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News in Brief:
Colorado: A prison transport van crashed in Lincoln County on December 19, 2011, killing a 22-year-old female guard and a prisoner. The van, owned by Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), was en route from the Kit Carson Correctional Center to the Limon Correctional Facility when it rolled at least twice. Speeding and an inexperienced driver were cited as factors that contributed to the crash. The guard who was killed was identified as Grace Cortez; the prisoner who died was Andres Valdez, 57. Eight other prisoners and one guard who survived the accident were treated for injuries.
Congo: Nine prisoners were killed and 50 injured during an escape attempt at a prison in the city of Bukavu. As part of the escape, one prisoner tried to use a hand grenade. “The [prisoner] did not know how to use a grenade, he pulled the pin out but didn’t throw it,” said provincial chief of police General Gaston Luzembo. Officials are investigating how a grenade was brought into the prison. In September 2011, over 965 prisoners escaped from the Kassapa prison near Lubumbashi after gunmen opened fire on police and military guards. That raid freed a top Mai-Mai militia leader held at the facility who had been sentenced to death.
Cuba: On December 23, 2011, the Cuban government announced it would release 2,900 prisoners in advance of a 2012 visit by Pope Benedict XVI. The pardons were granted for humanitarian reasons, according to the Council of State, and will include elderly prisoners, prisoners with medical conditions, women and young prisoners with no prior criminal records. The mass release does not include prisoners held for political reasons.
District of Columbia: Fourteen people were arrested on January 17, 2012 for staging a protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building. The demonstrators were protesting the 35th anniversary of the execution of Gary Gilmore, who was the first prisoner put to death after the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Since then there have been 1,283 executions in the U.S., according to the Death Penalty Information Center. It is illegal to protest in the plaza that faces the Capitol.
Florida: Richard Demetric Mays, 26, a state prison guard at the Levy Forestry Camp, was one of two men arrested in December 2011 after deputies pulled over their car to check the window tint. As a result of the traffic stop, a half-kilo of cocaine worth over $12,000 was found in the vehicle. Mays was charged with possession and trafficking cocaine, and held at the Alachua County jail.
Japan: Over 1,000 prisoners at the Osaka Prison in Sakai became sick due to food poisoning in December 2011. The facility’s kitchen was closed for three days and prisoners were given preserved food from emergency stores while the incident was investigated.
Kyrgyzstan: Government officials announced on December 13, 2011 that prisoners at several facilities in this central Asian nation were participating in a hunger strike. The protest was related to a change in visitation rules that barred prisoners from receiving visits from prostitutes. “Prisoners at seven prisons have refused to take their meals,” said Joldochbek Bouzourmankoulov, a spokesman for the prison system. “Prisoners had the right for visits from their families and ‘other’ people,” he stated. “But under the label for ‘others,’ they were bringing prostitutes to the prison.”
Minnesota: On December 5, 2011, Dakota County jail deputy Phillip Mycal Simpson, 40, was found guilty of illegally releasing medical information about a prisoner. Simpson was convicted at a bench trial of one misdemeanor charge of violating government data practices, and fined $180; he was acquitted of another, similar charge. He had released medical information about prisoner Jason Olson-Skweres during a child-custody hearing, including information related to Olson-Skweres’ medication, medical history and jail records. Olson-Skweres was the boyfriend of a former jail deputy, Emily Bonniwell, who had had a child with Simpson.
Missouri: Police responded to the Jackson County juvenile detention center on December 12, 2011 to quell a disturbance among offenders at the facility, including four who had escaped from their rooms. There were no reported injuries. Another incident had occurred the previous month when juveniles barricaded themselves in a room and caused property damage, resulting in a response from dozens of police officers and a tactical squad.
Nevada: On January 10, 2012, the Nevada Board of Examiners approved a contract with California Prison Industries for the purchase of shoes for Nevada prisoners. The contract, valued at $200,000, will supply black-and-white sneakers made by California prisoners at around $4.25 per pair – less than half the cost Nevada was paying other vendors.
New Mexico: Five guards at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) were arrested following a December 21, 2011 altercation involving Christopher Shields, who was being booked into the jail on a DUI charge. Shields, who was uncooperative, was reportedly choked and kicked by MDC guard Demetrio Gonzales. Gonzales then took Shields into a shower area, where they were joined by guards Kevin Casaus, Manuel Marquez and Matthew Pendley. The guards allegedly assaulted Shields; a fifth guard in the booking area when the incident occurred, Pricilla Sieben, also was charged. All of the MDC guards were placed on paid administrative leave.
