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News in Brief

Alabama: Former Dale County jail prisoner Trawick Redding, Jr. filed a federal lawsuit on July 28, 2015 claiming guards Zeneth Glenn and Ryan Mittlebach tortured and assaulted him, and inflicted cruel and unusual punishment, by using a large Burmese python to intimidate him during his jail stay. His attorney, Martin Weinberg, said, “We think this is a very serious matter that should be dealt with. This was not just a garden snake that somebody just found on the ground walking into the jail or the woods by the jail. This was something that was planned out as a means to control, torture and harass the inmates.” Redding’s suit seeks compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages.

Arizona: Pinal County Sheriff’s officials announced on July 10, 2015 that prisoner Geraldo Beltran-Torres would face new charges after being found in possession of more than 30 small bags of methamphetamine. Beltran-Torres was among some 380 prisoners transferred to the Pinal County jail from a private prison near Kingman operated by MTC after riots rendered that facility uninhabitable. In total, around 1,100 prisoners were moved to jails and other facilities in the wake of the unrest.

Australia: Detainees housed at an immigration detention camp on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean set fires and armed themselves with chainsaws, petrol bombs and machetes as they rioted on November 9, 2015. The unrest was sparked by the death of Kurdish-Iranian prisoner Fazel Chegeni at the privately-operated Serco facility. The rioters suspected the involvement of guards in Chegeni’s death after he had escaped two days earlier. Officials described the incident as a “major disturbance” rather than a riot. The Christmas Island facility has been nicknamed “Kiwi Alcatraz” by the New Zealanders detained there.

Australia: Convicted armed robber Stephen Jamieson, 28, escaped from the maximum-security Goulburn Correctional Complex on August 18, 2015 using bed sheets and a pillow to scale a razor wire-topped wall. He stole a car and remained on the run for about 10 hours before being recaptured approximately 100 kilometers from the facility. Embarrassed Australian authorities vowed to review security at the prison, saying, “This is a very serious incident that should not have happened.” Jamieson pleaded guilty in November 2015 to a number of charges related to the escape, including being an unlicensed and unregistered driver for driving the stolen car.

California: On May 26, 2015, Jesus Morales showed up for court expecting to be defended by his attorney, Deron Kartoon. Instead Kartoon wound up in jail alongside his client. Kartoon, who had let his law license expire, was arrested in the courtroom for not only practicing law without a license but also on outstanding warrants for methamphetamine and identity theft charges. Kartoon professed his innocence and said he had appeared in court to recuse himself from representing Morales. He faces disbarment for his misconduct.

California: A prisoner was fatally shot during a riot on August 16, 2015 at the California Correctional Center in Susanville. Jonathan Velarde, 23, was pronounced dead at the facility’s medical unit. It is estimated that 45 prisoners were fighting when Velarde was observed attacking another prisoner with a weapon. A CDCR guard fired four warning shots that failed to stop the assault, and a fifth shot left Velarde mortally wounded. The incident is under review by the Investigative Services Unit and a special Deadly Force Investigations Team.

California: Marin County Sheriff’s Lt. Jamie Scardina reported on September 15, 2015 that parolee Shaun Isreal Joseph, 34, shot himself in the genital area inside an apartment where four young children were present. Joseph was booked into the Marin County Jail for child endangerment, willful discharge of a firearm, being a felon in possession of a weapon and ammunition, and violating his parole, Scardina said. Deputies believe Joseph shot himself while putting the gun into his waistband.

California: On August 28, 2015, officials at San Quentin State Prison shut down the facility’s water system after a prisoner was confirmed to have contracted Legionnaires’ disease and 20 others exhibited symptoms of respiratory problems. Several of the prisoners were transported to a Marin County hospital. The most common way the bacteria is spread is by breathing mist from showers or air conditioning units in large buildings. Legionnaires’ disease is not spread person-to-person.

Connecticut: PLN previously reported the arrests and firings of three York Correctional Institution guards for sexually assaulting prisoners. [See: PLN, Sept. 2015, p.63]. One of the guards, Jeff Bromley, 47, pleaded no contest to second-degree unlawful restraint and was sentenced to 90 days in jail on September 1, 2015. Criminal cases are still pending against the other two guards, 44-year-old Matt Gillette and 34-year-old Kareem Dawson.

