News in Brief
Brazil: Brazilian authorities announced on January 15, 2014 that an investigation would be initiated into atrocities at the infamous Pedrinhas penitentiary. Bloody battles between rival prison gangs resulted in complaints of mass rapes of women visitors and the posting of a video depicting decapitated and tortured prisoners. In 2013, 60 prisoners died in uprisings at the facility. “The state urgently needs to investigate these crimes, restore order in the prisons, and ensure the inmates’ safety,” said Maria Laura Canineu, director of Brazil’s Human Rights Watch.
California: On January 14, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill ordered a week-long suspension of federal criminal case hearings for prisoners at the Fresno County jail due to a flu outbreak. O’Neill’s order noted that one prisoner who had appeared in his court had subsequently been diagnosed with H1N1 influenza and another had died of flu complications. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office quarantined hundreds of prisoners in response to the outbreak, which killed at least 10 people in the central San Joaquin Valley. The jail houses more than 2,900 prisoners; at the time of O’Neill’s order, 135 of those prisoners faced federal charges.
Florida: A prison guard who worked at the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution was arrested on December 21, 2013 on charges of domestic battery and driving under the influence. Geoffrey Laurent Linder, 39, was charged following an incident at a local club in which he slapped his ex-wife in a dispute over her decision to bring their young daughter into a bar. Shortly after the assault, Pasco County deputies pulled Linder over and discovered he was glassy-eyed, had slurred speech and was unsteady on his feet. He reeked of alcohol and a Breathalyzer test showed his blood alcohol content to be nearly double the state’s legal limit of .08. Following his arrest, Linder posted $150 bail and was released. In 2009, he had been arrested on disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges stemming from an incident involving Pasco County deputies.
Florida: Corporal James Brooks, who worked at the Naples Jail Center, was arrested on December 23, 2013 and subsequently fired after arranging to purchase a stolen laptop from a recently-released prisoner. Brooks allegedly approached a prisoner who was nearing his release date and asked him to steal a laptop, for which Brooks would pay half the retail value. The prisoner notified jail administrators of the offer prior to his release, then worked with investigators to set up the exchange. At the time of the transaction, Brooks offered to trade prescription pills for the stolen laptop. He pleaded not guilty to felony charges of dealing in stolen property, conspiracy and drug trafficking. Previously, Brooks had been reprimanded for allowing work-release prisoners to patronize a convenience store while under his supervision.
Florida: Marion County jail guards Richard Smith and Dustin Lay were found not guilty of assaulting a prisoner on January 3, 2014. They had faced misdemeanor charges stemming from the beating of prisoner Donald Kizzart in the medical wing of the jail after attempting to move him to another part of the facility. A third guard, Janet Lucky, witnessed the attack and called it an excessive use of force. Two other jail workers corroborated her story, but a nurse who examined Kizzart after the incident testified that Kizzart’s injuries were inconsistent with the eyewitness accounts. Defense attorneys argued that Lucky had exaggerated her statements to cause trouble for Lay.
Guam: Matthew Gill and Michael Martinez, two Guam prison guards fired in December 2013, denied using Tasers to torture prisoners in their custody. According to the Department of Corrections, four prisoners received treatment for Taser-related injuries, although guards are not trained on Taser use and are prohibited from carrying them. Internal Affairs investigator Jeff Limo said Gill and Martinez were terminated “based on their conduct on duty.”
Hawaii: James “Kimo” Sanders III, a guard at the Halawa prison, appeared in federal court on January 13, 2014 to face several charges of selling meth at the facility, as well as accepting bribes for delivering contraband. Sanders was arrested in the parking lot of the prison; he is accused of distributing at least five grams of meth on November 15, 2013 and at least 50 grams of meth a week later. He was not immediately terminated by the Department of Public Safety, though Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Nammar noted that “someone who admitted to smuggling meth and tobacco shouldn’t be allowed to work at a prison facility.” Following a guilty plea, Sanders was sentenced on July 10, 2014 to four years in prison on each count, to be served concurrently.
