News In Brief
Alabama: On April 9, 2013, Kenneth Wayne Patton was arrested on a domestic violence charge. When he arrived at the Etowah County Jail, he informed guards that he used to be employed at the St. Clair Correctional Facility and should be put in protective custody. Despite that warning, he was placed in general population. Prisoners at the jail eventually discovered Patton's former occupation and assaulted him; he suffered a broken nose, cuts and a broken tooth. In April 2015, Patton filed a federal lawsuit against jail officials accusing them of deliberate indifference for failing to protect him.
Arizona: No injuries were reported after a fire broke out on July 25, 2015 at a prison in Florence run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). CCA issued a statement that said the fire at the Central Arizona Detention Center started in a dryer in the laundry room. Flames spread to the roof through a vent and ignited some plastic, causing extensive heavy black smoke. A Florence official said the fire did not cause “serious damage” to the facility.
Arkansas: On April 18, 2015, Pulaski County sheriff’s officials intercepted a phone call which indicated that contraband would be left in a vehicle belonging to guard Kyle Guyer in the jail’s parking lot. Investigators stopped Guyer as he retrieved a package containing money, candy and tobacco from his car; a second package containing marijuana and methamphetamine was also found in the vehicle. Guyer immediately resigned.
Australia: A prisoner who was working as a kitchen cleaner at the Bunbury Regional Prison criticized fellow prisoner and unit cook Matthew John Horner’s chicken parmigiana, saying there was “too much tomato on top.” Horner did not take kindly to that assessment of his culinary skills and attacked the food critic, breaking both of his eye sockets. On July 7, 2015, Horner was sentenced to seven months in jail to be served concurrently with his original sentence.
Australia: A ban on smoking in prisons, scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2015, is thought to have sparked a major riot at the Metropolitan Remand Centre in Ravenhall. Clashes involving hundreds of prisoners began at midday on June 30. Staff and visitors were evacuated from the facility, which was placed on lockdown. Prisoners had warned that if the smoking ban was initiated, “all hell was going to break loose.” There were no reports of serious injuries as a result of the melee.
California: Luis Borjon, a former guard at FCI Terminal Island, pleaded guilty on December 2, 2014 to a federal bribery charge in connection with a cell phone smuggling scheme at the BOP facility. He was sentenced in February 2015 to a prison term of two days with time served plus 24 months of supervised release, a $1,000 fine, restitution and 160 hours of community service. Borjon had faced a maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.
California: In September 2014, the California Department of General Services announced that 12 state prison sites had completed solar power projects which have a combined capacity of about 28 megawatts. The Pleasant Valley State Prison, as well as the state hospital at Coalinga, joined North Kern State Prison, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, CSP Los Angeles in Lancaster, the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi and Ironwood State Prison, among others, in utilizing solar arrays. A 2012 executive order from Governor Jerry Brown directs state agencies and departments to reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020, and energy purchases by 20% by 2018.
California: On April 20, 2015, officials at the North Kern State Prison reported that 15 to 20 shots were fired outside the facility, injuring a guard whose identity was not released. The guard was grazed by a bullet that penetrated his stab-resistant vest, and he was treated and released at a local hospital. Officials were unclear whether the guard had been targeted or if the shots were fired in the general direction of the prison.
China: A new type of anti-corruption training is taking place under Chinese President Xi Jinping. It’s a “scared straight” program for public officials. In May 2015, 70 Hebei province officials met inside a prison with 15 former government colleagues, all incarcerated on corruption charges. The prisoners advised the visiting officials to be mindful of their social circles and to rectify their work relationships to avoid a similar fate. President Jinping has vowed to eradicate graft within all levels of the Communist party bureaucracy.
Colorado: Jeffrey Allan Lane, 59, a former Arapahoe County magistrate, was sentenced on April 27, 2015 to 90 days of in-home confinement after pleading guilty to sexual exploitation and attempted unlawful sexual contact. Lane was found to be behind a Craigslist post soliciting sex from a 14-year-old boy who could meet him “after school.” Lane confessed to exchanging sexual messages with an undercover officer whom he thought was an underage boy. He said the online conversations were just “fantasy.”
Connecticut: Federal prosecutors announced the arrest of a corrupt prison staff member involved in a bribery scheme, who “did not hesitate to take advantage of inmates under her supervision, and was eager to find new bribery targets.” Kisha Perkins, 43, a former case manager at FCI Danbury, pleaded guilty to corruption charges and was sentenced on July 21, 2015 to one year in jail and one year of supervised release. She had worked at the prison for 18 years.
