News in Brief
Alabama: U.S. Marshals used a tip line to locate and arrest the third and final prisoner who escaped from the Choctaw County Jail on December 14, 2014. Demarcus Woodard, Gemayel Culbert and Justin Terrell Gordon lured a guard into their cell and overpowered him before absconding. Gordon and Culbert were located separately in the hours that followed the escape, while Woodard was captured at a Tuscaloosa-area apartment the next day based on an anonymous tip.
Arizona: On January 3, 2015, Bernard Stewart, 47, died from an apparent suicide at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Eyman. Another state prisoner, Donald Condra, 51, also died from an apparent suicide at ASPC Lewis on December 25, 2014. According to a news release from the Arizona Department of Corrections, all deaths are investigated in consultation with the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s office.
Bangladesh: Prison guard Ratan Khan died at the Dhaka Central Jail on December 11, 2014 after being electrocuted in a strange accident. Khan was attempting to dry laundry on an outdoor line when he came into contact with a live electrical wire. He was rushed to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, but pronounced dead on arrival.
Brazil: Since January 2013 there have been at least 75 murders within the walls of the violent and overcrowded Pedrinhas penitentiary complex in Sao Luis. In response to a year-long investigation into violence and corruption, Brazilian police arrested prison unit director Claudio Barcelos on September 15, 2014 on charges of facilitating escapes. PLN has reported extensively on dangerous conditions in Brazilian prisons. [E.g., see: PLN, Feb. 2015, p.46].
California: Lisa Nichole Leroy, a teacher at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic, was charged in November 2014 with one misdemeanor count of sexual activity with a detainee in a detention facility and unlawful written communication with an inmate, officials said. Leroy is accused of having sexual contact with a prisoner in a classroom at the jail; she had also exchanged letters with him. On February 19, 2015 she pleaded no contest and was sentenced to three years’ probation, 40 hours of community service and 24 counseling sessions.
China: In 1996, China executed an 18-year-old ethnic Mongolian man named Huugjilt for rape and murder. In a rare move, on December 15, 2014 authorities cleared him and offered an apology to his family. News agency Xinhua reported that another man had confessed to the crimes in 2005, and a retrial was held in November 2014. The Associated Press added that Huugjilt’s family had received about $5,000 from the court and could claim an unspecified amount of additional compensation.
China: Penal sentences in China can be commuted if prisoners develop “important technical innovations,” the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper reported in January 2015. However, some enterprising prisoners who have financial means are buying other people’s inventions, patenting them and passing them off as their own to obtain sentence reductions. The cost for the patents range from around $1,100 to almost $10,000. “Some rich people come to us right after they get into trouble and before they go to jail,” said one intellectual property agent.
France: The UK’s Telegraph reported on January 6, 2015 that French prison guards had issued a warning that a facility in Marseille had become a “holiday camp.” The advisory came after prisoners at the facility posted more than 100 Facebook selfies, posing with cash, drugs and cell phones. Investigations have been launched into the social media postings from the Baumettes Prison to determine how the contraband got through security, and several of the prisoners who posted on Facebook now face additional charges. The Baumettes Prison, also known as the Centre Pénitentiaire de Marseille, was singled out in a 2012 report for “inhuman” conditions.
Florida: On November 17, 2014, two people were injured and 25 to 30 vehicles severely damaged when a tornado touched down at the Calhoun Correctional Institution near Blountstown. Perimeter fencing at the facility was destroyed by strong winds, resulting in a number of sheriff’s deputies, prison employees and Highway Patrol officers being stationed outside to prevent escapes. Calhoun County Sheriff Glenn Kimbrel said there were no other reports of damage or injuries in the area.
Florida: Dade Correctional Institution prisoner Ronald “Psycho” McCoy hitched a ride in an outgoing trash cart and walked away from the prison on October 31, 2014. The facility had been troubled for years with security breaches and allegations of corruption and prisoner abuse, and the escape led to yet more criticism of the state Department of Corrections. Florida City Mayor Otis T. Wallace demanded to know why the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was not notified immediately following the escape; the delay gave McCoy a head start of as much as nine hours. McCoy, who was serving two life sentences for armed robbery, was recaptured three days later.
