News in Brief
Arizona: On January 19, 2017, Estrella Jail guard Roy Eugene Ramey III was fired by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Ramey, who had been arrested in September 2016, was placed on administrative leave pending disposition of charges that he engaged in sexual activity with a female prisoner. He was indicted on four state felony counts of unlawful sexual contact.
Arkansas: Police responded to the scene of a single-car accident on January 21, 2017 and found Dallas County sheriff’s investigator Chance Dodson, 42, and Dallas County jail prisoner Jason Poole, 38, inside Dodson’s personal vehicle. Both were intoxicated. At the time of the incident, Dodson had “checked out” Poole from the jail for a work-release assignment. Police believe Dodson was too drunk to drive and asked Poole to drive for him; the vehicle veered into a ditch and crashed into a fence. Dodson was charged with disorderly conduct and resigned from the sheriff’s department, while Poole was charged with DUI.
Australia: A prisoner at the Port Phillip Prison in Victoria died after a balloon filled with drugs burst in his stomach. Cain Hutchinson, 21, conspired with his girlfriend to smuggle in methylamphetamine, which she transferred to him after changing their baby daughter’s diaper. According to a January 11, 2017 coroner’s report, Hutchinson swallowed the balloon but the knot came untied, causing a fatal overdose. Two days after his death, his girlfriend contacted prison officials and confessed to supplying Hutchinson with the drugs. Following an internal review and policy change, when visitors use the bathroom or change their baby’s diaper, the visit will then proceed as a non-contact visit.
California: On January 29, 2017, shortly after 91 friends and family members left Folsom State Prison’s visitation room, a riot broke out among the 78 prisoners who remained in the area. Prison officials said not all of the prisoners participated in the fight, which was quelled with chemical agents. No staff members or visitors were injured, though one prisoner was hospitalized with a cut on his head. Movement at the facility was limited after the brawl and three prisoners were placed in administrative segregation.
California: A former supervising cook at Avenal State Prison was charged with receiving bribes, bringing narcotics into a prison, bringing a controlled substance into a prison, having sex with a prisoner, delivering a cellphone to a prisoner and selling a controlled substance to a prisoner. Mary Ann Cano, 46, was arrested on January 15, 2017 after allegedly engaging in sex with two prisoners and smuggling contraband in exchange for cash. She has pleaded not guilty.
Dubai: On January 2, 2017, the Interior Ministry issued a statement saying an attack had been launched against the Jaw prison by “a terrorist cell of four to six members armed with automatic rifles and pistols.” According to the statement, prison guard Abdulsalam Saif Ahmed died in the gunfire and another guard received “moderate wounds.” Ten terror suspects escaped during the melee. Activists, including imprisoned human rights advocate Nabeel Rajab, claim that prisoners have been abused at the Jaw facility.
Florida: Dade Correctional Institution guard Detrick Lamar Hussey, 35, was arrested on December 15, 2016 after he took a 15-year-old girl out for dinner, drinks and “consensual” sex. Hussey was charged with lewd and lascivious battery on a child. Homestead police questioned him after the girl picked his photo from a lineup, and he admitted to the sexual tryst. Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman Michelle Glady said the department was in the process of firing Hussey from his $34,707-a-year job.
Florida: A majority of prisoners at the Leon County Jail are pre-trial detainees and have not been convicted of a crime. “We’re not in the business of punishing individuals that are on pre-trial, that’s not our job,” said Leon County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Grady Jordan. “Our job is to care for them, try to control them, and keep them in custody.” He was commenting on the January 5, 2017 arrest of LCSO sergeant Derrick Adams, a jail employee since 2004, for an excessive use of force incident. Adams, accused of using a Taser on a restrained prisoner, was charged with battery and fired.
Georgia: In a January 19, 2017 news release, U.S. Attorney G.F. Peterman III said former Stewart County Detention Center guard James Royal, 43, had been sentenced to six months in prison for smuggling marijuana into the facility. Peterman’s office wrote that Royal was also prohibited from working in law enforcement in the future. The news release said various prisoners arranged to pay Royal for the contraband through Western Union money transfers. The detention center is operated by CoreCivic, previously known as CCA.
