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News In Brief:

California: A woman believed to have robbed as many as 20 banks in Montana, Oregon and Washington while wearing wigs, which earned her the nickname “Bad Hair Bandit,” turned out to be a former prison nurse. Cynthia Van Holland, 47, was arrested on August 15, 2011 along with her husband, Christopher Scott Alonzo, following a bank robbery in Auburn, California. Van Holland and Alonzo apparently met while Alonzo was serving time in an Idaho state prison and Van Holland worked as a contract nurse for Correctional Medical Services.

Florida: Lake County jail prisoner Larry Stone, 32, managed to bond himself out after exploiting a glitch in the facility’s phone system, according to a July 28, 2011 news report. The phone system was designed to refund charges when a call did not go through, but due to a software error it provided double refunds. Stone simply made calls and hung up until the refunds totaled more than $1,250 and he could post his own bond. He was re-arrested shortly after his release when jail officials figured out the problem with the phone system. The glitch has since been fixed.

Hawaii: When Perry Jay Griggs was incarcerated at mainland federal prisons with prisoners from Hawaii, he pitched them and their families on investing in the Aloha Trading investment program, which Griggs operated with his wife, Rachelle. Seventeen people, most from Hawaii, invested over $4 million in the program, which turned out to be a Ponzi scheme. Griggs and his wife went on the run after he was released from prison; they were captured in December 2010 and Griggs pleaded guilty to federal mail and wire fraud charges in April 2011. He was sentenced on August 5, 2011 to 87 months in prison, three years supervised release and more than $1.9 million in restitution. Rachelle Griggs received a 48-month sentence.

Illinois: Janet M. Collins, 47, a nurse administrator at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility, was charged in July 2011 with first degree falsifying business records for allegedly falsifying her time cards. Collins was suspended by the Department of Corrections following her arrest. She is accused of filing time cards between October and June 2011 that indicated she had worked at times she did not.

Iraq: On August 5, 2011, two prisoners and a guard were killed during an escape from the Hillah prison in central Iraq. Five other people were reportedly injured in the incident, though it was unclear whether they were prisoners or prison employees. At least one prisoner escaped according to Justice Ministry spokesman Haider al-Saadi, who said four prisoners and four guards were under investigation in connection with the prison break.

Maine: A social worker who smuggled drugs, porn and nude pictures of herself into the Maine State Prison was sanctioned by the Board of Social Worker Licensure following a hearing in May 2011. Jaime Dale Semple Harnett, 34, received a public reprimand and a $4,500 fine; the Board also stated it would have revoked her social workers license had it not already lapsed. Harnett, who was employed at the Maine State Prison from 2001 to 2010, reportedly had a personal relationship with an unidentified prisoner serving a 25-year sentence. She was accused of smuggling contraband, including suboxone, pornographic DVDs and a cell phone with her nude photos. Harnett had resigned on June 1, 2010; she was not prosecuted.

Nevada: On July 29, 2011, Clark County Detention Center prisoner Carl Guilford, 18, who was being held on charges of murdering his 6-year-old nephew, beat, choked and used a pencil to stab his cellmate to death. Guilford will face additional murder charges for killing fellow prisoner Francesco Sanfilippo, 39. Guilford claimed that Sanfilippo had made sexual advances to him, but later said the devil told him to kill his cellmate.
Guilford had previously completed a psychiatric evaluation and was declared safe.

New York: Ronald Tackman, 57, escaped from Manhattan Criminal Court in 2009 by posing as an attorney. Apparently not amused at his disrespect for the justice system, Tackman was sentenced to 28 years for the escape on July 21, 2011; the stiff sentence also includes time for a series of robberies he committed in 2007 and 2008. Tackman was wearing a suit when he was at the criminal court in 2009, though he had jail-issued orange sneakers. He covered the sneakers with black socks, walked down to another floor when left unattended, and exited the courthouse by pretending to be an attorney. Lawyers must now show ID to court staff.