New York: On December 12, 2011, the state’s first same-sex marriage involving a prisoner took place at the Auburn Correctional Facility. Former prisoner Marc Rodriquez, 34, wed prisoner Ronald Cook, 31, in a civil ceremony; they had met while incarcerated. The couple will have the same right to participate in conjugal visits as other married prisoners. New York enacted legislation to allow same-sex marriage in June 2011.
Pennsylvania: The ACLU has filed suit on behalf of the NAACP against the City of Philadelphia and Clear Channel, an advertising company. The complaint alleges that Clear Channel and the city refused to post an NAACP ad at Philadelphia International Airport that stated, “Welcome to America, home to 5% of the world’s people & 25% of the world’s prisoners. Let’s build a better America together.” The NAACP claims the refusal to run the ad constituted an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech. “The advertisement at issue discusses the high level of and cost of incarceration in America’s prisons, a subject of immense national and local interest. There is no legitimate justification for the defendants’ refusal to accept this advertisement,” states the lawsuit, which was filed in October 2011.
Pennsylvania: Gregory Moon, 22, picked a poor Halloween costume considering that he was wanted on an out-standing warrant for possession of a stolen gun. Moon was dressed as a convict in a black-and-white striped outfit when he yelled at police who had responded to a disturbance and were arresting his friend on October 31, 2011. Moon was arrested too, and traded his costume for an orange jumpsuit at the Washington County Jail.
South Carolina: On January 18, 2012, a special operations team entered the Lieber Correctional Institution and ended a riot in which prisoners had overpowered and injured guards at the facility and took their keys. Approximately 200 law enforcement officers responded to the disturbance. The guards were released by the prisoners after they took control; three guards suffered minor injuries. The riot started in Ashley A and B dorms, a high-security section of the facility.
Tennessee: Bruce Tuck, 38, a former jailer for the Collierville Police Department, pleaded guilty on December 16, 2011 and was sentenced to 20 years for numerous crimes committed in Shelby County in 2009, including aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated sexual battery and other charges. He was already serving a 60-year sentence for a series of rapes in Weakley County. Tuck, who weighed around 275 pounds, said he had confessed in the earlier case in exchange for potato chips and a soft drink after the jail kept him on a diet of lettuce. Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft found that claim “less than credible,” noting the jail’s menu included chicken sandwiches and pancakes.
Tennessee: A Coffee County jail guard, Susan D. Winters, 53, was arrested on January 2, 2012 and charged with bribery, official misconduct and manufacture, sale or delivery of a controlled substance. She is accused of meeting with an informant and accepting approximately 11 grams of marijuana and 1 gram of cocaine to smuggle into the jail. She was held on a $225,000 bond.
Texas: Shiva Daniels, 26, a guard at the CCA-operated Dawson State Jail, was critically injured by her estranged boyfriend on January 10, 2012. Walter Moore, 29, who had two children with Daniels, shot her twice with a shotgun after she left work; she was hit in the neck and shoulder. Moore was arrested on a charge of aggravated assault/family violence. Daniels, who survived the shooting, was listed in serious condition.
Washington: On December 12, 2011, Yakima County prosecutor Jim Hagarty pleaded guilty to reckless driving. He had been arrested in November and accused of DUI after rear-ending another car. Hagarty was sentenced to one year on probation plus 24 hours of community service, restitution and a $500 fine. He also had his driver’s license suspended for 30 days.
Zimbabwe: A guard at the Bulawayo Prison has been accused of helping a prisoner escape as payment for a debt equivalent to $120. Skint Thulani Mhlanga, who worked as a guard at the prison, owed the money to Tauya Shepherd Maguwu. On October 20, 2011, Mhlanga, one of the guards who escorted Maguwu to a court hearing, allegedly gave him street clothes and let him walk free. “Mhlanga did this as a way of paying back Maguwu his $120 that he had borrowed. He had failed to raise the money on his last pay day,” said prosecuting attorney Malvern Nzombe. Maguwu was captured a day after he escaped, while Mhlanga claimed he had been assaulted by detectives who investigated the incident.
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