News in Brief
Alabama: Federal and state officials raided the Sumter County Jail on March 8, 2016 as part of an investigation into the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department. The search led a grand jury to recommend the impeachment of Sheriff Tyrone Clark and issue an indictment against him the next month. A report issued by the grand jury accused Clark of willfully failing to prevent contraband in the jail, allowing prisoners access to firearms and using prisoner labor at his own residence as well as in paid positions elsewhere, from which he withheld a portion of their pay. The report also detailed Clark’s attempt to coerce a female employee to have sex with him. The sheriff is further alleged to have neglected to secure and supervise prisoners – one of whom was allowed to have sex with a female visitor.
Alabama: According to a March 25, 2016 press release from the Alabama Department of Corrections, prisoner Johnny Lee Spears, 31, died after being stabbed by fellow prisoner Latarian Martel Frison at the Elmore Correctional Facility. The fatality at Elmore was the latest in a surge of violent incidents in Alabama prisons, closely following two riots at Holman Prison the previous week. [See: PLN, May 2016, p.1]. Governor Robert J. Bentley issued his own statement following the DOC’s release, saying, in part, “Tonight’s stabbing at Elmore Correctional Facility is another sad reminder of the crisis inside the prison system. The violence is spiraling out of control and, left unaddressed, poses a major threat to public safety.”
Alaska: On March 11, 2016, KTVA.com reported that a select group of female prisoners at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center care for Iditarod sled dogs that are “dropped” during the race due to injury or poor health while their owners continue with the rest of the sled team. The women comfort the animals, feed them, give medications and clean up after the dogs. This job assignment is considered a privilege for the prisoners and continues an Iditarod tradition that began in 1974.
Arizona: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) was fined $3,500 on March 7, 2016 by the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health for violations discovered after a July 2015 clothing dryer fire at the company’s Florence Correctional Center. No one was injured in the blaze, but black smoke was visible for miles after flames ignited the roof. The safety inspectors determined that CCA did not have proper evacuation plans for staff members and recommended a $4,500 fine; the Industrial Commission of Arizona lowered the fine by $1,000 during its February 2016 meeting. CCA did not comment on the violations.
Arkansas: Jefferson County jail guards James Ferguson, 18, and Lafarius Hoskins, 25, were placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into their alleged sexual assault of a female prisoner. Sheriff Gerald Robinson rescinded jail administrator Greg Bolin’s decision to fire the two guards, instead authorizing paid leave until further disciplinary actions were finalized. According to an affidavit, the victim was raped by Ferguson in a male employees’ restroom at the jail then told by Hoskins, “If you tell, you will be in trouble.” The guards were arrested on March 5, 2016; Pine Bluff District Court Judge John Kearney set their bond at $50,000 each.
Australia: Up to 40 prisoners hurled mugs, food and chairs at prison staff during a March 6, 2016 riot at the Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre. According to the Queensland Corrective Services Investigation Unit, the riot began when guards apprehended a prisoner who was climbing an exercise yard fence. “They assaulted staff and one was bitten on the hand, punched, kicked, attacked with missiles and chairs,” a CourierMail.com source said. The head of the emergency response group met with the protesting prisoners and agreed to accommodate their most ardent demand – the women were allowed to make coffee before returning to their cells. Two prisoners and one guard were injured in the melee.
California: The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that a guard at the Elmwood Correctional Facility was beaten by a group of 10 prisoners on December 24, 2015. Jail officials described the incident as gang-related. The unnamed officer was attacked in the day room after confronting a prisoner about a package of contraband; Assistant Sheriff Troy Beliveau said the guard was taken to Saint Louise Hospital and treated for multiple injuries. He added the incident will lead to policy changes at the jail. “We’re looking at additional staffing for these areas and possibly not allowing as many to come out at one time so that they can be managed by our staff,” Beliveau said.