North Carolina: On July 14, 2011, 10 to 15 death row prisoners at the Central Prison in Raleigh held a peaceful protest after another condemned prisoner, William Bowie, was allegedly beaten by a prison guard while handcuffed. The prisoners participating in the protest stood up in the chow hall and spoke out about the abuse; the next day they were placed in administrative segregation. On August 14, 2011, more than 30 people gathered outside the Central Prison to protest in solidarity with the death row prisoners and in support of prisoners in California conducting a hunger strike.

North Dakota: In July 2011, former Burleigh County jail guard Corey Wiege, 40, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge and was sentenced to one year deferred imposition of sentence. Wiege was charged with assaulting prisoner Carlos Mendez by putting him in a headlock, kneeing him in the groin and pushing his head against an elevator wall. The abusive acts were recorded on surveillance cameras and came to light after Mendez complained and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation conducted a review. In addition to being prosecuted, Wiege was fired.

Ohio: State prisoner David A. McComb, Jr., 26, was scheduled to be released from the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) in March 2011 after serving an 8-year sentence for burglary and aggravated robbery, but received an additional six-month prison term the same day of his release. The extra time was for assaulting an OSP guard and threatening another. McComb pleaded guilty to taking pepper spray from one guard during an October 2008 incident and threatening a second guard several days later.

Ohio: Michael Greer, 35, was sentenced to 30 days in jail on theft charges in July 2011 for trying to steal an auger valued at $28,000. Ironically, the auger was located on the grounds of the Lebanon Correctional Institution, and Greer and an accomplice, Thomas Pusey, were caught after prison guards noticed them loading the auger into a truck. Pusey pleaded guilty in June 2011 and received a six-month sentence for breaking and entering.

Philippines: Communist rebels are suspected of freeing a prisoner in July 2011 and taking four guards hostage. The rebels, wearing army uniforms, set up a roadblock on a remote road in Quezon in Bukidnon province, and stopped two jail vans transporting prisoners to a national prison facility in Davao City. The ten guards escorting the prisoners were disarmed, and the rebels left with convicted communist rebel Dennis Rodenas and four guards. Communist insurgents have been fighting the Philippine government for over 40 years.

Texas: Two guards at the Webb County jail, Esteban Paez, Sr. and Juan Enrique Villarreal, were charged in July 2011 with tampering with government records. Both are accused of falsifying records after prisoner Charles Gabriel Johnson hung himself at the jail. Paez, the watch commander, allegedly told Villarreal to fabricate entries on a log sheet to make it look as though cell checks were performed. Both Paez and Villarreal were released on $10,000 bond following their arrests.

United Kingdom: Soon after Louisa Cunningham, 33, married prisoner Myles Conlon, who was held at the Swaleside jail on the Isle of Sheppey, she realized she had made a mistake. The day after the couple’s December 2010 nuptials, Louisa told a friend – Barrie Renton, one of Myles’ former cellmates – about her doubts. Barrie then expressed his love for her, they had an affair and Louisa became pregnant. She is now waiting until she can have her marriage annulled so she can marry Barrie. Myles, meanwhile, remains in jail serving a four-year sentence for threatening to kill a man with an imitation gun. “He is fully aware that me and [his former cellmate] are together,” Louisa stated. “I’ll be a bit nervous when he comes out. I’m not sure what his frame of mind is.”

Virginia: Cold Springs prison guard Thomas Harris, 37, was fired, arrested for accepting a $20 bribe to smuggle tobacco to a prisoner, and pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge on July 25, 2011. Harris, who had worked as a guard for 16 years, received a 12-month suspended sentence and 100 hours of community service.

Washington: In June 2011, Lakewood resident Michael A. Tharp was charged in federal court with possession of child pornography; he is also suspected of sending child porn to civilly committed sex offenders held at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island. According to federal investigators, several residents at the commitment center said they had paid Tharp to send them child porn. Tharp, who is being held at a detention facility in SeaTac, has denied the allegations.

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