Florida: A prisoner at the Sumter Correctional Institute in Bushnell was arrested on September 9, 2015 for attempted escape from a work detail. Jason Wayne Adams, 27, admitted to deputies that in August 2015 he walked to a Metro Food Mart to shop for contraband, then returned unnoticed to the work crew. Authorities are attempting to determine whether Adams was able to smuggle the items back into the prison and whether he had made other unauthorized shopping trips. His subsequent escape attempt in September set off an overnight search in Pasco County before a deputy noticed him riding a bicycle and arrested him without incident.

Florida: During an October 21, 2015 board meeting, Citrus County Commissioner Scott Adams used strong language when he described fellow Commissioners Scott Carnahan and Ron Kitchens as “idiots” for refusing to back his call for an investigation into the Corrections Corporation of America-operated Citrus County Jail. Adams has enlisted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, FBI, Florida Auditor General and federal Office of the Inspector General to investigate what he believes are questionable contracts that CCA has with the U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Virgin Islands to house their prisoners at the jail.

France: Guards assigned to watch over prisoner Fabrice Boromee were given special protective gear because he was considered extremely dangerous. On September 9, 2015, Boromee lived up to his vicious reputation by taking the deputy governor of the Vendin-le-Vieil jail hostage. Boromee, who was thought to be armed with a homemade weapon, released deputy governor Fabrice Bels unharmed after negotiators stepped in. Vendin-le-Vieil, which has a capacity of 238 prisoners but currently holds only 51, has “highly sophisticated safety features” designed to hold France’s worst criminals.

Georgia: Former Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department Major Nicholas Neal was sentenced to two years in prison plus eight years of probation on August 28, 2015. He will also forfeit the ability to work in law enforcement again after being convicted of seven counts of selling car parts to Gwinnett County. It is against the law for a county employee to sell property to the county under certain circumstances. Neal had also been charged with misdemeanor theft by taking. He was granted first-time offender status and ordered to surrender to begin his sentence on August 31.

Georgia: Georgia Detention Watch (GDW), a human rights organization, was able to determine that hunger strikes and work stoppages at the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)-operated Stewart Detention Center were sparked by protests related to poor food quality, lack of due process, inadequate medical care, overcrowding and unhygienic living conditions. Silky Shah, co-director of Detention Watch Network, said in a September 10, 2015 press statement that GDW was “deeply concerned for people currently detained at Stewart. As communication in and out of the facility has been limited, it has been difficult to monitor the situation.”

Guatemala: The mutilated bodies of seven unidentified prisoners at the El Boqueron facility were found stuffed into trash cans on August 26, 2015. Eighteen days earlier, three other prisoners were found murdered at the same prison in the eastern city of Cuilapa. Officials are investigating whether a gang-related feud fueled the killing spree; over half the prisoners at the facility are members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang (MS-13).

Illinois: According to court documents, 38-year-old federal prisoner Erick Roman assaulted three guards in three separate incidents in 2014. Roman, who is serving a 60-year sentence for racketeering conspiracy, pleaded guilty on August 20, 2015 and was sentenced the same day to a consecutive five-year prison term for his attacks on guards at USP-Marion.

India: An accused murderer, Ravi Kapoor, was sentenced on September 29, 2015 to three years in jail after attempting to escape by throwing chili powder in the eyes of police officers in 2009. Kapoor was being transported for a medical procedure when he unsuccessfully tried to escape. Metropolitan magistrate Ashok Kumar found him guilty of at least four offenses in relation to the attack; Kumar called the incident brazen and said the sentence was intended to be a message to others who might try to escape.

Maryland: Kathleen Lowe, the 59-year-old mother of a prisoner held at the Eastern Correctional Institution, was arrested on October 24, 2015 as she tried to smuggle 114 sheets of Suboxone and 35 unfiltered cigarettes to her son inside the prison. Police said she was charged with drug possession, intent to distribute and delivery of contraband to a correctional facility. The investigation remains ongoing.

Massachusetts: Bodybuilding competitions are a controversial hobby for former jail guard Mark Lovell, as he has been receiving a tax-free disability pension for nearly 20 years after an on-the-job spinal injury. In September 2015, the state decided to send Lovell to a state doctor to evaluate the legitimacy of his disability claims. Lovell also underwent an independent medical exam which determined he was unable to return to his position as a jail guard. Lovell said “genetics and diet” helped him get his body into shape, and that he’d done everything the state asked of him.

Mexico: On October 21, 2015, Mexico’s attorney general said jailhouse meetings between notorious Sinaloa Cartel drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and one of his attorneys were not defense strategy meetings, but rather planning sessions for Guzmán’s successful July 11, 2015 escape from the Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 1, which involved a mile-long tunnel that was dug into the maximum-security prison by outside accomplices. Dozens of people have been charged for their roles in the escape, including Guzmán’s lawyer and the former director of Mexico’s federal prison system, Celina Oseguera Parra.