California: Angela Zuniga’s family said she complained to jail staff that she was in pain and not feeling well after being returned to the West Valley Detention Center following an emergency C-section and hysterectomy surgery. Jail staff tried to force her into performing physical labor with other prisoners, and placed her in solitary confinement when she was in too much pain to do the work. Zuniga collapsed on February 27, 2016 and was taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, where she died two weeks after giving birth. Her death occurred just a month after a class-action lawsuit was filed alleging inadequate medical care for prisoners at the facility.
California: Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith used her own credit card to pay $761 at Costco for a video surveillance system that she helped install at the county jail on March 2, 2016. Previously, county officials had informed the sheriff that the camera system she had requested would take two years to procure and $20 million to install. In response, the “frustrated” sheriff took matters into her own hands to improve security at the jail. “If there is a complaint against deputies we can look at tape,” Smith said. “If [there is an] assault on staff we can use it as evidence. It’s good for everyone.”
Canada: In December 2015, around 50 prisoners at the Regina Correctional Centre staged a hunger strike after a private food vendor, Compass Group, served uncooked eggs so distasteful that prisoner Forrest Pelletier said, “I wouldn’t serve this to my dog.” A separate 5-day hunger strike at the same facility ended on March 7, 2016. The more recent strike was initiated by 15 prisoners whose demands included an increase in commissary allowances, religious sweat lodge access, more cable TV channels and more time outside their cells in a larger open-air yard. Drew Wilby with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice said the striking prisoners are held in the province’s highest-security unit and most of their demands were likely to go unmet due to their security level.
Florida: PLN has previously reported on major misconduct by employees of prison food service contractor Aramark. [See, e.g.: PLN, Dec. 2015, p.1]. On March 9, 2016, yet another Aramark kitchen worker was arrested, this time for smuggling contraband into the Monroe County Detention Center in Key West. Donna Launer, 43, used prisoner Kristofer Lluis to deliver sexually explicit letters and photos to another prisoner, Daniel Rodriguez, with whom she had developed a romantic relationship. When confronted, Rodriguez and Launer admitted they had “kissed and rubbed” each other, but denied having had sexual intercourse. Launer faces a third-degree felony charge of smuggling contraband into a jail facility, while Lluis was also charged for his role in the smuggling scheme.
Guyana: Prisoner Dwayne Lewis told a Prison Services Commission of Inquiry that he heard someone give an order to “lock the door and let them die in there” as he escaped from a fire that killed 17 prisoners at the Camp Street Penitentiary on March 3, 2016. Lewis recounted to the Commission that an officer identified as “Patterson” had refused to open the door as the prisoners burned to death. The blaze, although of unknown origin, occurred during a riot sparked by a contraband sweep conducted at the facility two days earlier. Less than three weeks later, a prisoner set a fire in his “stronghold cell” – Director of Prisons Carl Graham told Guyana Times that the prisoner said his intention was to “burn the prison down.” Prison staff quickly extinguished the flames.
Indiana: A supervisor at the Liberty Hall women’s work release facility was charged on March 3, 2016 with two counts of trafficking with an inmate, bribery, sexual misconduct and official misconduct. According to the Marion County prosecutor’s office, Marco Simmons offered to divert dirty urine screens for work release prisoners in exchange for money or sex. He is also alleged to have delivered cell phones and drugs into the facility. Liberty Hall is operated by for-profit prison company Community Education Centers (CEC).
Indiana: According to Decatur County Sheriff Greg Allen, county jail prisoner Bradley J. Martin made a brief run for freedom on March 2, 2016 after overcrowded conditions caused him to be housed temporarily in the jail’s visitation area. Martin broke out a light fixture and climbed into the ceiling to escape through the front door of the facility. An alert FedEx driver notified police about Martin, and he was located just four minutes later on the front porch of a house about two blocks away. Sheriff Allen attributed the escape to a “design flaw” in the 37-year-old jail that allowed Martin egress through the ceiling panels.
