News in Brief
Alabama: A March 2, 2014 fight at the Elmore Correctional Facility resulted in eight prisoners being transported to Jackson Hospital, where three were admitted for further treatment. Details on the extent of the prisoners’ injuries and the circumstances of the fight were not released.
Argentina: Raunchy photos depicting female jail guards and superintendents in various stages of undress surfaced in February 2014, several days after a female warden, Yamile Gomez, was stabbed to death by a prisoner already serving time for murder. The prisoner, Cesar de la Concepcion, was later found dead in his cell. Argentina is no stranger to prison scandals; recently, videos were posted online that showed guards and police torturing and abusing prisoners.
Arizona: AZFamily.com reported on February 13, 2014 that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s new, all-vegetarian menu sparked a hunger strike at the Estrella Jail. Prisoners complained that their meals were similar to dirt, dog food and dog excrement. Arpaio, in his usual elegant form, stated, “They ought to shut up and eat what they have.” He claimed the new soy-based meals save the county a half-million dollars a year.
Arizona: Terry Wheeler, a probationary guard at Maricopa County’s Fourth Avenue Jail, was determined to be the person responsible for a December 2013 leak in a high-pressure fire sprinkler water main that flooded the facility and forced the relocation of around 50 prisoners until their unit could be cleaned. Wheeler was fired on January 27, 2014 due to the incident, which disabled some of the jail’s electrical equipment.
Brazil: On March 7, 2014, a mini-helicopter drone dropped a bag containing about a half-pound of cocaine onto the grounds of the Centro de Detencao Provisoria prison near Sao Paulo. Prisoners surrounded the package and carried it away; guards conducted a cell-by-cell search and eventually confiscated the drugs. Visitation at the facility was suspended following the incident.
California: L.A. County deputy Jermaine W. Jackson was the first county employee to be arrested for misconduct following an FBI investigation into the sheriff’s department. Jackson initially faced charges for assaulting two prisoners. On January 23, 2014, after an internal investigation by the sheriff’s department, another set of charges was filed alleging Jackson had assaulted a third prisoner. Judge Roberto Longoria granted a request by prosecutors to merge Jackson’s case with that of two other jail guards who reportedly conspired to cover up the assaults.
California: On March 11, 2014, a riot broke out on the maximum-security yard at Calipatria State Prison. Approximately 200 prisoners were involved in the fighting and seven suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Guards fired warning shots, pepper spray and rubber bullets, dispersing the riot in about eight minutes. No prison employees were injured.
California: In four separate incidents from February 28 through March 2, 2014, six women were arrested for attempting to smuggle drugs and other contraband into the maximum-security Calipatria State Prison during scheduled visits. The contraband was estimated to have a combined prison value of nearly $48,000. Annette Fonoimoana, Tiayesh Blackwell, Brenda Luster, Shequesha Lawrence, Taryn McGill and Charlene Lepe were all arrested in connection with the smuggling incidents.
Cyprus: The chief of Cyprus’ only correctional facility resigned on January 14, 2014 after a rash of suicides and the alleged gang rape of a prisoner focused attention on the prison. George Tryphoides defended his record by citing a reduction in the population at the chronically overcrowded facility. He blamed the government, rather than prison employees, for on-going problems at the prison. Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou told Cypriot lawmakers that 50 prisoners had attempted suicide in the last year alone.
Egypt: Thirty-seven prisoners died in a police van in August 2013, and the officer in charge was sentenced on March 19, 2014 to 10 years in prison for manslaughter. Security forces had initially claimed that the prisoners were killed during an attempted escape, but interviews with survivors and 40 other people confirmed that they died due to asphyxiation from tear gas and overcrowding in the vehicle. The van had the capacity to hold 24 prisoners, but at the time of the incident 45 were being transported.
Florida: On March 14, 2014, Richard Masten, director of the Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers program, was held in contempt of court and faced up to two weeks in jail. He had refused to turn over information concerning an anonymous tip, and when a judge ordered him to produce the documentation, Masten tore it up and ate it in the courtroom. “We promised the people that give us information to solve murders, serious violent crimes in this community, that they can call us with an assurance that they will remain anonymous,” he said. The judge noted that Masten, a former police chief, had previously emailed the tip to prosecutors, and ordered him to write a paper on anonymous tip laws rather than imposing a jail term.