Georgia: A guard at the CCA-operated McRae Correctional Facility was arrested on December 16, 2014 and charged with bringing tequila, medication and cigarettes into the prison. Telfair County Sheriff Chris Steverson announced the arrest of Anna Marie McDonald after a joint investigation by his office and prison officials. McDonald was caught with two 16-ounce water bottles containing suspected tequila, about 400 vacuum-sealed cigarettes and 30 Amlodipine tablets, Steverson said in a press release.
Georgia: On October 20, 2014, Alvin Cross, Jr. pleaded guilty to drug possession and a probation violation after sending a text message to a wrong number. Specifically, Cross accidentally sent the following message to his probation officer: “You have some weed?” The officer notified police, who executed a search warrant and discovered a bag of cocaine in Cross’ residence. He was sentenced to one year in prison for the drug possession charge plus one year for violating the terms of his probation.
Hawaii: A female prisoner at the Maui Community Correctional Center said she was threatened and faced retaliation for reporting a sexual assault by guard James Siugpiyemal. An attorney for the unnamed victim said he feared the retaliation would affect his client’s upcoming parole hearing. On October 24, 2014, a Maui County grand jury indicted Siugpiyemal on three counts of second-degree sexual assault and two counts of third-degree sexual assault, according to police officials. The victim has since been transferred to the Women’s Community Correctional Center on Oahu.
Illinois: Pamela Bruce, a former Cook County jail guard, was sentenced on November 18, 2014 to two years of probation for ordering and taking part in the beating of a mentally ill prisoner, Kyle Pillischafske, in 2012. Judge James Linn explained the lenient sentence: “But for one miserable day, she’s led a pretty good life,” he said. “She’s already a convicted felon, and she’s disgraced herself and she’s embarrassed herself in front of her family.... There’s no possibility of this repeating itself.” Bruce’s co-defendant and one-time friend, Delphia Sawyer, who testified against her, pleaded guilty to one count of official misconduct for her role in the assault.
Illinois: A report released on January 16, 2015 by Chicago Inspector General Joe M. Ferguson said a city worker who was imprisoned on aggravated driving charges was able to file for, and receive, federal family leave benefits to care for his sick daughter. Further, when that time off was exhausted, he applied for and was granted a personal leave of absence. The unnamed employee used a combination of paid vacation and sick leave, as well as unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act and personal leave, to cover about seven months he spent in prison in 2013. The report said his actions violated several city personnel rules and amounted to falsification of employment records. He would have been fired but retired during the investigation.
Israel: On December 4, 2014, Israeli police announced the arrest of a 20-year-old prison employee for attempting to smuggle a cell phone to a detainee for a €2,000 bribe. He was the third employee to face smuggling charges at the Shikma Prison in Ashkelon, southern Israel. The number of contraband cell phones is said to be increasing as they are not only used by “militant groups” but also by prisoners seeking to maintain contact with their families after visitation was banned for security reasons.
Maine: A female prisoner at the Two Bridges Regional Jail was charged with attempted aggravated assault for squeezing her breast milk into another prisoner’s drink. According to a December 2, 2014 indictment issued by the Lincoln County grand jury, Susan M. Doray was charged with aggravated assault, trafficking in prison contraband and violating conditions of release. She had been investigated as one of six prisoners who possessed or tested positive for Suboxone and amphetamines at the jail, and admitted to the breast milk incident during an interview.
Mississippi: Management & Training Corporation (MTC), the Utah-based company that operates the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility along with three other prisons in the state, is the latest private prison contractor to come under scrutiny after stabbings on November 13, 2014 that left two prisoners injured. The ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center are seeking class-action certification for a lawsuit against the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, which MTC also operates. The suit claims that prisoners, most of whom are mentally ill, are beaten, exploited and mistreated at the facility. [See: PLN, Jan. 2014, p.24].
Mississippi: After a prisoner escaped from the Alcorn County jail for the second time, the jail’s warden, Irb Benjamin, announced his resignation on December 1, 2014. The former lawmaker’s company, Mississippi Correctional Management, Inc. (MCM), provided consultation services to several counties, and Benjamin oversaw the management of two jails. Alcorn County Supervisor Lowell Hinton suggested that the jail might need “fresher eyes” after the escapes. Hinton said he did not know how much the county paid either Benjamin or MCM.