Indiana: Indiana Women’s Prison guard Lamont Williams, 55, was fired in February 2016 and arrested on March 7, 2016 for orally raping a prisoner in 2014 and again in 2015. He now faces preliminary charges of two counts of sexual misconduct and one count of official misconduct. State police said that Williams’ arrest stemmed from a more than half-year investigation triggered after the prisoner was able to spit Williams’ semen into a tissue and give it to authorities as evidence of the sexual assault. Williams initially denied the incidents but failed a polygraph exam. He later admitted to the assaults, saying of his crimes, “Stupid, stupid, stupid. I was weak.” Williams had worked for the Indiana Department of Correction since 2007.
Italy: Inside the Bollate Penitentiary on the outskirts of Milan, formally-dressed waiters glide through the crowded dining room of InGalera, a “sleek, airy and modern” restaurant. Convicted criminals from the medium-security prison prepare and serve Italian cuisine to both Milanese elite and dining families. The New York Times reported on March 5, 2016 that Italy’s prison system has struggled for years to balance punishment with rehabilitation to reduce recidivism. The Times said InGalera is only one of several innovative prisoner programs at the Bollate facility. Prisoners can also attend classes on theater and painting, learn carpentry skills, work with horses in the prison’s stable, or participate in employment offered on prison grounds by outside companies.
Louisiana: A triathlon called “Escape from Angola,” scheduled for March 20, 2016, was canceled after the organizer, Freshjunkie Racing, received backlash about the appropriateness of the event. “This is a disgusting concept for an event,” one critic commented. “The despair and suffering associated with Angola should not be used as a backdrop for a race.” Another commenter added, “I’m really trying to imagine the workaround in your head that makes the concept and pitch for this event not grossly offensive.” Freshjunkie announced the cancellation of the race in early March after the organizers reported receiving personal attacks and threats, stating, “We do not feel like we can offer a safe environment for our athletes.”
Maine: The brother of prisoner Micah Boland filed a lawsuit on February 29, 2016 against former Maine State Prison Warden Rodney Bouffard and Deputy Warden Michael Tausek. The suit alleges that the two prison officials were aware that prisoner Richard A. Stahursky had vowed to kill “child molesters” before he murdered Boland. According to court filings, the warden and deputy warden met with Stahursky in 2013 after finding a shank in his cell and he told them he could not assure them he wouldn’t stab someone, but they assigned him to be housed with Boland despite that warning. Stahursky was sentenced to life in prison in December 2015 for the attack and told the sentencing judge that prison officials were responsible for Boland’s death. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
Michigan: On February 27, 2016, media outlet mLive.com reported that 48-year-old prisoner Bryan Crowley had been acquitted of solicitation of murder. Prosecutors alleged that Crowley had approached another prisoner at the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Lenawee Countyabout arranging the killing of the state trooper who had initially helped put Crowley behind bars. Crowley, who attempted to solicit a hit on his ex-wife in 2013, is currently serving a 4-to-20 year sentence for lesser charges of drug solicitation and conspiracy in that case. In both incidents, Crowley was charged after undercover officers agreed to accept payment to commit the murders. Crowley’s attorney, George Lyons, said of the jurors in the case involving the trooper, “It was a tough case. They got it right.”
Michigan: Longtime Ingham County prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III, who had a reputation as a tough opponent of prostitution, paid for sex “hundreds of times” between 2010 and 2015, according to a March 16, 2016 report by The Washington Post. The 63-year-old D.A. faces 15 criminal counts after becoming ensnared by a federal investigation into human trafficking. Along with ten misdemeanor counts of engaging the services of a prostitute, Dunnings was charged with a single count of felony pandering and could serve up to 20 years if convicted of that crime. The remaining charges include the use of a prostitute’s services and willful neglect of duty. Dunning’s lawyer, G. Michael Hocking, said in court that he believed the charges were politically motivated. Attorney General Bill Schuette has called for Dunning’s resignation.