Florida:The U.S. Department of Justice announced on April 14, 2015 that a grand jury had returned a two-count indictment charging Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputy William D. Wheeler, 46, with unlawfully assaulting a prisoner at the Palm Beach County Detention Center on October 9, 2013 and filing a false report about the incident. The prisoner, identified only as J.S., did not comply with a treating nurse’s attempt to review his medical bracelet. When J.S. pulled his arm away, Wheeler allegedly put his hands around the prisoner’s neck, stuck his head against a wall, pulled him to the floor and struck him in the face with his knee. The indictment also alleges that Wheeler filed a report falsely claiming J.S. had assaulted him. The incident was captured on surveillance video.
Florida: Robert Harris, a criminal defense attorney with the Fort Myers-based Harris Law Firm, was “a little shocked” when a would-be client arrived at his office seeking representation in March 2015. While not typically an unusual request, in this case the prospective client, John Marshall, also brought along proof of his alleged crime – the body of a neighbor he claimed he had killed in self-defense. Attorneys at the law firm notified 911 shortly after Marshall’s arrival. “They don’t teach you about this in law school. That’s for sure,” Harris said.
Florida: William Houghton and Eddie Rodas-Castro were indicted by a federal grand jury on June 17, 2015 for violating the civil rights of a prisoner. The pair worked as prison guards at the Coleman Correctional Complex; they are accused of striking an unidentified prisoner repeatedly in the head and face, then falsifying reports and making false statements to investigators. The 2014 incident was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General. Both Houghton and Rodas-Castro have pleaded not guilty.
Georgia:A recent photo of Cortez Berry, 18, was posted on Facebook even though he was serving time in the Burruss Correctional Training Center for his role in a carjacking and robbery. On March 31, 2015, it was reported that the photo showed Berry hunched down, with a swollen eye in front of two shirtless young men, one of whom had a leash around Berry’s neck. The caption read, “When you disrespect the Nation, it bring nothing but pain and suffering.” The reference is understood to be to the G.D. Nation, short for “Gangster Disciples.” The Georgia Department of Corrections has launched an investigation into the incident.
Illinois: A Cook County jail guard was found guilty on June 17, 2015 of aggravated battery and official misconduct charges after surveillance video showed him punching a prisoner in the face. Prisoner Rafael Aleman, 5-foot-9, never saw the punch coming when 6-foot-5, 325-pound guard Rico Palomino attacked him without provocation. Palomino, a law enforcement heavyweight boxing champion, was spared jail time and sentenced in August 2015 to 18 months of probation.
Indiana: On April 20, 2015, a news article reported that prisoners at the Westville Correctional Facility had been without running water for five days. John Schrader, the public information officer at Westville, said a sinkhole had broken the facility’s original underground water main, likely to have been installed over 60 years ago. According to Schrader, water was trucked in and port-a-potties provided for the prisoners and staff to use. The water main break was repaired the same day media outlets began to report the outage.
Iraq: A representative from the province of Diyala said on May 9, 2015 that 43 prisoners had escaped and 33 prisoners and 11 guards were killed in a riot that erupted at the jail at the police headquarters in the city of Khalis. Most of the escapees had been charged with criminal offenses, but nine were being held as terrorists. The riot lasted more than four hours; prison breaks occur frequently in Iraq. [See, e.g.: PLN, Sept. 2013, p.37; Jan. 2013, p.23].
Israel: Israel Radio reported on June 1, 2015 that a solider in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) was disciplined with an 11-day sentence for eating a non-kosher sandwich during a military operation. The IDF said the unnamed soldier’s actions, which he defended by claiming ignorance of the regulation, were not in keeping with the army’s expectations of those in its officers’ course. After reexamining the incident, the IDF decided to lessen the soldier’s punishment by changing it from time served in a military prison to confinement to base.
Maryland: Two former jail guards at the Baltimore City Detention Center were identified as looters during the city-wide disturbances that erupted after the police-involved death of Freddie Gray. Tamika Cobb, 29, and Kendra Richard, 28, were suspended without pay on May 13, 2015 following their arrests on burglary charges for taking snack food from a 7-11 convenience store during the unrest. Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services had recently come under fire after a criminal investigation into the involvement of numerous jail guards in a contraband smuggling scheme with the Black Guerilla Family gang. [See: PLN, April 2015, p.30]. In July 2015, Governor Larry Hogan ordered the closure of the Baltimore City Detention Center, calling it the “worst prison in America.”