Florida: Two long-time guards at the Hamilton Correctional Institute have been arrested for money laundering, bribery and smuggling contraband cigarettes, narcotics and cell phones into the facility. On February 20, 2014, Tom Pierce and Johnnie Ruth Young were fired from their positions with the Florida DOC. A cell phone confiscated from a prisoner contained text messages between the prisoner and Young, and another prisoner told investigators that Pierce had received thousands of dollars in exchange for contraband. Both Pierce and Young were released on $10,000 bond each.
Florida: On February 28, 2014, one Pinellas County jail guard was charged with assaulting a prisoner and another disciplined for not reporting the abuse and misrepresenting the incident. Detention Deputy Joel De Los Reyes summoned help from guard Adrian Nenu when De Los Reyes became involved in a verbal altercation with a juvenile offender that quickly turned violent. De Los Reyes never reported his use of force, which he later admitted was excessive, and Nenu described the assault as a “guided custodial touch” in a subsequent report. De Los Reyes resigned after an internal affairs investigation was initiated; he turned himself into the Pinellas County jail on charges of battery. Nenu received a seven-day suspension.
Georgia: Eddie King, Darius Knight, Deltonio Scott, Kevin Davis and Steven Alexander, all guards at the Autry State Prison, were arrested and fired in March 2014 following an investigation into widespread abuse of prisoners. The former guards face multiple charges that include battery, violation of oath of office, tampering with evidence and simple battery. In one incident, Davis allegedly had Alexander destroy surveillance video of an assault on a prisoner. According to GDOC spokesperson Gwendolyn Hogan, “the Department takes allegations such as inmate abuse very seriously. It is believed that the abuse did occur, therefore these officers were terminated and referred for prosecution.”
Georgia: On February 26, 2014, College Park jailer Montrez Hoskins was jailed himself after admitting to having sex with a female prisoner. The unidentified prisoner spoke to authorities after she was transferred to the Fulton County Jail, and Hoskins was quickly identified, arrested and placed in protective custody.
Hawaii: As previously reported in PLN, Halawa Correctional Facility guard James “Kimo” Sanders III was arrested in January 2014 and charged with bringing methamphetamine into the Oahu prison. [See: PLN, Sept. 2014, p.56]. On January 26, 2014, another Halawa guard, Mark Damas, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute five grams or more of meth. Damas was transported to the Honolulu FBI division office for processing, then remanded to the Federal Detention Center.
Illinois: A worker with the PACE Institute, a program at the Cook County Jail that provides GED and literacy classes for detainees, was arrested on January 22, 2014 and charged with misconduct for having inappropriate sexual contact with a female prisoner. Lester Hill, 27, faces one count of custodial sexual misconduct, a class 3 felony.
Indiana: Steven Blessing, 24, hung himself in his cell at the Westville Correctional Facility in 2012. On February 28, 2014, his mother filed suit against the Indiana Department of Corrections and individual prison guards. Blessing’s mother claims Steven feared for his safety from several other prisoners and had asked to be moved to a higher-security unit; although his request was granted, he was instead told that he would be moved into the dorm with the prisoners he feared. He killed himself shortly thereafter. Blessing had been serving 10 years for aggravated battery.
Indiana: Jennings County jail guard Donald Bennett was arrested on December 26, 2013 as he reported for work at the facility. Bennett, who had been employed by the sheriff’s department for only three months, admitted to smuggling cigarettes. He was charged with trafficking with an inmate, a Class D felony, and booked into the jail under a $2,605 bond. According to news reports, Bennett also admitted to delivering a cell phone to a prisoner in exchange for cash. Jennings County Sheriff’s Department Major Jerry Shepherd said Bennett was found to be in possession of contraband at the time of his arrest.
Israel: Prisoner Samuel Sheinbein, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel, was serving a life sentence for the 1997 murder of a Maryland teenager when he obtained a gun and shot three guards inside the Rimonim Prison on February 23, 2014. Israeli police returned fire, killing Sheinbein. He had fled to Israel shortly after the murder, and the Israeli Supreme Court subsequently held that he could not be extradited back to the United States.