Minnesota: Prisoner Shawn Michael Provost, 37, and his 36-year-old wife, Valys Marie Provost, face charges after exchanging balloons filled with contraband during an approved meeting with their attorney in a holding area at the Moose Lake Correctional Facility. Investigators monitored a phone call between the couple in which Mr. Provost mentioned that one of the items his wife had given him “had not come out.” He was placed in a dry cell where jailers later recovered the contraband. On March 9, 2016, the Provosts were charged with three felony counts and two gross misdemeanor counts for the smuggling conspiracy.
Nebraska: Nebraska Department of Correctional Services spokesman Andrew Nystrom said in a news release on March 8, 2016 that three guards were attacked and injured during an incident in a maximum-security housing unit at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution. A prisoner was being moved through the unit when he assaulted his escort; three other prisoners joined in the attack, prompting the involvement of two additional staff members. The facility was the site of a deadly riot in May 2015 [see: PLN, Dec. 2015, p. 63]; state officials cited low staffing levels and excessive overtime as factors in the violent incidents.
New Hampshire: Jeffrey Pendleton, 26, was found dead in a Hillsborough County Correctional Facility cell on March 13, 2016. The homeless man had successfully sued police in two New Hampshire counties with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union last year, but was unable to pay $100 bail when jailed on a marijuana possession arrest. “From my exam, there was no evidence of any natural disease or no evidence of trauma,” stated Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jennie Duval; she ordered additional tests and said she expected to be able to determine the manner of death. The New Hampshire ACLU called Pendleton a “kind, gentle person who stood up for the rights of the poor.”
New Jersey: Thomas Seguine, Jr., 33, a senior guard at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, was arrested on February 22, 2016 and charged with official misconduct and sexual assault for engaging in a sexual relationship with a female prisoner. “It’s an abuse of the public trust and his authority,” Hunterdon County prosecutor Anthony Kearns said. “We take this very seriously. When someone perpetrates an offense and is serving time they have every right and expectation that that should be done in a safe environment, and [Seguine] violated that.”
New Mexico: On March 9, 2016, prisoners Joseph Cruz and Lionel Clah used a wire to pick the locks on their handcuffs and escape a transport van that had stopped to refuel in the town of Artesia. The pair changed clothing and hitched a ride to Albuquerque, where they were captured separately several days later. Chief Pete Kassetas said an investigation was ongoing and that he expected more arrests. Two transport guards were placed on administrative leave, and sources said they had worked 18-hour shifts on the day of the escape. Prison officials declined to confirm whether protocol had been followed prior to the breakout.
New Mexico: The state Attorney General’s Office announced on February 24, 2016 that former Bernalillo County Jail guard Enock Arvizo had been indicted on 11 counts of criminal sexual penetration of an inmate, one count of criminal sexual contact of an inmate, four counts of battery and two counts of assault. Arvizo was immediately jailed on a $1 million bond; his defense counsel did not comment on the allegations, which detailed assaults against five different victims. Attorney Nicole Moss, who represents one of the prisoners, said Arvizo had assaulted her handcuffed and shackled client in a courthouse elevator.
New York: On March 9, 2016, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun sentenced seventy-year-old Howard Seidler to four years in prison for operating a fake law firm and swindling thousands of dollars from unsuspecting immigrant “clients.” Seidler fraudulently used the library of the Brooklyn Bar Association as a paid “legal clinic” for people seeking to obtain green cards and Social Security numbers. This scam wasn’t Seidler’s first; in December 2008 he was convicted of grand larceny, and in 2011 a wire fraud conviction was added to his record. “Howard Seidler is going to an upstate prison because he preyed on some of the most vulnerable members of our society – undocumented immigrants looking for legal help,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. “He falsely claimed to be a lawyer and collected money without doing a thing.”