Illinois: On December 30, 2013, a guard conducting a cell check at the Cook County Jail found 17-year-old Tyshawn Carter hanging from a bedsheet attached to his bunk. The suicide was the sixth at the jail in 2013. Carter had been charged as an adult with armed robbery and was scheduled for a court appearance the following week. He had not been placed on suicide watch, but a guard had performed a cell check less than seven minutes before his body was found. Cook County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Cara Smith said of suicide prevention at the jail: “Despite all the efforts we go through, it’s an imperfect science.... We do everything we can.”
Kentucky: When Robert Vick, 42, escaped from the minimum-security Blackburn Correctional Complex on January 5, 2014, he apparently didn’t bother to check the weather report. Wind chill temperatures dipped to 20 below zero the following day, and Vick eventually walked into a motel lobby and asked the clerk to call the police because he wanted to turn himself in to escape the frigid weather. He was wearing prison-issued khakis when he absconded and was treated by paramedics for exposure to the cold before being returned to Blackburn.
Kenya: A former death row prisoner who had hoped to receive a pardon mutilated himself after he was denied clemency. In December 2013, Francis Karuri was mopping a cellblock floor when a radio broadcast announced Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s annual list of pardons. When he realized his name had not been called, Karuri cut off his own penis with a razor, then continued mopping the floor until he collapsed from blood loss. Prisoners say Karuri had struggled with depression and had recently been transferred to a section of the facility for mentally ill prisoners.
Louisiana: Angola Penitentiary warden Burl Cain announced that prison guard LeAngela Handy, arrested on December 24, 2013, had a “drug store” in her bra. Cain said the 42-year-old guard’s undergarment was stuffed with crystal meth, cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, Lortab and Xanax. She also allegedly had several cigars and a cell phone secreted inside her bra as she entered the prison. Handy was booked into the West Feliciana Parish Detention Center on multiple drug possession and misconduct charges; her bond was set at $25,000.
Maryland: Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks called the actions of former deputy Lamar McIntyre “reprehensible and embarrassing” after he pleaded guilty to having sex with a female prisoner. The encounter took place in a courthouse holding cell while the prisoner was waiting to be seen by a judge in June 2012. [See: PLN, March 2014, p.56]. McIntyre pleaded guilty, and was sentenced on February 14, 2014 to three years in prison with all but one year suspended. He also must serve 18 months of post-release probation.
Mexico: A statement released by Mexican authorities on January 3, 2014 detailed a bloody attack at a prison in the southern state of Guerrero. According to the statement, prosecutors did not rule out participation by prison officials in the incident, in which six men talked their way into the facility and then attacked a group of prisoners. A shootout with guards followed; four prisoners died, as well as five of the gunmen. The sixth attacker and a guard were injured during the shootout. Collusion with gang members by prison staff is common in Mexico’s prison system.
Mississippi: In response to a riot at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility on December 31, 2013, officials with Management and Training Corporation (MTC), the private company that runs the facility, issued a boilerplate statement that confirmed the incident but offered few details. Sources reported that over a dozen people were taken to local hospitals with injuries resulting from the disturbance, which appeared to be gang-related. One guard was reportedly injured and the facility placed on lockdown pending an investigation; six guards and a supervisor resigned or were fired following the incident. Nine prisoners were injured in another brawl at the MTC-operated facility on July 11, 2014, resulting in another lockdown.
Montana: A Mineral County juvenile probation officer was one of seven suspects arrested in a sting operation that targeted men who responded to Internet posts offering sexual favors from a fictitious 12-year-old girl. James Stewart Myers was taken into custody on December 18, 2013 after paying $100 to an undercover officer as he arrived at the address provided in connection with the sting. He was released from the Missoula County jail on $50,000 bail, then found dead in his home on January 13, 2014. His death was ruled a suicide.
New Hampshire: On December 19, 2013, eight prisoners at the Strafford County jail were charged with starting a riot. In October, they had refused to return to their cells and armed themselves with 2-by-4 boards and broom handles; officials declined to say what had caused the prisoners to rebel. Captain Robert Williams of the Strafford County Sheriff’s Office told reporters that jail staff responded with “appropriate” force to quell the disturbance.