Mississippi: In November 2014, police arrested a teacher and a guard who were involved in separate incidents at the MTC-run Walnut Grove Correctional Facility. On November 20, 2014, Freda Stuart, 58, was charged with having sex with a prisoner in a classroom closet. Earlier the same week, guard Romelowe T. Lofton, 19, was arrested as he attempted to smuggle cigarettes and a cell phone into the facility. PLN has previously reported on incidents at the troubled Walnut Grove facility, which remains under federal oversight due to violence and other issues. [See: PLN, Nov. 2013, p.30].
Missouri: Ferguson city jail guard Jaris Hayden, 29, arrested on November 12, 2014, was expected to plead not guilty to allegations that he raped a pregnant prisoner in his custody. He also faces a civil lawsuit filed by the victim, who claims the rape is just one more incident of corruption in the troubled city recently made infamous for the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. The victim, identified only as J.W. to protect her privacy, was sexually assaulted after being jailed for giving a false name during a traffic stop. Hayden has since been released on $10,000 bond.
Nevada: A former substance abuse counselor filed a sex discrimination suit against the Nevada prison system on January 5, 2015. Kathleen Minard worked at the High Desert State Prison and was also assigned to the Southern Desert Correctional Center and Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center. Her suit complains that she was “constantly and continuously subjected to a hostile work environment, enduring intimidation, harassment, and retaliation by her immediate managers” during the course of her employment from August 2006 through March 16, 2011. Minard said she has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
New Jersey: On December 4, 2014, former Essex County assistant prosecutor Brian Kapalin, 67, pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle marijuana and tobacco to federal prisoners being held at the Essex County jail. Kapalin admitted receiving $500 for each contraband delivery that he made between September 2013 and May 2014. He was sentenced on March 18, 2015 to one month in jail and three years of supervised release that included a period of home confinement. Another participant in the smuggling scheme, Muhammad Subpunallah, made payments to Kapalin on behalf of the prisoners; Subpunallah pleaded guilty to related charges on March 30, 2015.
New Jersey: Amit Bornstein, 22, died shortly after a confrontation with Monmouth County jail guards in 2010. On November 21, 2014, the Asbury Park Press released video surveillance footage that showed Bornstein first having an altercation with the guards, then restrained in a hallway, then motionless as a nurse attended to him. Monmouth County officials had fought the release of the video; investigating authorities determined that jail staff had acted within reason. Bornstein’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, but on March 6, 2015 a jury determined that the defendants had not violated Bornstein’s civil rights by using excessive force.
New Mexico: On December 16, 2014, Josephine McAllister was searched by at least four officers while being booked into Albuquerque’s Metropolitan Detention Center on stolen credit card charges. She now faces additional charges of taking contraband into a place of imprisonment after a prisoner discovered an abandoned handgun in a bathroom trash can at the jail. The firearm was traced to McAllister, who is accused of smuggling the weapon into the facility in her genitals. Police do not believe she intended to use the gun or give it to other prisoners.
North Carolina: John Monguillot, a North Carolina state prison official who lost his job following the March 2014 dehydration death of prisoner Michael Anthony Kerr [see: PLN, May 2015, p.60], was rehired as a psychological services coordinator at the Marion Correctional Institution. He further challenged his demotion, and WRAL.com reported on May 21, 2015 that a settlement had been reached with the state to fully reinstate him, transfer him to the Forsyth Correctional Center with a new title and higher salary, and award him back pay and attorney’s fees.
Ohio: Convicted murderer Nicholas Stanishia, his prison-psychologist girlfriend Marcia Weber and three other people were indicted in October 2014 for their roles in a plot to threaten a man who was a witness to Stanishia’s crime. Stanishia had received a life sentence and believed he would be released if the witness recanted. Stanishia, Weber and their accomplices hired a private investigator to locate the witness and his family in Pennsylvania, then intimated that Stanishia’s Aryan Brotherhood connections on the outside could harm them if the witness did not recant. All five defendants were charged with three counts related to interstate conspiracy.
