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News in Brief
Arizona: Newly-hired Maricopa County jail guard Rachel Harris, 22, was attacked on June 24, 2013 by prisoner Bobby Ruiz as she entered his cell at the Lower Buckeye Jail, and during the assault Ruiz bit off part of one of her ears. Two other prisoners rushed to help Harris, pulling Ruiz off her and restraining him until other guards arrived. Sheriff Joe Arpaio told reporters that the missing piece of Harris’ ear could not be found and that Ruiz had presumably swallowed it.
Arkansas: Steven Mitchell, 39, died in a crash on July 30, 2013 after leading police on a car chase through the state of Missouri. He had escaped from the Jackson County Detention Center in Arkansas two days earlier with another prisoner. A Nissan Sentra driven by Mitchell’s wife, Jessica, with Mitchell as a passenger, was pulled over. When the officer asked Jessica to step out of the car, Mitchell jumped into the driver’s seat and sped away. Sheriff David Lucas told ABC News that “During the pursuit, Mitchell wrecked his vehicle and sustained fatal injuries.”
Bolivia: According to government officials, about 1,500 young children and adolescents live in Bolivian prisons with incarcerated relatives. The practice, which has been criticized, led to the pregnancy of a 12-year-old girl who was raped by her father, uncle and godfather inside the San Pedro prison in La Paz. In June 2013, prisons director Ramiro Llanos, who had spent part of his childhood living in a jail with his father, called on police to “stop being so corrupt and stop allowing children in prisons.”
Florida: On July 24, 2013, Lowell Correctional Institution prisoner Yvonne Eugena McBride died from what family members were told was pneumonia. The day prior to McBride’s death, a mysterious “flu-like” illness was reported among prisoners in R Dorm. The outbreak led officials to restrict the movement of more than 150 prisoners while the undiagnosed sickness was investigated. McBride’s sister said she had tried to visit the prison the previous month, and Yvonne told her she was weak and had requested medical help, which was denied.
Florida: Pasco County deputy Norman Grant was arrested on a charge of child abuse on July 5, 2013 after choking and threatening to break the neck of a 16-year-old prisoner. The teenager was strapped in a restraint chair when the incident occurred. Grant has been the subject of three previous internal investigations into excessive force, but was cleared in those incidents due to lack of evidence. This time the incident was caught on video. Grant was fired the same day he was arrested. “This deputy probably should’ve never worn a badge,” said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco.
Florida: Anthony Gentile, a convicted sex offender held at the Manatee County Jail, faces additional charges after he reportedly performed illicit and disgusting acts on food before it was served to a jail employee. Several witnesses described Gentile putting a salad spoon down his pants during the June 2, 2013 incident, then placing the spoon back in the salad, putting his genitals on the salad and spitting on the salad. The staff member reportedly tasted the salad without knowing what had been done to it.
France: Members of the UFAP-UNSa prison guard union gathered to protest in front of more than 100 jails on June 18, 2013. The action by the union, whose members are banned from striking, was to bring attention to overcrowding and safety concerns in French prisons. Protestors set fire to wooden pallets, tires and other objects, and blocked deliveries to the facilities. “This is a shot across the bows, to make the powers be aware of the urgency of the situation,” said Union Secretary General Stéphane Barraut.
Hawaii: John Joseph Kalei Hall was sentenced to thirteen months in prison on June 27, 2013 after receiving an estimated $10,000 to $30,000 in one year for smuggling cartons of cigarettes into Halawa Correctional Facility. Federal prosecutors said Hall sold the tobacco to the United Samoan Organization, a prison gang, and tipped them off to contraband searches. U.S. District Court Judge Helen Gillmor said Hall deserved prison time because he promoted criminal activity he was hired to prevent.
Honduras: On August 2, 2013, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a report stating that control at the nation’s 24 prisons had “been ceded into the hands of the prisoners themselves.” The next day, Honduras President Porfirio Lobo ordered military troops to take control over the National Penitentiary following a violent disturbance that resulted in three deaths and 15 injuries. Prisons in Honduras are extremely overcrowded and have been cited for poor conditions.
Illinois: Timothy Ware, a 20-year veteran guard at the Decatur Correctional Center, was suspended without pay in June 2013 and charged with eight felony counts of official misconduct. Ware allegedly solicited phone numbers from two female parolees, called them repeatedly to pursue personal or social relationships, and then lied to investigators about obtaining the women’s numbers and the nature of the calls. DOC regulations prohibit employees from socializing with parolees. Ware was released from custody after posting a $2,500 cash bond.
Indiana: Marion County Chief Deputy Eva Talley-Sanders said overcrowding may have played a role in the alleged July 24, 2013 rape of a female prisoner by a male prisoner at the Marion County Jail. A deputy returned the male prisoner to a cell block following a court appearance, unaware that a female prisoner had previously been moved to the same block. The female prisoner claimed she was raped but the male prisoner said they had consensual sex. There was no video of the incident. The deputies involved will likely face disciplinary action.