Georgia: Senior Assistant District Attorney Christopher Quinn, a Gwinnett County prosecutor, turned himself in to Dunwoody Police on January 18, 2017 after being caught in a prostitution sting. Quinn’s attorney, Noah Pines, said his client’s charges of felony racketeering and misdemeanor pandering were an “overreach” by law enforcement. “If you talk to other DAs, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find another case where a [sex for pay] customer was charged with RICO,” said Pines. “This is, at best, a prostitution case.” A total of 56 people were arrested in connection with two prostitution businesses during the sting operation.
Idaho: Prisoner Ryan Michael Tone escaped from Canyon County’s minimum-security tent jail on December 28, 2016. He climbed over an interior wall into the kitchen area, then broke through a door leading outside. Caldwell police said Tone ditched his jail clothing as he ran from the facility in 12-degree weather. He was captured almost immediately. The attempted escape from the tent jail was the sixth such incident since December 2015.
Illinois: Cook County Jail prisoner Jimmie Smith was allowed access to a laptop while representing himself in an upcoming attempted murder and sexual assault trial. Smith, who had been imprisoned at the jail for seven years, instead used the computer to broadcast a talk show called “My Back’s Against the Wall.” A search of the laptop also found lewd photos of Smith. According to surveillance video released by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office on December 18, 2016, when confronted about his misuse of the computer Smith lashed out at a female guard, striking her in the face. He has since been charged with aggravated battery against correctional staff.
Illinois: The Illinois Appellate Court’s First District held on December 27, 2016 that a homeless man’s 12-year sentence for stealing $44 in quarters from a vending machine was an excessive punishment. “A paltry crime for a paltry sum does not warrant the unpaltry sentence of 12 years,” said Justice Michael Hyman, writing for the three-judge panel’s majority. “Judges must keep in mind that poverty is not a crime,” he added. “It is a condition, and every day presents a struggle for the poor to survive, to cope, to get by until tomorrow. When one is poor, drifting into petty crime can become an option, despite its undeniable risks.” Harley Busse was living in a homeless shelter at the time he pilfered the pocket change from the University of Illinois at Chicago campus. He was resentenced to the statutory minimum of six years – still a harsh sentence for a theft of just $44.
India: TheHindu.com reported on January 13, 2017 that following the success of a business established at the Kozhikode DistrictJail that sells chapatis (thin pancakes made of unleavened whole-grain used in Indian cooking), a group of about 20 prisoners had started a new profit-making venture. Prisons Department officials said the prisoners will be paid a fair wage for the manufacture and sale of paper bags, and allowed to send excess earnings to family members. “There were persons who used to send such extra earnings to their homes every month. Now, the Prisons Department also offers a better daily wage of 148 rupees [about $2.30] for skilled prisoners,” they added. The work program is ready to produce incense sticks and candles for distribution throughout the region, too.
Indiana: According to documents filed by Randolph County Prosecutor David Daly’s office on January 7, 2017, five people were charged in a conspiracy to smuggle Suboxone into the county jail. Authorities said Matthew A. Culy, 37, purchased the pain medication from Maci M. Atkinson, 24, while he was on work release, then delivered it to prisoner James Kyle Shockley, 30, after he returned to the jail. Also charged in the conspiracy were prisoners Gary D. Thornburg, 42, and Kyle Scott Hartman, 36, who purchased the drugs.
Kansas: A January 4, 2017 report from KWCH.com detailed ongoing staffing problems at the Butler County jail. Sheriff Kelly Herzet said the facility is down 16 staff members, or one-third of the desired number of employees. As a result, Butler County has begun turning away contracts to house out-of-county prisoners. Herzet said the change would be expensive. “Oh, it’s going to hit the county at about [$500,000] just by taking away 40 inmates, being Sedgwick County and Kansas Department of Corrections inmates,” he stated. “That’s a lot of money.” The sheriff added, “I’m not really worried about revenue. I’m worried about running a safe jail. And I think the way of doing that is cutting inmates right now.”