Kentucky: Former deputy Belinda Morton was fired from the Mason County Detention Center after investigators learned she gave her phone number to a male prisoner. Further, two prisoners reported to the sheriff’s office that their IDs had been used to apply for unauthorized credit cards, and Morton was charged on March 6, 2014 with identity theft. The cards were traced to addresses that Morton had used in the past.
Louisiana: Judge Frank Marullo ordered an immediate drug test when prisoner Willis Turner appeared in court “too doped up to stand.” The test returned positive results for opiates, and in response Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman suspended several jail medical employees for not dispensing medications properly. Gusman, in a television interview on January 22, 2014, said it did not appear the drugs came “from the outside”; however, the next day sheriff’s office spokesperson Phil Stelly said the jail’s medical department did not prescribe opiates. Stelly confirmed the suspensions of medical staff but did not provide further details due to a pending investigation.
Maine: On March 8, 2014, two doors were left unlocked between the men’s and women’s maximum-security units at the Cumberland County jail, and a pair of prisoners were able to meet for a sexual tryst that lasted about 3½ hours. Jailers violated a policy that was instituted in 2012 after a similar incident. The two prisoners, Renee Glantz and Michel D’Angelo, had jammed their cell door locks with toilet paper and took advantage of the security breach to meet in D’Angelo’s cell. Neither will face criminal charges, though they do face disciplinary sanctions.
Montana: PLN previously reported on the case of Tisha Ann Brunell, a prison nurse accused not only of having sex with prisoners but also attempting to intimidate a witness to avoid conviction on the sex charges. [See: PLN, July 2014, p.56; Sept. 2013, p.17]. Brunell was found guilty of 48 charges related to the sexual assaults in March 2014, and the following month she pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence. She was sentenced on August 6, 2014 to 25 years in prison with 10 suspended. A five-year term for witness intimidation will run concurrently.
Montana: Kevin Briggs escaped from a police interview room on February 1, 2014, and two Bozeman police officers were suspended without pay for two weeks for dereliction of duty. Officer Lucas Chaffins and supervisor Tracy Senenfelder left Briggs unattended for around 30 minutes. Chaffins had propped a chair against the door as he left the room, but surveillance video showed the cuffed and shackled Briggs checking the door handle then simply walking out. He was arrested in Portland, Oregon less than three weeks later.
Montana: Two guards and a prisoner were treated and released from Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital after an exhaust leak spread noxious fumes into the Ravalli County Jail on February 23, 2014. Prisoners reported a bad odor in the jail’s west block and guards subsequently found several detainees suffering from headaches, nausea and burning eyes. The propane boiler was shut down and the area ventilated; prisoners were returned to the block after carbon monoxide levels were checked.
New Jersey: On February 11, 2014, a jury convicted former Essex County Jail guard Carlton Clark of aggravated assault and official misconduct for a videotaped 2011 beating of a female prisoner. Clark’s attorney, Anthony Iacullo, said he and his client were “disappointed” in the verdict and would appeal. Iacullo had argued that the 40-year-old guard began punching Emirlene Philemon, 20, after she swung first. Another jail guard, Yasmina Allen, admitted she had lied in a written report in an attempt to protect Clark; she testified against him after being granted immunity. Clark was sentenced to two concurrent five-year prison terms on April 3, 2014.
New York: Leslie Gemmette, a 12-year veteran guard at the Schenectady County jail, resigned in mid-January 2014 amid accusations that he had divulged confidential information about prisoners to other prisoners and guards, and discussed security features at the jail. One prisoner agreed to wear a wire and captured hours of conversations with Gemmette over a two-day period. Schenectady County Sheriff Dominic Dagostino confirmed on January 29, 2014 that “an employee” had been fired but declined to comment further. Gemmette also refused to comment, saying he had signed several agreements requiring the circumstances of his resignation to remain confidential.
New York: Wallkill Correctional Facility guard Wayne A. Curry, Jr. was arrested on March 16, 2014 on charges of introducing contraband and official misconduct. He was arraigned and sent to the Ulster County Jail with a $2,500 bond; an investigation found that Curry had brought unidentified contraband items into the prison.