Libya: Wissam Ismail Smeida, the head of Al-Ruiymi prison in Ain Zara, was assassinated on June 25, 2013; it is thought his killers are linked to prisoners at the facility. A month later the assassination of a prominent political activist triggered protests and a riot broke out inside the al-Kwafiya prison, leading to the escape of more than 1,000 prisoners. The AFP news agency quoted a security official who said there had been unrest at the facility prior to the mass breakout.
Louisiana: Governor Bobby Jindal issued a commutation to prisoner Shelby Arabie on July 12, 2013, reducing Arabie’s life sentence to 45 years and making him immediately eligible for parole. The rare grant of clemency was one of only a few issued by Jindal; Arabie had been recommended for clemency by Louisiana State Penitentiary Warden Burl Cain. Arabie had been sentenced to life in 1984 for shooting and killing Benny Posey, who robbed him during a drug deal. Arabie still must meet the parole board and receive a favorable parole decision before he is released.
Mexico: On August 2, 2013, the Associated Press reported that officials at the Santa Marta Acatitla prison had thwarted an attempt to smuggle a cell phone into the facility in a coffin. Prisoners in Mexico have the right to have the casket of a deceased parent or child delivered to the facility so they can say their farewells. The cell phone was found in the casket of a prisoner’s mother, and city correctional spokesman Emilio Castelazo said criminal charges had been filed.
Mississippi: In three separate incidents that occurred between July 14 and 19, 2013, two guards and the 65-year-old mother of a prisoner were arrested as a result of DOC investigations. Ciarra Harley, a 27-year-old guard at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF), is accused of having a sexual relationship with a probationer. Patricia Bennett-Armstrong, also employed at CMCF, was arrested for possession of prohibited items after a large amount of tobacco was found in her vehicle. Further, Gloria Edwards, the mother of a prisoner serving time at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, was arrested for allegedly planning to deliver contraband to a prisoner. Edwards was at the facility to see her son but was arrested before the visit; she had several pills concealed on her body and more drugs were found in her vehicle.
Mississippi: On June 11, 2013, Harrison County jailers Frederick Corso and Joseph Tuten were fired for their roles in the mistreatment of a prisoner and an attempted cover-up of the abuse. A review of surveillance video confirmed the mistreatment, which was witnessed by a third guard who alerted jail administrators. Although the prisoner did not suffer any injuries, Corso and Tuten were terminated when one participated in the abuse and the other falsified incident reports.
Montana: A coroner’s inquest will be held into the shooting death of escaped prisoner Dean Randolph Jess, 42, by a Yellowstone County sheriff’s deputy on July 5, 2013. Jess had been working on a motor vehicle maintenance service call for the Montana State Prison when he escaped. He stole a Jeep and drove to Billings, where he ended up in a standoff with authorities. Jess was shot by Lt. Shane Skillen when he raised a handgun toward one of the officers surrounding the vehicle. “He may have had it made up in his mind he wasn’t going back to prison, one way or another,” stated Sheriff Mike Linder.
Nebraska: Just prior to a fatal crash on June 25, 2013, authorities received at least three calls warning that a prison van was speeding and running red lights. The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services van was being driven by prisoner Jeremy Dobbe, 35, who had two DUI convictions; he was assigned to the work release driving job two months before the accident. An NDCS press release stated that prisoners have been allowed to drive other prisoners to work detail sites since 1985. Online court records indicate that Dobbe’s drunk driving convictions should have disqualified him from the position. He has since been charged with manslaughter, and the family of Joyce R. Meeks, who died after Dobbe struck her vehicle, has filed a $5 million claim against Dobbe and the State of Nebraska.
New Hampshire: Jarred Brisbois, a trusty prisoner, was assigned to wash cruisers and do other odd jobs at the East Kingston Police Department on May 11, 2013. On that particular day there were no other staff at the department after an officer left on patrol. With no supervision for hours, Brisbois allegedly broke into an evidence room and stole heroin, breached an officer’s personal locker containing his gun, Taser and handcuffs, and took a police cruiser for a drive. Investigators also suspect that he smuggled some of the heroin and a hypodermic needle back into the jail. Brisbois had been assigned to the police department through a work program at the Rockingham County Jail. The trusty program has since been temporarily suspended.
New York: The wife of a Rikers Island mental health worker was arrested on May 8, 2013 for making death threats to her husband’s alleged mistress, another Rikers Island employee. Victoria Beltran, a transsexual actress, suspected an affair after finding unusual credit card charges made by her husband, Brett Bergmann. Furious, Beltran began to pepper the suspected mistress, Katarzyna Sakowicz, with voicemails and text messages, which Sakowicz reported to authorities. The two women also argued about whether Bergmann knew that Beltran was born a man. Beltran, who was charged with aggravated harassment, said her husband was aware of her sex change operation from the beginning of their relationship. Bergmann is reportedly filing for divorce.
New York: Former Erie County sheriff’s deputy Cutolo Buffalo, 54, was charged with pepper spraying a prisoner who was handcuffed and being escorted by two other deputies. The August 2012 incident led to an FBI investigation and Cutolo’s termination from the sheriff’s department. Cutolo pleaded guilty and was sentenced on August 2, 2013 to six months’ home confinement on electronic monitoring plus one year of probation.