Ohio: Two prisoners committed suicide within one week in January 2015 at the Licking County Jail in Newark. Spencer McLaughlin, 46, died on January 14, two days after hanging himself with a bed sheet, while Jeffrey Skeele, 27, who died on January 17, also committed suicide by hanging. “In my opinion, I don’t think the inmates were properly looked at when they came in and when they do rounds,” said Skeele’s father. Five staff members at the jail were fired in late 2014 after prisoner Stanton Deeley, 67, committed suicide.
Oklahoma: A GEO Group-operated prison in Lawton was the site of a phone-based fraud scheme that netted prisoner Sean Siwek nearly $130,000 in ill-gotten gains, as well as additional prison time. Siwek arranged for contraband cell phones to be delivered to the facility and used the phones to set up fake profiles on voice-based dating lines. He and other prisoners would then make “dates” with other users on the dating lines who sought gay or underage sex. Prior to a planned meeting, Siwek would call the victim, pretend to be law enforcement and extort money from them. He was indicted in December 2014.
Oklahoma: The state medical examiner’s office announced that Eric Grimm, 28, died of a homicide on December 2, 2014 at the CCA-operated Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville. Grimm was found strangled in his cell at the private prison. His death followed the October 26, 2014 strangulation death of 22-year-old Tony Czernicki at the same facility. Hughes County District Attorney Chris Ross said criminal charges were expected to be filed against a prisoner in the Czernicki killing, but an investigation into Grimm’s death remained pending.
Oklahoma: Avalon Correctional Services, a for-profit prison operator, was sued on November 18, 2014 along with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, a business owner and three of his business enterprises. The complaint alleges that the businessman, Abbas Kazami Kia, raped work release prisoner Cassie Chambers. Chambers’ lawsuit claims that Avalon was aware of the sexual assault but continued to supply Kia with work release prisoners in exchange for monetary kickbacks. Chambers said the sexual abuse she suffered “included rape and oral sex,” and Kia told her there was nothing she could do about it because “nobody will believe an inmate.”
Oregon: On December 17, 2014, the Portland City Council responded to calls from advocacy groups by voting to implement a Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) policy that considers corporate human rights abuses in making the city’s investment decisions. “We applaud the City for committing to socially responsible investing that pays attention to corporate human rights abuses of private prisons and other companies that impact people of color,” stated Peter Cervantes-Gautschi, co-director of Enlace, an organization that coordinates the National Private Prison Divestment Campaign. Following the unanimous vote approving the SRI policy, Commissioner Steve Novick stated, “We hope that this will be a model for other cities and municipalities to follow.”
Pennsylvania: The Meadville Tribune reported on January 17, 2015 that a former Crawford County jail doctor imprisoned for tax evasion in 2013 was facing new charges for allegedly unlawfully prescribing Suboxone, a drug used for the treatment of opioid addiction. Dr. Richard Moran and three other people are accused of offering prescriptions for the controlled substance to patients without physically seeing them. Moran was charged with six counts of violating administration of a controlled substance by a practitioner and seven counts of conspiracy.
Pennsylvania: On January 14, 2014, a major fire tore through the 140-year-old Northumberland County Prison, forcing the evacuation of more than 200 prisoners. County Commissioner Chairman Vinny Clausi said the facility appeared to be a “total loss.” The prisoners were initially kept under heavy guard in a nearby church, then transferred to state prisons; a neighboring county also agreed to accept some of the prisoners. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
Pennsylvania: Lawrence County jail guards Michael Antonio, 40, and Stephen Richard Smith, 49, were fired and charged with a bizarre assault on prisoner Steven Tedrow. On November 19, 2014, Smith and Antonio were arraigned for handcuffing Tedrow, 24, to a shower stall and throwing boxes, toilet paper rolls and water balloons made from rubber gloves at him for over half an hour. The assault, which was witnessed by eight prisoners and four guards, was also captured on surveillance video. The attack stopped after a guard who was arriving for a new shift reportedly “flipped out” and demanded that Tedrow be released from the shower.
Philippines: A raid on the largest jail in the Philippines revealed the existence of approximately 20 secret luxury cells with air-conditioning, strip bars, sex dolls and a jacuzzi, along with methamphetamines. “They are here to serve jail time but instead, they’re living like kings,” said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. The December 15, 2014 raid was conducted at the Bilibid Prison in the National Capital Region and resulted in the termination of jail officials who conspired with prisoners to operate the luxury cells.