North Carolina: Columbus Correctional Institution guard William Katrell Jacobs was arrested on March 5, 2016 after being caught smuggling and selling synthetic cannabis to a prisoner. A weapon was also found in his vehicle in the prison parking lot. Jacobs was released on bond but faces several charges: possession with the intent to manufacture, sell or deliver a synthetic cannabinoid, delivering a synthetic cannabinoid, maintaining a place for a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance in prison/jail and possession of a weapon on state property/courthouse.
Ohio: On February 25, 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court disbarred former Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas judge Steven Terry, who was convicted of fraud in connection with his judicial duties. Terry, who was sentenced to 63 months in prison, was also found to have committed perjury during his criminal trial. Because of the false testimony, the Supreme Court approved a recommendation from the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline to disbar Terry rather than issue the sanction of indefinite suspension from the practice of law, which would have allowed Terry to apply for reinstatement.
Ohio: Edwins, an upscale Cleveland restaurant, is staffed almost entirely by former prisoners. The vision of Brandon Chrostowski, a veteran chef, the eatery features French cuisine and has gained a reputation as one of Cleveland’s finest dining establishments. CNN reported on March 17, 2016 that Chrostowski’s program at Edwins offers 40 to 50 hours of culinary arts training per week and requires the participants to rotate between all job duties at the restaurant. A full-time case worker assists the students in the program with housing, counseling and getting a driver’s license. The restaurant boasts that 114 participants have graduated, and of those, more than 90% are employed and none have returned to prison.
Oklahoma: On March 13, 2016, a 30-second cell phone video clip was posted to YouTube which showed a prisoner at the Cimarron Correctional Facility being thrown over a rail onto a concrete floor one story below. Department of Corrections spokesperson Alex Gerszewski said two people were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries following the videotaped fight. Operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the private Cimarron facility in Cushing houses prisoners with multiple security levels, and has been under close scrutiny after several violent incidents. [See, e.g.: PLN, Oct. 2015, p.63]. CCA spokesperson Jonathan Burns said in a statement that CCA staff “quickly brought the situation under control.”
Oregon: Former Washington County jail workers Jill Curry and Brett Robinson are in prison for having sex with the same prisoner [see: PLN, Sept. 2015, p.63] and, according to a March 12, 2016 report from The Oregonian, the unidentified prisoner has filed a lawsuit seeking $650,000 in damages against Curry and Robinson, Washington County and Sheriff Pat Garrett. The suit alleges the county jail’s inadequate surveillance coupled with negligent hiring and firing practices allowed the sexual assaults to occur. Spokesman Philip Bransford said the county denies any liability for the incidents.
Pennsylvania: SCI-Greene guards John Smith, Jr., Michael Berry, Jr. and Andrew Schneider were arrested on February 29, 2016 for selling “hot trash” – electronics which had been seized from prisoners or left behind by those released – to other prisoners for profit. One prison employee called the scheme the prison’s “Rent-a-Center.” The property seized during the investigation that was transferred without authorization had an estimated value between $7,000 and over $13,000, and included 35 televisions, 10 keyboards and 20 radios, according to the complaint. Berry was also accused of smuggling drugs into the facility, but investigators recovered no narcotics.
South Carolina: Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) authorities charged five youths with adult crimes ranging from attempted sexual assault and attempted murder to burglary and arson for their roles in a riot at the Columbia Juvenile Detention Center. On February 26, 2016, a Black History Month event burst into chaos when several teens jumped a rival gang leader. At least two juveniles broke into a girls’ dorm and tried to rape the residents; one prisoner tried to run over someone, cars were damaged and windows at the facility were broken. The DJJ did not release the names or ages of those who were charged.