Massachusetts: Journalist and radio talk show host Michele McPhee was pulled over on June 11, 2015 on suspicion of drunk driving. She engaged in a struggle with and injured the State Trooper who had stopped her, and was arraigned on charges of assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest and DUI. McPhee pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released without bail; she had a four-page history of driving violations and her license was revoked. During the traffic stop, she told the trooper she worked at a radio station, had “defended cops for 30 years” and was friends with various police officials, including the head of the State Police.
Mississippi: On May 26, 2015, a 15-year veteran state prison guard was killed in the line of duty when the van she was driving collided with the back of an 18-wheeler. Iris Smith, 53, was alone in the van while escorting an ambulance with another guard and a prisoner inside. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Sgt. Smith’s family,” Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher said. The accident was investigated by the Hattiesburg Police Department.
Missouri: The former president of Local 1701 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Jesse E. Morgan, was sentenced on May 11, 2015 to 21 months in federal prison and restitution in excess of $138,000. He had pleaded guilty to wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Kansas City for embezzling union funds. AFSCME represents jail employees in Jackson County.
Montana: Overcrowding at the Flathead County jail has prompted officials to look into other facilities to house local prisoners. On June 9, 2015, KPAX.com reported that the county had entered into negotiations to repurpose an empty Wal-Mart store into a larger jail. The current lockup, the Flathead Justice Center, was designed to hold only 63 prisoners but over the past ten years has averaged closer to 100. Sheriff Chuck Curry said after touring the Wal-Mart site that he could imagine the possibilities.
New Jersey: On June 26, 2015, former third-grade teacher Marylin Zuniga filed suit in Essex County Superior Court, contesting her firing amid public outcry against a class project she had assigned. She asked her students to write “get well” letters to former death row prisoner (and PLN columnist) Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was hospitalized with complications from diabetes. School officials justified Zuniga’s termination by saying they had no prior knowledge of the assignment and she did not seek prior approval from superiors or parents.
New Jersey: Darquan Lee, 21, was picked up on a contempt of court warrant on May 8, 2015. He was taken to the Cumberland County Jail, where he was strip-searched. As the guards ordered him to squat he produced a palm-sized .25 semiautomatic handgun from his “anal cavity.” Lee’s contempt charges were the least of his worries, as he was booked on firearms violations and possession of stolen property – the well-concealed gun had been reported stolen in Alabama.
New Mexico: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) public affairs director Jonathan Burns said the private prison company moved quickly when it learned about sexual misconduct by a food service worker at its Torrance County Detention Center. Wendy Moore, 41, was charged on May 22, 2015 with 24 sex offenses involving a prisoner. “The safety and security of our facilities and the inmates entrusted to our care is our top priority. CCA has a strict zero-tolerance policy toward sexual abuse and we take any allegation seriously,” Burns added. In fact, CCA has a terrible track record with respect to its employees sexually abusing prisoners. [See, e.g.: PLN, March 2012, p.18; Oct. 2009, p.40].
New Mexico: An Aramark employee admitted to smuggling contraband into Bernalillo County’s Metropolitan Detention Center. Nick Perea confessed to bringing drugs into the facility and delivering them to prisoner Steven Mertz. According to investigators who performed a strip search, Mertz was concealing a total of 15 suboxone strips. Perea, who worked for Aramark in laundry services, was charged on May 23, 2015 with trafficking a controlled substance, bringing contraband into a jail and conspiracy.
New Mexico: Jesus Marquez died at the San Juan County Detention Center on March 3, 2015. Jail guards knew he was dying and repeatedly asked for medical assistance, but medical staff dismissed his obvious symptoms of bleeding from the mouth, grayish/white lips and tongue, and very low blood pressure as “faking.” Marquez’s mother, Olga Salazar, has filed a lawsuit seeking punitive damages for wrongful death, negligence, and cruel and unusual punishment.
New York: During a July 19, 2015 visit with her incarcerated husband, 32-year-old Ebony Strange gave him synthetic marijuana known as K2 or “spice,” which he distributed throughout the Westchester County Jail. Six prisoners suffered apparent drug overdoses; the facility was placed on lockdown after one prisoner was found to be in medical distress and five others were sickened. Mrs. Strange and her husband, Deron Strange, were both charged with second-degree promoting prison contraband.
New Zealand: Prison profiteer Serco was fined $300,000 and put on notice that its contract might not be renewed after Corrections Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga acted upon concerns about safety and security at the Mt. Eden Corrections Facility. On July 23, 2015, company officials met with the Minister, who said, “I have made my concerns clear to both Serco and the Department of Corrections, and have laid out my expectations going forward.” The private prison operator risks losing a 10-year, $300 million contract with the New Zealand government.