Michigan: A female prisoner at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility died of heroin toxicity on July 16, 2015. MDOC spokesperson Holly Kramer said the state police would be handling the investigation into the death of 25-year-old Kayla Renea Miller, including the source of the contraband drugs. Miller, a waitress serving time on larceny and forgery-related charges, would have turned 26 in August.

Michigan: On June 15, 2015, a former Clare County jail employee was sentenced to almost a year behind bars for embezzling money from a prisoner’s account. Rebecca M. Haskin had faced up to 10 years in prison on the single count of embezzlement by a public official, but instead received an 11-month jail term, with credit for 22 days served, plus five years of probation. Haskin was also ordered to pay restitution, fees and fines in the amount of $18,039. She will serve her time at a different county jail.

Mississippi: A shakedown was conducted at the Marshall County Correctional Facility, a prison run by Management and Training Corporation (MTC), on March 25, 2015. Weapons were seized, including 23 shanks; the shakedown also uncovered cell phones and other contraband. “We believe there were some staff complicit in bringing in contraband,” said Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher. “One [employee] has already resigned. We think as many as four are involved.” During a statewide contraband sweep, nearly 200 shanks were discovered in the five privately-operated and public prisons that were searched.

Missouri: A dispute between a guard at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield and prisoner Shawn Springer over the guard’s wife left 42-year-old lieutenant James C. Myrick facing up to three years in prison. Myrick said he was present when the unnamed guard hit Springer. He further admitted that he offered Springer a better cell in exchange for not reporting the assault, and wrote a memo which falsely claimed Springer’s head injury was pre-existing. Myrick pleaded guilty to the charges on September 16, 2015 and awaits sentencing.

Netherlands: The world’s third-largest public employees’ pension fund, ABP, had held 9 million euros in pharmaceutical company Mylan, but on August 29, 2015 it sold all its shares in the company after details emerged that Mylan’s drugs were available at a U.S. prison in a state that enforces the death penalty. European companies are barred from selling drugs for use in executions, but Virginia prison officials confirmed that they had a stock of Rocuronium Bromide, a Mylan-made general anesthetic that can be used in lethal injections. Mylan released a statement saying it “takes this matter seriously and will continue to work with distributors and other interested parties to ensure that its products are used appropriately.”

New York: Gregory Moore, a substance abuse counselor, and Gary Graves, a psychotherapist, were among 25 Corizon employees whose security clearances were revoked in November 2015 after years of employment at the Rikers Island jail complex. According to the New York City Department of Correction, the Corizon employees’ background checks revealed criminal records, although some convictions were decades old. It was unclear whether proper background investigations were conducted when the workers were hired. Corizon has since lost its contract with New York City, and Health and Hospitals Corporation began providing medical care for prisoners in the city’s jail system as of January 1, 2016. [See: PLN, July 2015, p.1].

New York: On August 20, 2015, the morning after former Subway restaurant spokesman Jared Fogle entered a guilty plea to child pornography charges, the New York Post printed a headline which read “Enjoy a Foot Long in Jail,” sparking a backlash of criticism at the thinly-veiled prison rape joke. Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton said of the Post’s headline, “Rape isn’t funny. It’s a serious problem in our penal system and not something for a supposedly serious news organization to be making light of.”

New Zealand: Prison profiteer Serco, which operated the troubled Mt. Eden Corrections Facility, faced more criticism after the August 23, 2015 suspension of a staff member for sparring with a prisoner. Surveillance video showed the Serco employee being “knocked out,” according to a prison source. “It just proves what I’ve been saying, Serco has lost control of the prison and the guards are obviously part of the whole mess and it’s time for Serco to be sent packing,” said Labour Party spokesman Kelvin Davis. The Department of Corrections declined to renew its contract with the company to operate the Mt. Eden facility in December 2015.

North Carolina: A longtime Davidson County prosecutor was indicted in September 2015 for texting an offer of a $20,000 bribe to district court judge April Wood, to convince Wood’s husband to drop out of a superior court election. Wendy Joyce Terry, 43, now faces a six-count indictment that includes a felony obstruction charge and two counts of buying and selling offices.

Oklahoma: Another CCA-run prison, another dead prisoner. On August 5, 2015, Lewis Hamilton, 36, was stabbed to death at the Davis Correctional Facility, and fellow prisoner Silas Royal, 33, is suspected of killing him. Corrections Corporation of America operates three other Oklahoma prisons in addition to the 1,670-bed Davis facility, and the company intends to lead the investigation into Hamilton’s murder.

