News in Brief
Alabama: St. Clair Correctional Facility guard Deandre Price resigned just after his July 5, 2016 arrest for possession of a controlled substance and promoting contraband within a state correctional facility. Price was caught with drugs and other contraband as he reported for work; Alabama Department of Corrections officials said he had been employed at the prison for only a few months. His arrest was the second time in less than two months that a guard was arrested for smuggling contraband at St. Clair. In May 2016, guard V’aires Davis, 24, was arrested on similar charges for trying to sneak marijuana into the facility.
Arizona: According to a June 24, 2016 filing in a court case challenging the constitutionality of the state’s execution methods, the Arizona Department of Corrections’ supply of lethal injection drug midazolam had expired and the state was unable to replace it, leaving the executions of at least seven death row prisoners in limbo. The court filing also indicated that the DOC lacked other lethal injection drugs, namely pentobarbital and sodium thiopental. Arizona has not carried out an execution since 2014, when prisoner Joseph Wood took almost two hours to die after being injected with midazolam and hydromorphone.
Arizona: On July 9, 2016, officials at the Arizona State Prison-Kingman confirmed that four prisoners had been sent to a local hospital due to injuries received in a fight. The names of the prisoners were not released, but authorities said they suffered from a shoulder injury, a split lip, and minor cuts and abrasions. “No weapons were involved and no staff were injured,” said Warden Jeff Wrigley, employed by The GEO Group, which operates the prison. “There was no threat of inmates escaping and no threat to the public.” The unit where the fight occurred was placed on lockdown while officials investigated the incident.
Arizona: America’s self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff” – Maricopa County’s Joe Arpaio – is currently facing federal criminal contempt charges for defying a judge’s order to stop conducting racially-motivated immigration raids. On July 4, 2016, Independence Day, Arpaio announced that he had begun stitching American flags onto the striped uniforms of military veterans incarcerated in county lockups. According to the sheriff, he made the change to honor the “nation’s heritage.” PLN has reported extensively on harsh conditions in Arpaio’s jails and numerous prisoner deaths due to poor medical care and excessive force by guards. [See, e.g.: PLN, April 2016, p.22]. In November 2016, Arpaio lost his reelection bid and was finally voted out of office; he had served as sheriff since 1993.
Australia: The Advertiser reported on July 11, 2016 that around a dozen Australian prison guards earned more than $140,000 the previous year due to overtime hours required to manage a growing prisoner population. The Corrections Department’s people and business services executive director, Chris Sexton, said the same number of guards was expected to receive the same excessive amount of pay in 2016. Nev Kitchin, general secretary of the Public Service Association, noted that overcrowding and fatigue among prison workers raised safety concerns, but he saw no relief in sight from the extended overtime.
Australia: From July 5 to 6, 2016, two prisoners staged a protest on the roof of Queensland’s Woodford Correctional Centre, demanding access to a drug rehabilitation program and calling for the attention of TV host Tracy Grimshaw. Authorities said the men cut through a fence with toenail scissors to access the roof, but climbed down voluntarily on the second day. Grimshaw, a well-known media personality, was unaware why the prisoners had called for her appearance. “If that’s a precondition for them getting off the roof they should get off the roof now, because it’s not going to happen,” she said.
California: On June 2, 2016, attorneys filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and a California Highway Patrol officer over the 2015 suicide of Alberto Petrolino at the San Francisco County Jail. Petrolino had been arrested after threatening to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, but received no mental health evaluation and was not placed on suicide watch. He hanged himself with a bed sheet after a court appearance. “San Francisco has a responsibility to do better. People who are in distress do not deserve to be imprisoned, abandoned, neglected, and left to die,” said Jeffrey L. Bornstein with the law firm of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, which represents Petrolino’s family.