New Jersey: Former state prison guard Juan R. Stevens was sentenced to five years in prison on January 8, 2014 after pleading guilty to a charge of official misconduct. As previously reported in PLN,Stevens, 51, posed as a police officer and extorted sex from women who advertised online as escorts. He pretended he was conducting a prostitution sting and threatened the women with arrest if they did not comply with his sexual demands. [See: PLN, Sept. 2013, p.56]. DNA evidence linked Stevens to at least one of the assaults. “By abusing his badge to commit these abhorrent and offensive crimes, this correction officer proved that he has no business in our state prisons, except as a prisoner,” said Acting Attorney General John Hoffman.
New York: State prisoner Orlando Taylor pleaded not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect on January 7, 2014 for his role in killing fellow prisoner Jeffery Johnson at the Green Haven Correctional Facility in December 2012, by beating Johnson with a 10-pound weight. Dutchess County Assistant District Attorney Frank Chase said Taylor showed no remorse for the killing and gave bizarre conspiracy theories as an explanation for murdering Johnson. Judge Peter M. Forman accepted the plea and ordered Taylor to undergo further psychiatric evaluation.
North Carolina: On December 12, 2013, a jury found Wake County jail guard Markeith Council guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the June 2013 beating death of prisoner Shon Demetrius McClain. Council was sentenced to 90 days in the jail where he had been employed, followed by 12 to 24 months of supervised probation. He had engaged in a fight with McClain after they exchanged words while Council was handing out bedsheets; McClain died 13 days later due to blunt force trauma to his head and neck.
Ohio: Former Lorain County jail guard Marlon Taylor pleaded guilty on January 14, 2014 to a single count of deprivation of rights under color of law. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison for assaulting prisoner Jordan Sand, 18. Investigators said Taylor repeatedly struck Sand and injured him in July 2012. [See: PLN, Jan. 2013, p.50].
Pennsylvania: On November 15, 2013, an incensed Allegheny County Common Pleas trial judge, Lester G. Nauhaus, ordered a stay of the sentence he had imposed on former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, after she attempted to collect credit for time served while a portion of her sentence was on appeal. Orie Melvin’s defense attorneys successfully argued to the state Superior Court that the sentence imposed by Nauhaus violated Orie Melvin’s right against self-incrimination while she appealed her conviction. Nauhaus had ordered Orie Melvin to send photos of herself in handcuffs to judges throughout the state, along with a written apology for her corruption conviction. The former judge and her sister, Janine Orie, were found guilty of using judicial and legislative staff to run Orie Melvin’s 2003 and 2009 election campaigns. On August 21, 2014, the Superior Court upheld other aspects of Orie Melvin’s sentence, including three years of house arrest, volunteer work and a $55,000 fine. She also must write letters of apology to other Pennsylvania jurists, but no photos are required.
South Carolina: Former Tyger River Correctional Institution guard Jeffrey Scott Miller pleaded guilty to multiple burglary and larceny charges, as well as misconduct in office, on January 13, 2014. Several prisoners had accused Miller of providing them with impressions of jail master keys. Upon his arrest following that investigation, his booking fingerprints were matched to evidence collected from two 2008 home burglaries. He told Circuit Court Judge Mark Hayes that he realized he had done wrong and was sorry for his actions. Miller was sentenced to 10 years in prison on July 7, 2014, suspended to time served and four years of supervised probation.
Tennessee: Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal announced on October 15, 2013 that a tip had led to the discovery of contraband in the “pelvic region” of a prisoner reporting to the jail to serve 15 days on a previous conviction. A preliminary search found that Tasha Nicole Hale had no contraband, but a subsequent X-ray revealed a package inside her body. Hale now faces additional charges after refusing requests from deputies and medical personnel to remove the package of drugs, tobacco and chewing gum from her body cavity. It was unreported as to how the package was ultimately removed.
Texas: Jail guard Patrick Fitzgerald Perkins, 27, accepted a plea deal for his role in a scheme to smuggle a cell phone and drugs into the Harris County jail. On December 9, 2013, he pleaded guilty to felony drug possession and contraband charges in exchange for a lenient six-month jail term and five years’ probation. The felony conviction nullifies Perkins’ law enforcement certification and he will never be licensed as a jailer or allowed to work in law enforcement again. Perkins’ misconduct was uncovered after prisoners identified him as the provider of a contraband cell phone. In a sting operation, a confidential informant inside the jail agreed to accept smuggled drugs from Perkins, who was found with the drugs in his possession prior to delivering them.