Norway: While prisoners in the U.S. await higher education opportunities that could result from the passage of the REAL Act, which restores Pell grant funding, Norwegian prisoners are afforded the opportunity to pursue higher education through the country’s most respected universities. Convicted mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik, notorious for killing 77 people, including children and young adults, in a 2011 bombing and shooting spree, was accepted as a full-time student at the University of Oslo. According to a statement issued on July 17, 2015 by Ole Peter Ottersen, the university’s rector, Breivik will study political science while serving his 21-year sentence.
Ohio: Lucas County jail guard Myron Watkins sexually assaulted a woman after giving her a ride home from the facility; according to his attorney, Watkins had made the “worst possible decision” of his life. His wife left him, his children lost respect for him and he was fired from his job. However, those misfortunes were not enough to convince Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Dean Mandros to spare him a prison term. On July 9, 2015, Watkins received the maximum sentence of 18 months in prison for the sexual assault. Judge Mandros said the fact that Watkins was in a position of trust at the jail was key in his sentencing decision.
Oklahoma: Between 200 and 300 prisoners brawled at the CCA-operated Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing on June 10, 2015. In the aftermath of the riot, eleven prisoners were transported to a hospital. Although state DOC officials said this incident was the worst in ten years, it was eclipsed on September 12, 2015 when another fight broke out at the facility that left four prisoners dead and others hospitalized. PLN will report on the September uprising, which is said to be the “deadliest” in Oklahoma prison history, in an upcoming issue.
Oklahoma: On February 25, 2015, the Oklahoma County jail in Oklahoma City was dubbed by BusinessInsider.com as the “Worst Jail in America 2015.” The U.S. Department of Justice started investigating the facility a dozen years ago; problems include unsanitary conditions, poor medical care and outright abuse of prisoners. In one of the most extreme cases, jail supervisor Andres Sanchez, 53, faces second-degree manslaughter charges for severely beating prisoner Emmett Stanley Martin and then leaving him to bleed to death in December 2013.
Oregon: A former Klamath County jail guard was sentenced on July 5, 2015 to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to 13 of 30 sex offenses. Investigators said Darin Lee Mullica, 41, carried on a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Mullica was accused of making videos of the encounters and sharing them with others online; he also gave the girl methamphetamines. The charges filed against him ranged from second-degree sexual abuse to first-degree encouragement of child sexual abuse and possession of material depicting sexually explicit conduct of a child.
Pakistan: On April 21, 2015, fourteen prisoners were executed in Punjab and Balochistan. According to news reports, two prisoners were hanged in Kot Lakhpat Jail, two in Sialkot District Jail, one in Central Jail Sahiwal, three in jails in Faisalabad, three in Central Jail Gujranwala, one in Central Jail Multan and two in jails in the city of Machh. A fifteenth prisoner escaped the gallows when his execution was postponed.
Pennsylvania: A guard at the Chester County Prison should have known his phone calls were being monitored, but Douglas Keck, 45, now faces 3 to 6 years in prison for arranging contraband smuggling through the facility’s phone system. He was arrested on March 23, 2015. When authorities discovered that he had brought his four-year-old son with him to a drug deal, Keck was also charged with endangering the welfare of a child. He has since been fired.
Pennsylvania: Retired judge Paul Pozonsky was sentenced to a term of 30 days to 23½ months in jail on July 13, 2015 for stealing cocaine evidence from criminal trials. Pozonsky’s defense attorney argued that jail time would only exacerbate the former jurist’s “misery index.” Pozonsky told the sentencing judge, “I’m not blaming anybody but myself. There’s nobody else to blame.” His troubles did not end with his sentencing; Pozonsky also faces disbarment, and his wife has filed for divorce.
Syria: On May 31, 2015, the jihadist group known as ISIS planted explosives inside and around a prison in the city of Palmyra. The group then posted pictures on Twitter which showed the resulting damage after they detonated the devices. The prison had been sorely remembered as the site of a 1980 massacre that left hundreds of prisoners dead. Syrian opposition member Mohammad Sarmini said that ISIS had “wiped out evidence of the crimes of the Assad clan by blowing up the infamous Palmyra prison.”
Tennessee: A fire broke out at the Rutherford County jail on June 27, 2015, sending one nurse to the hospital suffering from smoke inhalation. The fire began in the medical director’s office and was contained there, but smoke and water damaged the medical unit hallway, dispatch area and administrative hallways. The prisoner housing units were not affected. Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue was conducting an investigation into the cause of the blaze.