Egypt: On July 12, 2016, an Egyptian court acquitted seven police officers and convicted six others for their roles in the beating death of a 47-year-old detainee. The six officers who were found guilty each received a sentence of between three and seven years in prison on charges of “beating that [led] to death and harsh treatment.” The trial in the city of Qena was the latest in a string of court proceedings against Egyptian police officers. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has promised to crack down on police abuse.
Florida: A 13-year-old prisoner at the Broward Juvenile Detention Center nearly died from an asthma attack after being beaten then left by guards in a room filled with toxic bleach fumes. The child, identified as “A.R.,” was attacked by another teenager who had been offered food by guards to carry out the beating. Gordon Weekes, the chief public defender of Broward County, said he believes understaffing at the overcrowded facility contributes to the inhumane conditions endured by children such as A.R. “The staff are overworked and underpaid, and as a result they have a short fuse,” Weekes declared in a July 18, 2016 statement.
Florida: On July 15, 2016, 21-year-old prisoner Dayonte Resiles jumped out of a jury box inside the Broward County Courthouse, broke free of his handcuffs and fled, leaving his black-and-white striped jumpsuit lying on a hallway floor. Resiles had been attending a hearing to discuss prosecutors’ efforts to seek the death penalty in his murder case, and was considered armed and dangerous. He was captured almost a week later on July 21, 2016 after a large-scale search located him at a West Palm Beach motel. At least seven people were charged as accomplices in the escape.
Georgia: Former prisoner Ronnie Music, Jr. is facing decades in prison after using his multi-million-dollar lottery winnings to invest in guns and crystal meth for distribution. Music was on probation when he struck it rich with a $3 million instant scratch-off ticket. He pleaded guilty to federal charges on July 26, 2016 after an investigation revealed that he began buying large quantities of methamphetamine just a month after his lottery win. During the investigation, federal agents seized more than $1 million worth of meth, a large cache of guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition, along with more than $600,000 in cash and multiple vehicles, including a Dodge Charger and GMC Sierra.
Germany: In a move Warden Carsten Heim said was “unavoidable,” on July 6, 2016 more than 500 prisoners were evacuated from a prison in Muenster due to the imminent collapse of the dilapidated facility. The prisoners were bussed to nearby facilities in a massive two-day move. Muenster is considered the second-oldest prison in Germany – some parts of the facility are 160 years old. Officials have planned since 2012 to replace the aging prison but have not found a suitable building site.
Hawaii: On September 27, 2016, Hawaiinewsnow.com reported that six prisoners at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua had reported being sexually assaulted by guards during the past year. State Director of Public Safety Nolan Espinda said his department takes the allegations seriously and complies with the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Four guards are under investigation, and while two – Chavon Freitas and Taofi Magalei – have been arrested, all remain on state payrolls. The third accused guard was placed on paid leave while the fourth was reassigned. Frietas and Magalei were expected to be fired.
Illinois: Cook County jail officials said they used a flash grenade to distract a pair of prisoners who had taken a third prisoner hostage, creating “tremendous chaos” in the Division 10 maximum-security tier. Sheriff’s Department Chief Policy Officer Cara Smith said the hostage-takers used toilet water to create slippery conditions on the tier and ripped down surveillance cameras as they threatened their hostage with a sharp weapon; the hostage was stabbed in the leg as jail staff intervened. Cook County officials released video of the July 28, 2016 incident and said no one else was injured.
India: IV drug use is the suspected path of transmission for a sharp increase in the number of prisoners at the Kapurthala Central Jail who have tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). From 17 positive cases in 2013, the number of prisoners with HIV jumped to 266 by the end of 2015. Data released by the Hindustan Times on July 11, 2016 revealed that in the first four months of this year, 39 prisoners received new HIV diagnoses. The Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC) at Kapurthala civil hospital brings a mobile clinic to the jail and conducts HIV screening tests each week.