Texas: A former McLennan County Justice of the Peace was sentenced to nine months in federal prison and a $5,000 fine on November 19, 2014 after pleading guilty to stealing the Social Security benefits of a man who died. Jean Laster Boone, 62, had power of attorney over the bank account of her longtime friend, Robert M. Davis. Inexplicably, the Social Security Administration continued to deposit Davis’ benefits for nearly four years after his death. Laster Boone admitted that she had used over $16,000 of the funds for “fixing stuff up around the house.” At the time of her guilty plea she was already serving a 3-year term of probation on state charges of falsifying records.
Texas: On December 11, 2014, a mishap during riot training at a CCA-operated prison in Raymondville left local schoolchildren and staff sick, community officials and parents concerned, and CCA struggling for an explanation. Riot control gas had been deployed during training activities at the prison and the gas traveled about a mile to the Myra Green Middle School. About 15 children, three coaches and a principal who were outside for a physical education class when the gas struck had to be given immediate medical attention. CCA spokesman Steve Owen said the company had provided safety information to the school district “to assist with the treatment of any short-term effects to those who might have been exposed.”
Texas: The mystery of the whereabouts of convicted sex offender Kevin Patrick Stoeser, who escaped from the Austin Transitional Center in October 2013, was solved by a Labrador Retriever named Carly. The Austin-area family dog brought a human skull home to her owners. The skull was positively identified through DNA testing as belonging to Stoeser, who had been placed on a list of the U.S. Marshals’ 15 most-wanted fugitives; the Marshals Service announced the discovery on November 17, 2014. “There is no determination of the cause of death or the manner of death,” Kendall Crowns, a deputy medical examiner for Travis County, said during a news conference.
West Virginia: Preston Chase Thacker, a 20-year-old guard employed at the Western Regional jail, was arrested and suspended without pay on December 31, 2014 after a traffic stop revealed he was in possession of 74 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver; while there was no immediate evidence that Thacker had carried drugs into the jail, the matter was under investigation.
Wisconsin: On November 14, 2014, Madison-area attorney Steven M. Cohen, 45, pleaded no contest to felony delivery of illegal articles to an inmate, misdemeanor obstructing an agency and misdemeanor disorderly conduct. “He should know better than to do this,” said Judge W. Andrew Voigt, adding that he hoped Cohen would not do “anything quite this dumb again.” Cohen had smuggled toothbrushes, jelly donuts, boiled eggs and a container of crushed red pepper to a prisoner at the Columbia Correctional Institution during an approved attorney-client visit. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and two years’ probation on the misdemeanor charges, and deferred prosecution for five years on the felony charge.
United Kingdom: The Standard reported on January 16, 2015 that a prisoner serving time at HM Prison Wandsworth for knifepoint robberies now faces an additional prison term for attempting to import submachine guns through the Parcelforce postal delivery service. Alexander Mullings, 24, had ordered the weapons using a contraband cell phone and planned to resell them for at least a 500% profit. The guns, known as Scorpions, are the same type that have been used in terror attacks in London and Paris. On February 26, 2015, Judge David Farrell ordered a probe into security at Wandsworth when he sentenced Mullings to life in prison for the weapons smuggling scheme.
United Kingdom: Private prison operator G4S announced on November 14, 2014 that prisoner Darren Ashcroft, 35, was murdered at HM Prison Altcourse in Liverpool. In May 2015, prisoner Keir Michael received a life sentence for stabbing Ashcroft to death. Michael, 41, was also sentenced for wounding Ashcroft’s cellmate, Terry Roderick, who had intervened in an attempt to stop the fatal attack.
United Kingdom: In November 2014, a 20-year-old prisoner, Adil Habid, died at HM Prison Pentonville after choking on a bundle of drugs he was trying to sneak into the facility. Habid had been restrained and removed from a visitation area after refusing to be searched; he then began to experience distress and guards administered the Heimlich maneuver. Paramedics who arrived at the prison tried to remove the packet of drugs with forceps, but Habid was pronounced dead at the scene.
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