Oklahoma: A prisoner serving multiple sentences for sex crimes received another consecutive two-year prison term on October 26, 2015 for attacking a guard at the CCA-operated Cimarron Correctional Facility. Corey Antoine Hightower, 36, reached out of a food port and grabbed the duty belt of a female guard, pulling her against the cell door and causing her to suffer abdominal contusions. As the unnamed guard tried to extricate herself, Hightower punched her twice in the side.

Oklahoma: Yet more trouble for a private prison operator in the Sooner State. This time, Avalon Correctional Services was under investigation after the emergence of a video that showed an apparently incoherent guard at a halfway house who may have been under the influence of K2, or synthetic marijuana. On August 19, 2015, Governor Mary Fallin’s office issued a statement saying, “Governor Fallin is aware of the video and finds its contents disturbing and unacceptable. She has asked the DOC to launch an investigation and to take appropriate action based on the results of that investigation.” Avalon said it would cooperate with the probe.

Pennsylvania: On September 30, 2015, a Philadelphia CBS outlet reported that an investigation had been opened into the assault of a prisoner by a guard at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. Philadelphia prison system spokeswoman Shawn Hawes said she was told the guard had used appropriate force when he straddled the prisoner and struck him 5 to 6 times in the face, according to anonymous witnesses. The incident occurred during a resource fair for prisoners nearing release. Approximately 20 people from a dozen community organizations were in the room at the time of the incident.

Pennsylvania: Private prison company Community Education Centers (CEC), a New Jersey-based firm, took over management of the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in January 2008 when The GEO Group suddenly declined to renew its contract with Delaware County. Two recent suicides occurred under CEC’s watch, and the families of Janene Wallace, 35, who died on May 26, 2015, and Richard Dandrea, 46, who hanged himself on July 5, 2015, are threatening legal action against county officials. An attorney representing Wallace’s family said, “Do I think the prison owes [this] family an explanation about what happened to their daughter? I think they do. I don’t think they should say to a family, you need to sue us to get answers about their daughter.”

Russia: After noticing that counseling sessions between a Russian mafia boss and a human rights activist were taking longer than usual, officials at the Sverdlovsk Oblast prison in central Russia set up hidden cameras and captured video of steamy trysts between the pair. The video footage, which was leaked to local media, sparked outrage from citizens who complained about the crime lord’s posh living conditions. The scandal was reported by the UK-based Daily Mail on September 15, 2015.

South Carolina: On August 28, 2015, Rashaud Jamel Lee was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to two 2014 robberies. Lexington County Judge Deandra L. Jefferson tacked an additional six years onto Lee’s prison term for spitting on a jail guard.

Tennessee: According to a September 6, 2015 news release, a federal prisoner being held at the CCA-operated Silverdale Detention Facility was released in error. The U.S. Marshals Service initiated a manhunt for the federal drug suspect and captured him the next day. Brenen Andrew Murphy was the second prisoner mistakenly released from the Silverdale facility last year. In June 2015, prisoner Rodney Akins was also erroneously freed.

Tennessee: On August 27, 2015, former celebrity TV jurist “Judge Joe Brown” reported to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office to serve a five-day jail sentence after his heated exchange with a magistrate judge resulted in contempt of court charges. “I will not apologize for vigorously defending my client and demanding that the court follow the law,” Brown said in a statement. “What I saw was a miscarriage of justice and I did what needed to be done. I will serve the time and I will continue to stand up and speak out for justice as I have done throughout my 40-year legal career.” When appearing before the magistrate as an attorney in a child support case, Brown reportedly began yelling, became disruptive and questioned the magistrate’s authority.

Texas: The South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, a detention facility for immigrant families and children, is operated by Corrections Corporation of America. On July 4, 2015 it was revealed that some 250 children being held at the center had been given an overdose of Hepatitis A vaccine. Medical staff monitored the children and their parents were advised and counseled about possible side effects from the adult-strength vaccines. Nina Pruneda, a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said ICE was “conducting a thorough review of the circumstances that led to this event and will make all necessary changes to prevent similar occurrences in the future.”

Texas: Participation in a smuggling and bribery ring at the Big Spring Correctional Center led to federal prison sentences for three people on April 17, 2015. Eva Bermea, 42, a former Big Spring recreation employee, was sentenced to 36 months of probation with 8 months of home confinement; prisoner Jonas Cruz, 34, received a two-year prison term to be served consecutively to his existing sentence and civilian Kami Nicole Bennett, 32, will serve one year of probation. The trio admitted to smuggling contraband – including tobacco and a muscle-building supplement – into the low-security federal prison, which is operated by private prison firm The GEO Group.