Texas: On December 3, 2013, Texas carried out yet another state-sanctioned homicide when 43-year-old Jerry Martin was executed for killing a prison guard during a brief escape in 2007. Martin had been serving a 50-year sentence for attempted capital murder when he and another prisoner fled from a work assignment. Susan Canfield, a 59-year-old guard, was on horseback and suffered fatal head injuries in the chaos and gunfire that ensued during the escape attempt. [See: PLN, Feb. 2010, p.50; April 2008, p.16]. Martin had requested an end to his court appeals, clearing the way for his execution by lethal injection.
Texas: Justin MacDonald was sentenced on October 15, 2013 to three years in prison after escaping from the Dallas County jail because he wanted to smoke a cigarette while serving time on a probation violation. In July 2013, MacDonald walked away from the facility through several open doors in search of a nicotine fix. He was spotted outside wearing jail-issued clothing and quickly apprehended. Officials did not indicate whether MacDonald actually got to smoke a cigarette during his brief escape.
United Kingdom: Two prisoners on their way to court escaped from a prison van in a raid at gunpoint, and a lawyer’s clerk was charged for her part in planning the dramatic breakout. Legal worker Sarah McCabe sent multiple texts to a contraband cell phone just days before prisoners Ryan MacDonald and Steve McMullen escaped from custody. She later admitted her involvement, and was sentenced to six months in jail on November 1, 2013.
Utah: Steven Garrett Thayer, a Washington County jail guard, was fired on October 15, 2013 after being charged with seven misdemeanor counts and one felony count of custodial sexual misconduct and sexual relations with a prisoner at the Purgatory Correctional Facility. A spokesman for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said the department feels “very badly” when an employee violates the public’s trust. Two other former Purgatory guards pleaded guilty in 2006 to having sex with prisoners at the jail.
Washington: In a dramatic conclusion to the “Cookie for Nookie” scandal at the Snohomish County jail [see: PLN, Aug. 2013, p.56], former jail guard Abner Canda, 59, was acquitted of charges related to allegations that he had traded chocolate chip cookies and other food items for sex acts with a female prisoner. Defense attorney Mark Mestel was able to discredit the police investigation that led to the charges; the jury needed only two hours to return a verdict of acquittal on December 20, 2013. According to Mestel, detectives could not prove that Canda was even working on the days the prisoner claimed the sexual acts occurred. They also failed to either corroborate or refute the woman’s claims by interviewing possible witnesses to the alleged incidents. The acquittal is not expected to change the sheriff’s office’s decision to fire Canda, as his termination had resulted from a separate internal investigation.
West Virginia: Former prison guard Amy M. Jones, 36, was fired from her job at the Pruntytown Correctional Center and subsequently pleaded guilty to charges of sexual intercourse with an incarcerated person. She was sentenced on October 16, 2013 to three years of probation and will be required to register as a sex offender for 10 years. Both the prosecutor and defense counsel recommended a downward departure from a prison term of one-to-five years, because Jones had no prior criminal history.
Wisconsin: A contracted alcohol and drug counselor at the Jackson Correctional Institution was charged on January 9, 2014 with smuggling at least two cell phones into the facility in exchange for bribes. Karen Robertson, 52, admitted to smuggling the phones and was charged with two felony counts of delivering illegal articles to prisoners. Following her arrest, Robertson was freed on a $5,000 signature bond.
Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, an advocacy organization, said in a statement released on December 3, 2013 that more than 100 prisoners had died in 2013 due to food shortages caused by lack of funding. The Zimbabwean prison system requires about $1.2 million to provide food rations for nearly 18,500 prisoners, but only received around $300,000. During the height of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis in 2009, the International Committee of the Red Cross distributed food, blankets and soap to prisoners in an attempt to stave off hunger and disease outbreaks, yet more than half of the nation’s prison population died of starvation.
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