New York: Nancy Gonzalez, 29, a former guard at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, was impregnated by a prisoner at the jail. Gonzalez was arrested in March 2013 and pleaded guilty on July 3, 2013 to having sex with MDC prisoner Ronell Wilson, resulting in the birth of her son, Justus Liam Gonzalez. Defense attorney Anthony Ricco compared the pair’s relationship to that of Romeo and Juliet – although unlike the Shakespearean play, Wilson was facing the death penalty for killing NYPD undercover officers Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin during a gun purchase sting in 2003. Gonzalez refused to testify at Wilson’s death penalty hearing and he was sentenced to death on July 24, 2013. She lost her parental rights to Justus on November 15, 2013 after drinking alcohol during meetings with Wilson’s relatives, which violated a condition of her bail.
New Zealand: In July 2013, a New Zealand court ruled against a challenge to the country’s ban on tobacco in prisons, holding that the prison system would remain smoke-free. The decision also means that prisoners who have sought compensation for smoking-related offenses will have no recourse. The ban, which was instituted in July 2011, was preceded by an extensive 12-month campaign to encourage prisoners to quit. For many prisoners, giving up smoking has led to better health and cost savings.
North Carolina: A former guard at the Rivers Correctional Institution, Rhonda Boyd, was sentenced on July 11, 2013 to 20 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release for her involvement in accepting payments for smuggling cigarettes into the facility. The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Office of Inspector General, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. [See: PLN, Jan. 2013, p.24].
Ohio: A part-time North Royalton jail guard who was serving as a probation officer for the Parma Municipal Court was sentenced to three years in prison on June 17, 2013. Michael A. Maresh, 26, was charged with having non-consensual sex with a woman who was reporting to him as a probationer; he was found guilty of two counts of sexual battery stemming from the June 2012 incident.
Oklahoma: In May 2013, Department of Corrections employees from across the state marched on the Capitol demanding a pay increase. They said it had been seven years since they last received a raise and complained that they deserve better. The governor’s communications director, Alex Weintz, said the governor was not comfortable giving the department any additional funding until the manner in which it accounts for those funds becomes more accurate, more transparent or both. “Governor Fallin knows there are many hardworking public servants at DOC, and she respects the work they do,” stated Weintz. “Their leadership has not served them well by failing to fully and accurately disclose the agency’s finances.”
Oklahoma: Darren “Veneno” Padron, 22, is one of six prisoners accused of planning and carrying out the June 13, 2012 stabbing death of fellow prisoner Sonny J. Limpy, 25, at the GEO Group-operated Lawton Correctional Facility. On July 18, 2013, Padron pleaded guilty to his role in the murder and was sentenced to an additional 10 years in prison with five suspended. Also charged were Alonzo “Coon” Florez, Gerardo “Guito” Sanduval, Jose Garcia, Ryan “Frankie” Garcia and Armando Luna. Testimony indicated that the killing was ordered after Limpy refused to join “The 13 Movement,” an initiative to unify all Hispanic gangs under one leadership.
Oklahoma: On July 10, 2013, a prisoner at the Tulsa County Jail was found unresponsive during security checks. A nurse who rushed to treat him experienced a sudden cardiac medical emergency and had to be taken to a local hospital. Despite resuscitation efforts by jail staff and the Tulsa Fire Department, prisoner Brian Keith Perry, 41, was pronounced dead. Investigators from the Sheriff’s Department ruled out foul play and Perry’s death is believed to be a suicide. The nurse was admitted to the hospital for treatment.
Pakistan: On July 29, 2013, militants attacked a prison in northwest Pakistan and reportedly freed more than 250 prisoners. Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid claimed responsibility for the assault and said 150 militants took part. Officials had received a letter threatening an attack on the facility, but did not expect one so soon. The militants arrived by car and motorcycle, then began a 4½ hour assault on the prison using bombs, grenades and guns. Some of the attackers, wearing police uniforms, used megaphones to call out the names of specific prisoners. Six police officers, six prisoners and two civilians were killed, including one prisoner who was beheaded.
Pennsylvania: On June 18, 2013, Malik James Hayes, 25, a former York County prisoner, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for the beating death of Jesus Maldonado-Martinez. The fatal August 21, 2011 incident began as a fistfight after Maldonado-Martinez bumped into Hayes and did not say “excuse me.” Hayes’ attorney said his client did not mean to kill the victim, and that it was a mutual fight that “got out of hand.” Hayes will serve an additional 2½ years in prison for the fatal beating upon completion of his 7½-to-15-year sentence for robbery.
Tennessee: When Brita West arrived at a jail in Scott County to marry Willard Tinch on July 28, 2013, it was apparently a match made in heaven. Tinch was imprisoned at the jail, and West was arrested for trying to smuggle contraband to him. Deputies noticed that West’s dentures were falling down and that she had a small package in her mouth, which she apparently planned to pass to Tinch when they kissed following their nuptials. The package contained suboxone and methamphetamine; a search of West’s vehicle revealed more meth as well as syringes. She was charged with possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, and jailed with a $25,000 bond. Presumably there was no honeymoon.
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