Tennessee: On February 6, 2015, Johny Nunn, 26, was booked into the Montgomery County jail with a crack pipe in his rectum. Nunn, who had been arrested for shoplifting at the local Wal-Mart, was asked by the arresting officer if he had any drugs, paraphernalia or weapons, which he denied. Upon arrival at the jail, however, he was strip-searched and found to be concealing a glass pipe with drug residue.
Texas: Rookie prison guard Timothy Davison was beaten to death on July 15, 2015 as he escorted a prisoner to his cell at the Telford Unit. Davison’s alleged attacker was prisoner Billy Joel Tracy, who is serving a life sentence and has at least three convictions for assaulting guards. Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said the Telford Unit was sufficiently staffed at the time and had not recently experienced security problems.
Texas: Bowie County Correctional Center guard Jeff Neal was arrested on April 21, 2015 while attempting to smuggle contraband into the facility. Neal had approached the facility’s front lobby carrying an open bag of Cheetos Puffs. A suspicious fellow officer searched the bag and found an object wrapped in purple duct tape at the bottom. When investigated, the object was found to contain tobacco and marijuana. Neal was charged with possession of a prohibited substance in a correctional facility; his bond was set at $15,000.
Trinidad and Tobago: Prisoner Allan “Scanny” Martin and a 27-year-old guard were killed on July 24, 2015 during a prison break that included explosives and a police shootout. Two other prisoners escaped from the Port of Spain jail after managing to get their hands on two 9mm firearms and a hand grenade. In the aftermath, escapee Christopher “Monster” Selby surrendered several days following the breakout. Escapee Hassan Atwell’s freedom did not last long; he was shot and killed by rival gang members.
Vermont: On June 9, 2015, James Lowe was released from jury duty because he showed up to court wearing a black and white striped prison jumpsuit with a matching beanie. The Caledonian Record reported that Lowe was on time for the selection process but was directed to an empty courtroom to meet with the judge. Instructions for potential jurors do not restrict clothing, but the judge told Lowe to leave and warned him that he could have been found in contempt of court.
Virginia: One staff member and eight prisoners were injured in a disturbance at U.S. Penitentiary Lee near Jonesville. A call for assistance went out from the facility on July 8, 2015, and rescue squads from Lee County, Scott County and Wise County were dispatched to assist in treating the injured. Lee County Sheriff Gary Parsons said his deputies responded to secure the perimeter of the prison and provide backup for Virginia State Police units already on the scene. Bureau of Prisons spokesman Ed Ross said of the incident, “I wouldn’t describe it as a riot.”
Virginia: In April 2015, Diego Martinez-Espinoza was suspected to have left the country after escaping house arrest. Martinez-Espinoza was awaiting trial as an accused cocaine dealer and illegal immigrant accused of manufacturing, selling and distributing more than 40 pounds of cocaine. When the power on his ankle monitor went out, Virginia authorities asked his landlord to check on him. Instead of Martinez-Espinoza, the landlord found a cat with the monitor around its neck.
Washington: On April 22, 2015, a Washington Department of Corrections spokeswoman confirmed that a fight involving 25 to 30 prisoners had broken out in the gymnasium area of the Walla Walla State Penitentiary’s West Complex. Spokeswoman Shari Hall said two prisoners suffered “significant injuries” and were taken to hospitals, and that many others received bumps and bruises. On August 24, 2015 a second major fight broke out among about 22 prisoners at the facility, then on August 31 yet another brawl ignited, this time involving approximately 60 prisoners.
Washington: According to an April 21, 2015 news report, a recent flood of litigation against the Yakima County jail has left the county facing over $18 million in claims. Prisoners filed 15 separate lawsuits protesting conditions at the facility; their complaints range from clogged sinks and a bug-infested floor to the absence of ladders on bunk beds and denial of outside recreation time. The legal actions began after prisoners were denied television privileges to watch the January 10, 2015 Seattle Seahawks playoff game against the Carolina Panthers.
Wisconsin: On April 13, 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections released public records in response to a lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The records related to the August 2014 termination of Fox Lake Correctional Institution guard Thomas J. Lukas, who was fired for sexually harassing prisoners. An internal investigation found that Lukas had sent an email to another guard that included a sexual and inappropriate reference to prisoner Antron Kent. Investigators also documented allegations that Lukas had placed an article about gay marriage and photos of half-naked men in Kent’s cell.
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