Ohio: On January 31, 2014, a TV news station reported on the contents of the employee files of two Greene County jailers who had inappropriate relationships with female prisoners. Geoff Lewis resigned and Brian Marzluf was fired after investigators discovered they had committed sexual misconduct in separate incidents in 2013. Co-workers had reported the inappropriate relationships. In Marzluf’s case, the prisoner told investigators that she had continued her relationship with the guard for several months after her release, while she was on probation.
Ohio: An internal investigation did not result in proof of misconduct, but an unidentified Ross County jailer was fired in February 2014 for “unsuccessful completion of probationary period.” Officials released the investigative report on March 14, 2014 after prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges against the guard, who was allegedly involved in a tobacco smuggling scheme.
Oregon: A commercial truck driver said he choked on a sip of coffee and passed out before barreling into a three-woman work crew from Multnomah County’s Inverness Jail on February 11, 2014. The prisoners were picking up trash on Interstate 5 when two of the three women were struck by the truck; Angela Baca, 40, suffered serious injuries while Lynette Urwin, 42, and Ruby Johnson, 31, were evaluated by paramedics at the scene before being returned to the jail. Department of Transportation spokesperson Kim Dinwiddie said the incident was “super-unfortunate.” The remainder of Baca’s jail sentence was dismissed after she was hospitalized.
South Carolina: On January 22, 2014, a female guard at the Leath Correctional Institution in Greenwood admitted to having a sexual relationship with a female prisoner. Nayschia Anderson, 23, was charged with second-degree sexual misconduct with an inmate and misconduct in office, malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in connection with the incident.
South Carolina: Terrance Lavon Watson, 33, a Clarendon County jail guard, was arrested and charged with credit card theft and fraud in February 2014 after a former prisoner reported unusual charges on his wife’s credit card. Watson was charged with stealing the card and using it to pay more than $350 in personal insurance bills. Officials said he was no longer employed at the jail.
Tajikistan: On February 16, 2014, an unnamed prison governor in the Khatlon province of the Central Asian country of Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic, was stabbed to death with scissors by a prisoner whom the governor had ordered to give him a haircut. The prisoner used the scissors to stab the prison official once in the head and 16 times in the body. The governor died before reaching a hospital; the prisoner who killed him had been serving time for a fatal stabbing.
Tennessee: Bledsoe County Correctional Complex guard Alexander Bosland was arrested for beating his girlfriend on October 4, 2014, but police were more disturbed by what they found in his home. When authorities arrived on the scene they discovered bomb-making materials, terrorist literature, assault rifles and ammo. The Tennessee State Bomb and Arson Squad and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were notified and Bosland potentially faces both state and federal charges. He was initially charged with domestic assault, then released from jail on $75,000 bond.
Tennessee: A former prisoner at the Maury County jail was run over by a county truck while working on a trash pickup detail in August 2013. On January 15, 2014, the county budget committee learned that Charles Allen Esmond’s medical bills had reached about $109,000 – funds not budgeted for in the county’s expenses and, further, not covered by insurance. Esmond is also seeking an undetermined amount of damages in a lawsuit in which he claims the driver of the county vehicle, Bobby Joe Norman, was under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of the accident.
Texas: Corrections Corporation of America’s Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility was ground zero for a contraband scandal that led to the indictment of two former guards, 11 former prisoners and five other people. According to information released on December 26, 2013, former guards Carl James Guittard and Terrie Elaine Glover were charged with bribery and providing tobacco to a prisoner at the facility. State officials opted not to renew CCA’s contract to operate Mineral Wells and the prison closed on July 30, 2013. [See: PLN, July 2013, p.38]. In May 2014, Guittard and Glover pleaded guilty to bribery charges; they were each sentenced to 10 years’ probation, 240 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine.
Texas: On January 9, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice’s review panel on prison rape called on Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia to defend the county jail’s dubious distinction of having one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the nation. A review of records between 2008 and 2010 revealed that more than 200 jail employees had been disciplined for rule infractions and state law violations related to sexual misconduct. In 2011, an internal investigation found “numerous” female prisoners had engaged in sex with guards in the jail’s laundry rooms in exchange for favors.
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