Indonesia: On July 29, 2016, Indonesia executed two Nigerians, one Sengalese man and an Indonesian citizen for drug crimes, according to the country’s deputy attorney general. Noor Rachmad told reporters, “It was not a pleasant thing to do but it was to implement the law. The executions are ... aimed at stopping drug crimes.” Rachmad said ten other prisoners will face the firing squad at an undetermined date. In 2015, fourteen people convicted of drug crimes were executed in Indonesia. Amnesty International has called for an end to death sentences, citing racism, torture and unfair trials for defendants accused of drug offenses.
Kansas: According to Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet, prisoners refused to return to their cells for several hours on July 10, 2016 as a protest against the mashed potatoes and gravy they had been served for lunch. Herzet called in resources from nearby police departments as well as a unit from the El Dorado Correctional Facility to regain control; the protesting prisoners returned to their cells and the facility was placed on lockdown. Herzet said no prisoners or staff members were injured during the protest.
Kentucky: A Louisville-area judge ripped into local jail officials and apologized to a defendant after the woman was brought into a courtroom on July 29, 2016, apparently wearing no pants. Judge Amber Wolf demanded to know “What the hell [was] going on?” after the defendant’s attorney explained that his client had been denied clothing and hygiene products while jailed in Jefferson County for failing to complete a 2014 shoplifting diversion program. Judge Wolf addressed the woman, saying, “This is not normal. I’ve never seen this happen.” In fact, the defendant was wearing very short shorts that were covered by a long shirt. She was released on time served and ordered to pay a $100 fine.
Louisiana: After nearly a month on the run, prison escapee Wilson Bryant, 41, was arrested on July 29, 2016 outside the town of Sapulpa, Oklahoma. Bryant and another prisoner had damaged a security fence and fled the Madison Parish Detention Center in Tallulah, operated by LaSalle Corrections, on June 30. According to the Tulsa World, Bryant admitted to being an escapee after he was questioned by authorities. U.S. Marshals Service warrants supervisor Tommy Roberts said Bryant had served about three years of a 15-year sentence for manslaughter at the time of his escape.
Michigan: Livingston County prosecutor William J. Vailliencourt said his office had “never had a case like” the felony charges levied against Brian Everidge during a court hearing on July 21, 2016. Everidge was pulled over for speeding in a rented Budget box truck filled with aluminum cans destined to be cashed in for bottle deposits. He had collected the cans in other states and was allegedly trying to return them for refunds in Michigan, in violation of state law. He was arrested and charged with one felony count of beverage return of non-refundable bottles, and faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The sale of the cans would have netted Everidge about $1,000. An episode of the sitcom “Seinfeld” involved several of the show’s characters scheming to return used bottles in Michigan, which has one of the highest bottle deposit refund rates in the nation, at $.10 each.
Michigan: Prison officials said two separate fights that broke out at the Kinross Correctional Facility on July 11, 2016 resulted in a lockdown at the facility and the transfer of about 20 prisoners. A guard was evaluated for injuries and one prisoner received non-life-threatening stab wounds, while another was treated for unknown injuries. Authorities said the unrest at the minimum- and medium-security Upper Peninsula prison in Kincheloe was probably gang-related.
Nebraska: On July 13, 2016, 24-year-old Justin Bush was charged with four counts of first-degree arson in connection with fires set during a May 2015 riot at the Tecumseh State Prison – the worst riot in Nebraska’s prison system in six decades. Bush was the sixth prisoner charged in connection with the uprising. Two prisoners died during the melee; the family of one of those prisoners, Shon Collins, has since filed a failure-to-protect lawsuit. The state legislature supplemented more than $1 million in insurance funds with an additional $1.2 million to repair the extensive damage caused by the riot.
Netherlands: In early July 2016, Dutch officials announced that the country’s prison population had dropped by 27% between 2011 and 2015. In comparison, if the U.S. prison population dropped by a similar percentage, it would mean the release of around 600,000 people – roughly the population of Milwaukee. The reduction in the number of Dutch prisoners was attributed to both declining crime rates and a switch to the use of community service sentences and ankle bracelet monitoring as alternatives to prison. The country has rented some of its empty prisons to the Norwegian and Belgian governments to house their prisoners; other vacant facilities have been used to house refugees and migrants. By its own report, the Netherlands now has the second-lowest incarceration rate in Europe.