Texas: The small town of Shepherd, Texas accepted the pitch of Louisiana-based Emerald Correctional Management to build and operate an immigration detention facility after officials in the nearby town of Cleveland rejected a similar bid. Although jobs are in short supply in Cleveland, its city council voted down Emerald’s offer in a close vote at an October 20, 2015 meeting. Cleveland attorney Donny Haltom addressed the council in opposition to the detention facility, saying, “We don’t want this place. This is not the image we want.”

Texas: A civilly-committed two-time sex offender walked away from the privately-operated Fort Worth Transitional Center halfway house on April 15, 2015 after cutting off his electronic monitoring device. Charles Sprague, 44, is also a suspect in a carjacking and kidnapping that occurred before his capture at an Oklahoma casino two days after his escape. Investigators suspect that Sprague was the gunman who confronted a woman in a parking lot, forced her into her SUV and drove away before releasing her later. The Fort Worth halfway house is run by Avalon Correctional Services.

United Kingdom: Matthew Taylor, an ex-Royal Marine, was working as a guard at Oakwood Prison when he plotted to smuggle steroids into the facility. On November 14, 2015, he was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison after admitting to the scheme. His co-conspirator, prisoner Mark Clarke, was sentenced to 30 months, while Clarke’s outside contact, 39-year-old Donna Dufus, received a 12-month community sentence. Taylor’s attorney told the court that his client was only 20 years old when he began working for private prison operator G4S, and had been a “naïve young man.”

United Kingdom: A busload of schoolchildren got an eyeful when they spotted a former prison guard cruising in his BMW wearing nothing but a seatbelt. The pupils took cell phone pictures of both the nude driver and his license plate as he drove past the bus at an “unusually slow speed.” The photos were turned over to police, who arrested 37-year-old Anand Singh. It wasn’t Singh’s first attempt at indecent exposure; he had been stopped three times for doing the same thing previously. On September 17, 2015, Judge Adele Williams spared Singh a jail sentence, instead ordering that he receive sex therapy concurrent with a suspended sentence.

Utah: Two separate incidents on May 2, 2015 resulted in a partial lockdown at the Uinta unit of the Utah State Prison in Draper, and the cancellation of family visits that day. Prison officials said a stabbing occurred during rec time at 6:30 a.m., then about 90 minutes later another stabbing took place in a cell in a different part of the facility. Neither stabbing victim had life-threatening injuries. The lockdown was lifted that afternoon and visitation resumed on a regular schedule the next day.

Virginia: In response to the revelation that a former prison employee was responsible for stealing prisoners’ mail, Danville Adult Detention Center director Frank Mardavich said, “We get complaints on a regular basis – once a month – regarding the mail. We went from one a month to about 10 a month. It just started – one day we’re having problems. It was just really weird.” An investigation revealed that guard Ezra Lamont Price was concealing a hoard of prisoner mail in his car. He pleaded guilty to mail theft on September 23, 2015 and awaits sentencing.

Virginia: Disgraced former Williamson County Court-at-Law Judge Timothy Wright was sentenced on August 14, 2015 to 18 months in federal prison for engaging in illegal gun sales, then lying to investigators. Wright apologized and said no one was above the law, “especially not judges.” According to prosecutors, Wright sold more than 60 firearms illegally to felons, as well as to gun smugglers who transported the weapons to Mexico. U.S. Attorney Richard Durbin, Jr. said that Wright falsified official firearms records and gave false statements when questioned about the sales.

Virginia: Millionaire Gordon Parker, 71, faces a number of prostitution charges after using a Roanoke-area jail as his personal escort service. Parker is accused of targeting young women involved in drug and alcohol recovery programs by telling them he would help them financially after they were released from jail, then giving them $20,000 to $40,000 in cash and drugs in exchange for sex. Parker appeared in court on August 18, 2015 for a bond hearing and was released on a $5,000 secured bond. Three women, Jaedi Moore, 21, Brittany Hill, 26, and Heather Wagoner, 29, were charged with prostitution offenses in connection with Parker’s case.

West Virginia: On August 20, 2015, WOWK TV reported that Kanawha County officials had begun using prisoners from the Charleston Correctional Center to make up for a shortage of summer workers at Coonskin Park. Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson told the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission that the prisoners, all non-violent offenders on pre-release status, would be cutting grass, trimming weeds, and doing other maintenance and painting. The prisoners work for free, in exchange for lunch.


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