Mexico: A December 18, 2012 riot and escape attempt at a prison in Gómez Palacio in the state of Durango resulted in 23 deaths, including 9 guards. The violent disturbance occurred when prisoners tried to escape through fences and an underground tunnel, then fought with prison staff when they were discovered. Some of the prisoners reportedly used firearms against the guards, who were unarmed. Mexican prisons, which are filled with drug cartel members, have high levels of violence and have experienced numerous escapes in recent years.
New Hampshire: When the Carroll County Board of Commissioners voted to suspend three county corrections officers on November 2, 2012 for hosting an underage drinking party, Carroll County DOC Captain Michael Fowler was not happy. He filed a complaint against the commissioners, saying they had “jeopardized the safety and security of the Carroll County Department of Corrections by leaving it understaffed without any recommendations on how to safely operate the facility.” The suspended guards, William Lewis, 26, Taylor Goddard, 21, and Michael Medina, 22, were charged with prohibited sales of alcohol for hosting the drinking party at Medina’s house. After the suspensions, “staff members have been forced to work 16 hours straight and report to work the following morning,” Fowler stated.
New York: A vehicle accident claimed the lives of two New York City jail guards on December 16, 2012. Tiffany Underwood, 31, and Africaque Smith, 43, employed at Rikers Island, were off-duty when their SUV slammed into another SUV driven by Sheldon White, 23, an off-duty police officer. A can of Four Loko, a caffeinated alcoholic beverage, was reportedly found in Underwood and Smith’s vehicle.
North Carolina: Six prisoners at the Sampson Correctional Institution sent a letter to the U.S. District Court in Greensboro in November 2012, claiming that they had been forced to drink hot sauce and rub it on their genitals, simulate having sex with each other while nude and kiss snakes while working on a work crew, to entertain prison guards. The prisoners claimed they received better work assignments and were rewarded with food, alcohol and tobacco for cooperating. As a result of the allegations, Sampson Correctional Institute administrator Lafayette Hall was suspended and another staff member reassigned.
Ohio: Cleveland corrections officer Jennifer Korb was suspended for 15 days after she failed a drug test following an accident when she was transporting prisoners in a van. An investigation by Channel 3 News revealed that at the time, Korb was living with Tracy Bunch, a former prisoner with a lengthy arrest record who was on probation for menacing and weapons-related charges. The couple reportedly met when Bunch was incarcerated at the Cleveland House of Corrections. City rules do not prohibit corrections officers from dating or cohabitating with former prisoners.
Oregon: On December 5, 2012, former state prison transportation guard Michael Wilson Yann, 40, was found guilty of two counts of attempted aggravated murder and two counts of unlawful use of a firearm, stemming from an April 2012 incident in which he shot at police officers, which resulted in a four-hour standoff at his home. [See: PLN, Aug. 2012, p.50]. Yann, who had been drinking at the time of the incident, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Pennsylvania: Winlaw Muzirwa, 38, a guard employed by Community Education Centers (CEC) at the George W. Hill Cor-rectional Facility in Delaware County, turned himself in to the police on December 5, 2012 after killing his wife, Daisy Janbawo. The couple had a history of domestic violence; Muzirwa claimed he tried to kill himself after shooting his wife to death, but the gun misfired. He was charged with first-degree murder.
Puerto Rico: The Department of Corrections is allowing three prisoners to use Twitter to send messages about their experiences in jail, in an effort to dissuade people on the outside from committing crimes. The prisoners, two of whom are serving time for murder, can send tweets while under the supervision of prison staff; they reportedly have over 5,000 followers. The program is called “Follow me so you don’t follow me.”
South Carolina: On December 12, 2012, J. Reuben Long Detention Center guard Dennis Fenstamaker was fired after being charged with destruction of property. Fenstamaker, 41, reportedly was arguing with his girlfriend when he punched out the rear window of a car parked at Captain Poo’s Bar and Grill in North Myrtle Beach. He then left the scene but was later arrested.
South Carolina: A male prisoner was placed in a cell with a female detainee at the York County Detention Center on June 9, 2012, resulting in a sexual assault. “The detention officers who were in the booking area that morning failed to check to see if they were putting this individual into a cell that was empty,” said Kristie Jordan, general counsel for the Sheriff’s Office. James Henry Richardson, 33, was charged with second-degree assault and battery for groping a female prisoner who was sleeping in the cell. The guards who failed to properly check the cell were suspended with pay.
Sri Lanka: In November 2012, a gunfight at the Welikada prison in the capital city of Colombo left at least 27 people dead and 59 injured. The disturbance lasted throughout the night and resulted in some prison employees being taken hostage. The army was called in to regain control. Apparently, the prisoners had obtained firearms, including machine guns, from the prison’s armory. The facility houses Tamil rebels from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam movement, though it was unclear whether any of the former rebels were involved in the gunfight.
Tennessee: Sgt. Wanda Smith, employed at the Hamilton County Jail, resigned on November 20, 2012 following an internal affairs investigation into her use of a prisoner’s food stamp card to purchase groceries. Investigators obtained video footage of Smith taking the food stamp card belonging to Gregory Sciance when he was booked into the jail; she later tried to use the card in a different county. Smith potentially faces criminal charges. “I did wrong, I went to jail,” Sciance stated. “I served all my time. She’s no better than me. She should do the same thing.”
Tennessee: Charges were dismissed against former McMinn County jailer Justin Swafford in December 2012; although he was charged with inappropriate conduct with a female prisoner, the alleged victim could not be located. Absent the victim’s testimony, prosecutors could not proceed with the case. Swafford was fired from his position at the jail after being indicted in May 2012.
Texas: Former Texas Department of Criminal Justice guard David Wayne Green, 42, was sentenced on November 7, 2012 to five life sentences. Green was convicted of repeatedly sexually assaulting a child over a two-year period, beginning when she was 12 years old. “There is no other sentence but life, and I am sentencing you to life on each of the five counts of sexual assault. The sentences are to run consecutively,” stated District Court Judge Deborah O. Evans. Green, who was employed at the Coffield Unit, had impregnated his victim when she was 14. He confided in a prisoner, who informed another prison official which led to Green’s arrest.
Virginia: On November 20, 2012, Johnathan Montgomery, 26, walked out of the Greensville Correctional Center after serving four years for a sexual assault he did not commit. Governor Bob McDonnell issued a conditional pardon and called Montgomery’s conviction and 7½-year sentence a “travesty of justice” after his supposed victim, Elizabeth Paige Coast, recanted and said she had falsely accused Montgomery. The main evidence against Montgomery had been Coast’s testimony; she was arrested for perjury and released on bond. She was working as a clerk for the Hampton police department when she recanted. Regardless, the Attorney General’s office initially blocked Montgomery’s release, claiming the trial court lacked jurisdiction, which led Governor McDonnell to issue the conditional pardon. “This has severely degraded my faith in the system,” Montgomery’s father stated.
Wisconsin: Kim Hoenisch, 41, a former probation officer, was charged on December 21, 2012 with misconduct in office and felony drug possession. She is accused of stealing Vicodin and oxycodone from probationers while they were taking drug tests during office meetings and house visits. Hoenisch reportedly confessed her misconduct to investigators from the state Department of Justice.
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