New Mexico: On July 7, 2016, the Associated Press released documents obtained through a public records request that suggested prison transport guards Taracina Morgan and Michael Ortega missed opportunities to discover the escape of two prisoners. The guards allegedly heard a click from the van’s power door locks but did not take a headcount that would have revealed the escape much sooner. Morgan and Ortega were placed on paid administrative leave after prisoners Joseph Cruz and Lionel Clah fled the van without their knowledge shortly after a rest stop at a gas station near Artesia. [See: PLN, July 2016, p.63].
New York: In a court hearing on June 16, 2016, Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab’s attorneys unsuccessfully argued their client should be placed on self-financed house arrest while awaiting trial. Zarrab is not the first super-wealthy defendant to request a special “gilded cage.” In October 2015, a Chinese billionaire was granted bond of $50 million, secured by $20 million in cash and GPS monitoring at a private apartment with 24-hour guards paid at his own expense. On October 17, 2016, a federal judge denied a motion to dismiss the indictment against Zarrab, who is accused of helping Iranian businesses circumvent federal sanctions. He remains jailed at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
New York: Rasheen Smalls, 35, a guard at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, was convicted by a jury on one count of criminal sexual act in the third degree and one count of official misconduct. Smalls had been accused of having sexual relations with an unnamed prisoner in a utility closet at the facility. He was sentenced on August 11, 2016 to three years in prison, and will also have to register as a sex offender. DOCCS Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci said in a statement, “DOCCS has zero tolerance for misconduct or criminal activity within our facilities or offices, and this verdict demonstrates our commitment to following through.”
Ohio: A Youngstown attorney who refused to remove a small “Black Lives Matter” lapel pin during court was hit with a contempt charge and hauled away in handcuffs to serve five days in jail. On July 22, 2016, Andrea Burton was asked twice by Judge Robert Milich to remove the pin, and held in contempt after she declined a second time. “It’s an act of civil disobedience, I understand that. I’m not anti-police, I work with law enforcement and I hold them in the highest regard, and just to say for the record, I do believe all lives matter. But at this point they don’t all matter equally,” Burton told Fox News.
Ohio: On July 27, 2016, Governor John Kasich announced a new agreement between the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to provide prisoners with real-world job skills. Prisoners at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution will build 62 minimalist cabins to be used in state parks. DNR Director James Zehringer said the state is dubbing the buildings “Sherman cabins” after Camp Sherman, an Ohio Army National Guard training site near the prison.
Ohio: The Portsmouth Daily Times reported in July 2016 that five Southern Ohio Correctional Facility guards had committed suicide in the past year. At the times of their deaths, three of the guards were employed at the facility, one had recently retired and the fifth had just received a disciplinary suspension. Randall Hiles, president of Local 7330 of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA), said the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction needed to take a “good hard look” at the suicides. He added, “If there had been this many inmates who had committed suicide in a year’s time at one institution, they would have spent countless dollars – hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars – doing investigations to try to find out what the problems were.”
Pennsylvania: The mother of an 18-year-old heroin user who died while imprisoned at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility filed federal and state civil rights lawsuits on July 11, 2016, claiming jail officials failed to give her daughter proper medical care. Victoria “Tori” Herr collapsed in her cell while withdrawing from heroin and died at a hospital several days later. According to the lawsuit, “Defendants stood by as Ms. Herr showed obvious and alarming signs that her detoxification was causing serious medical consequences.” A coroner’s report found that Herr died due to “complications of chronic substance abuse and anorexia.”
Pennsylvania: Police arrested 46-year-old Charles R. Bennicoff on July 12, 2016 after he tried to smuggle methamphetamine into the Lehigh County Jail concealed in his rectum. A guard found meth inside a resealable bag in a knotted plastic bag inside Bennicoff’s body as he was processed into the facility on an outstanding warrant. He was charged with a single count of possession of a controlled substance, and his bond was set at $1,000.