South Carolina: A June 14, 2016 primary election ended a bitter electoral race to decide between second-chance-seeking former Saluda County Sheriff Jason Booth and Saluda Police Department Captain Robin Freeman as the Republican nominee for the county’s top law enforcement position. Freeman easily defeated Booth, who had resigned as sheriff and accepted a plea deal in 2012 for improperly using prisoner labor. In the past five years, six other South Carolina sheriffs lost law enforcement credentials after pleading guilty or being convicted of misconduct. [See: PLN, April 2016, p.14; April 2013, p.48]. Booth’s deal enabled him to once again seek public office, but Saluda County voters rejected his election bid. Freeman will now face current Sheriff John Perry in November’s general election.
Tennessee: State prisoner Frederick Armstrong, already serving a 25-year prison term for second-degree murder, was sentenced on March 14, 2016 to the maximum punishment of 12 additional years for committing an assault against guard Timothy Boyd at the CCA-operated Whiteville Correctional Facility. According to court records, Armstrong’s unprovoked attack on Boyd was intended to advance criminal activity in the 52 Hoover Crips gang. A jury in Hardeman County found Armstrong guilty of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, with a sentencing enhancement for criminal gang offense.
Texas: PLN previously reported the July 2015 beating death of 47-year-old prison guard Timothy Davison at the hands of prisoner Billy Joel Tracy. [See: PLN, Oct. 2015, p.63]. Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials initially said the Telford Unit had not experienced security problems, but according to a 12-page report released on March 7, 2016 by the Texarkana Gazette, at least three guards broke protocol before Davison was beaten with a metal bar and flung down a flight of stairs to his death. In part, the TDCJ report documented improperly locked handcuffs and the resignation of a guard who failed to come to Davison’s aid during the brutal assault. Tracy, who is already serving a life sentence, now faces the death penalty; a trial date has not been set.
Virgin Islands: A plane chartered by Corrections Corporation of America transferred 105 prisoners from the island territory to two of the company’s privately-operated facilities on the U.S. mainland on March 8, 2016. Governor Kenneth Mapp and Bureau of Corrections Director Rick Mullgrav held a press conference to detail the transfer, which resulted in 67 prisoners being placed at CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Facility in Eloy, Arizona and the remaining 38 prisoners being sent to CCA’s Citrus County Correctional Facility in Florida. The USVI Bureau of Corrections has operated under a federal consent decree since 1986 for failing to meet acceptable standards. The government officials cited cost savings as one reason for the transfer.
Virginia: On February 16, 2016, a Pittsylvania County Circuit Court grand jury indicted 49-year-old Pittsylvania County Jail kitchen worker Sharon Arlette McKenzie on three counts of carnal knowledge of an inmate. McKenzie is accused of having sex with prisoner James Ronza Poe on multiple occasions between December 1, 2015 and January 5, 2016. According to a statement from Sheriff Michael W. Taylor’s office, McKenzie had been a civilian jail employee since July 2014. Poe was moved to another jail following the investigation.
Washington: Guards fired warning shots to stop two prisoners from attacking a third in a yard at the Washington State Reformatory Unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex. The medium- and minimum-custody unit was placed on lockdown and visitation was cancelled after the March 7, 2016 incident. According to a press release from the Washington Department of Corrections, the victim of the attack was cleared by medics then returned to the prison; no other injuries were reported. An investigation will be conducted by DOC staff and Monroe police.
Wisconsin: On March 11, 2016, a New Lisbon Correctional Facility nurse was arrested and charged for having sexual relationships with, and smuggling contraband to, at least three prisoners. Police said numerous staff members were interviewed during the investigation; the interviews revealed that nurse April J. Stokes, 36, seemed “inappropriately close” with prisoners. One prisoner testified that Stokes brought him a cell phone, cash and cigarettes; another said she had sent him sexually descriptive letters using a false name. The third prisoner engaged in 12 recorded telephone conversations with Stokes in which they discussed their sexual encounters; the prisoner admitted to receiving oral sex from the nurse. Stokes faces two counts of sexual assault by correctional staff and three counts of delivering illegal articles to an inmate.