his wife sent a fax to court officials demanding his release. Twice. Prisoner Jose Carolos Serna, 57, was released from a cell at the Arganda del Rey courthouse in December 2010 after his wife, Gema Maria Serna, faxed a release order and followed up with several phone calls, pretending to be a court official. Serna had used the same ruse previously when he was held at the Valdermoro jail.
South Dakota: Two South Dakota Penitentiary prisoners, Rodney Berget and Eric Robert, accused of killing guard Ronald E. Johnson, 63, during an unsuccessful escape attempt on April 12, 2011, have been charged with murder. The duo attacked Johnson, took his uniform and wrapped his head in shrink wrap. He died due to suffocation. Berget and Robert didn’t make it outside the perimeter fence; Robert tried to escape while wearing Johnson’s uniform. Berget, serving a life sentence, had escaped from the prison previously, in May 1987, but was caught several months later. He refused to eat or drink following the failed escape, leading a judge to order medical tests to determine if he should be force-fed. The South Dakota DOC has since instituted security changes at the penitentiary.
Vermont: On January 26, 2011, the Vermont State Police announced that a former Vermont Corrections Department employee had been arrested on a felony charge of sexually exploiting a prisoner. Stephen E. Hoke, 68, who worked as a supervisor with the Vermont Probation and Parole office, is accused of having a sexual relationship with a female probationer under his supervision over a four-month period in 2008. Hoke resigned in late December 2010, soon after the investigation began. Washington: Charles B. Storlie, a former guard at the Chelan Regional Justice Center annex, was sentenced to 26 months in prison on March 31, 2011. Storlie pleaded guilty to three counts of accepting bribes from prisoners, totaling $150, in exchange for providing them with favors – including fast food, chewing tobacco and access to a cellphone. He also arranged for a prisoner to be released four hours early, and reportedly admitted to taking bribes to let prisoners have sex with their girlfriends. In addition to pleading guilty, Storlie entered an Alford plea to one count of forgery. Superior Court Judge John Bridges, who sentenced Storlie, said he had “violated every confidence I think I, and we, should expect of a public officer.”
Washington: On April 12, 2011, Yakima attorney Kimberly L. Grijalva, 41, was convicted of giving prisoners at the Yakima County jail her home phone number and loaning a cell phone to a prisoner. By letting prisoners use her home phone to make three-way calls, she reportedly cost the county and the jail’s phone service provider over $2,300 in phone charges. She faces more than a year behind bars on the felony second-degree theft conviction, and her law license was suspended in May 2011 pending disciplinary proceedings.
Washington: Former Kent City jail guard Michael Pickens, 42, was charged on March 1, 2011 with nine counts of theft for stealing funds from prisoners’ property. Surveillance cameras revealed that he was taking cash from lockers used to store prisoners’ personal belongings; the cameras were installed after prisoners complained they were missing money. Pickens was placed on administrative leave and later fired. West Virginia: When Well Read, a bookstore in Charleston, closed in April 2011, the store’s owner, Rena Seidler, gave her inventory of 2,500 to 3,000 books to the South Central Regional Jail’s library. “I’ve been there 11 years, and it’s the biggest donation we’ve ever had,” remarked director of inmate services Dave Farmer. “Hopefully along the way someone will read something that will mean something to them,” Seidler said of her generous donation.
Yemen: Al Jazeera reported on March 8, 2011 that prisoners at the Sanaa facility were protesting in solidarity with outside demonstrators, calling for the removal of Yemen’s president, when security forces opened fire with tear gas and live ammunition. Three prisoners were killed and four injured, according to Sharif Mobley, a U.S. citizen held at the prison who contacted Al Jazeera by phone. “The main demand from the prisoners is they want justice and they want to be treated equally,” Mobley stated. “They complain that if you don’t have money and if you don’t have ties to strong tribes, then you stay in prison.”
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