Tennessee: Understaffing at the Hamilton County Jail prompted Sheriff Jim Hammond to lower the minimum age for jail employees. “Right now, one of my biggest issues is that I am about 30 officers short in the jail,” Hammond said. On July 8, 2016, he announced that he would accept applications from 18-year-olds for jail guard positions at the chronically overcrowded and understaffed facility. In reducing the minimum age from 21, the sheriff noted that “Every state-operated/TDOC facility accepts applications for correctional officers so long as the applicant is the minimum of 18 years old on the day they apply.”
Texas: The Texas Commission on Jail Standards made an unannounced visit to the Bexar County Adult Detention Center following a 10-day period that included the suicides of Jonathan Campos, 22, and Victor Casas, 40, as well as the death of a third prisoner due to natural causes. Shortly after the Commission’s July 15, 2016 visit, another prisoner, Jesus Jose Lopez, 18, died of an apparent suicide at the facility. PLN has previously reported on the abnormally high suicide rate at the Bexar County Adult Detention Center. [See: PLN, March 2016, p.32; PLN, April 2015, p.50].
Texas: According to CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) spokesman Jonathan Burns, prisoners at the company’s privately-operated Eden Detention Center engaged in a passive protest on July 29, 2016. A large group of prisoners refused to come in from the yard to protest inhumane treatment by a new warden; according to unconfirmed reports from a prisoner’s family member, “Pretty much the whole facility was protesting.” The Concho County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the incident, referring reporters to CoreCivic for a response. The company said the protest ended peacefully the next day.
United Kingdom: Prison officials are investigating the suicide of a 21-year-old female prisoner at HM Prison New Hall as a potential episode of “grooming” for self-harm. Emily Hartley hanged herself just a month after another woman, Lynsey Bartley, committed suicide in the same manner. Both women had previous relationships with an older prisoner who is suspected to have engaged them in a “deal of death.” Prison suicides are at a record high in the UK; according to a July 9, 2016 report from The Mirror, 89 prisoners killed themselves in 2014.
United Kingdom: A female prisoner at a facility operated by Sodexo died of an apparent overdose after repeatedly ringing the emergency alarm in her cell for over two hours. Natasha Chin, 41, had been prescribed prescription pain killers after having surgery, and was taken to HM Prison Bronzefield only three days prior to her death. Prison staff administered CPR but pronounced Chin dead on July 19, 2016. Sodexo is a multinational corporation headquartered in France; it invests heavily in European private prisons and was a major investor in Corrections Corporation of America between 1994 and 2001, until public outcry caused it to divest.
Wisconsin: On July 4, 2016, Francisco Flores-Rocha was found dead of an apparent suicide in his cell at the Green Bay Correctional Institution. In a statement, the Brown County Sheriff’s Department said foul play was not suspected. Five days prior to his death, Flores-Rocha was named as a suspect in the stabbing of two prison employees and the injury of a third. Wisconsin DOC spokesman Tristan Cook, citing an ongoing investigation, would not confirm whether Flores-Rocha had committed suicide and declined to reveal any other details concerning his death. Another Green Bay guard was attacked by a prisoner who threw hot water in the officer’s face in July 2016, and in September yet another guard was assaulted.
Wisconsin: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on July 3, 2016 that Lana Webster, a supervisor at the troubled Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls juvenile facility, wasn’t disciplined for her role in humiliating prisoners and spraying a young girl in the face with pepper spray, then filing a false report afterward. Department of Corrections officials noted that Webster should complete additional training, but she was not punished. Three of her subordinates weren’t as lucky; youth counselor Dave Tinker and facility workers Laura Kernan and Andrew Yorde were disciplined for various infractions after they pointed the finger at Webster. The Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake schools are under investigation by federal authorities in connection with an ongoing pattern of civil rights violations.