Louisiana: A fight over a blanket led to the death of a 17-year-old prisoner at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison; his killer, also 17, now faces a charge of second-degree murder. The two prisoners, Tyrin Colbert and Kermitrius Thomas, allegedly struggled over a blanket until Thomas wrestled Colbert to the ground and strangled him. Colbert was transported to a local hospital but died on February 16, 2017 after being removed from life support. There was no video footage of the altercation, as cameras only cover the hallways between cells. Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said low ceilings and the ability of prisoners to destroy the cameras have prevented jail officials from installing more video surveillance.
Massachusetts: On December 31, 2016, the Boston Globe reported that attorneys with Prisoners’ Legal Services, who reviewed cases of mentally ill prisoners at two state facilities, found eight with histories of suicide attempts and conditions as serious as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder who had been placed in solitary confinement for lengthy periods of time for disciplinary infractions. “We need to end these long sentences [in isolation],” said Bonita Tenneriello, a staff attorney at the Boston-based organization which promotes the humane treatment of prisoners. “There is a much broader population of people in segregation who have mental illness who are being harmed and will never be rehabilitated” in solitary, she added.
Massachusetts: The cost to repair the P1 housing unit at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center following a January 9, 2017 disturbance is unknown, but Department of Correction officials said they used video surveillance to identify prisoners responsible for the damage. In a report on the incident, the DOC determined that 32 prisoners actively participated in the disturbance. According to the report, there was an initial altercation between a pair of rival gang members that developed into a riot. “It is important to note there were no staff or inmate injuries as a result of this incident,” the report stated.
Michigan: Governor Rick Snyder signed a pair of bills on December 21, 2016 that allow wrongfully convicted defendants to receive compensation from the state. “While we will never be able to fully repay those who have been wrongfully imprisoned, this legislation helps support these individuals as they transition back into civilian life,” he said. Exonerated prisoners will receive $50,000 per year they served in prison or on community supervision. Prior to enactment of the statutes, David Moran, founder of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, said Michigan was the state with the largest number of exonerees not to have a compensation law.
Mississippi: The Marshall County Correctional Facility (MCCF) was placed on lockdown on November 22, 2016 after a fatal fight in a housing unit. Marshall County Coroner James Anderson reported that prisoner Oscar Pirtle, 51, was stabbed multiple times and found dead around 4:00 in the morning. Another prisoner, whose name was not released, was taken to a hospital, treated and returned to the facility. The motive for the fight was unknown. The 200-bed MCCF is operated by Management & Training Corporation, a for-profit company, on behalf of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Pirtle was serving a 15-year sentence for aggravated assault.
New Mexico: In a lawsuit filed on November 4, 2016, Monica Lujan sued Corrections Corporation of America (now known as CoreCivic) and three of its employees for refusing to allow her to observe her religion – Satanism – which she had practiced since childhood. Lujan claimed New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility chaplain James Compton ordered her to never again ask him to recognize her religion, shouting “I’m going to confront the devil herself!” Following that confrontation, Lujan’s belongings were searched and her religious materials confiscated, along with most of her everyday clothing and essentials. Her suit seeks damages for pain and suffering, as well as violations of the New Mexico Freedom Restoration Act, Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and state and federal constitutions.
New York: At the Manhattan Detention Complex, a prisoner used a contraband cell phone to record and post an Instagram video that has been viewed over 14,000 times. Normin McKenny, 26, who was facing robbery, assault and weapon possession charges, allegedly bragged in the video, “This is what [we] do behind g wall.” The video was subsequently seen by a guard online. A search of McKenny’s cell turned up two cell phones, one charger, four SIM cards, one blade and a handmade shank. “This incident remains under investigation,” NYC Department of Correction spokesman Peter Thorne said on January 4, 2017. McKenny and three other prisoners who appeared in the video were moved to the Rikers Island jail complex.
New York: A civilian New York City Department of Correction worker assigned to the Federal Narcotics Task Force was making $75,000 a year as a community coordinator, but was “immediately suspended” and “is being terminated,” according to DOC spokesman Peter Thorne. Geliesha Smith was caught in a sting operation moonlighting as a Backpage.com prostitute. She allegedly offered sex to an undercover cop for a fee of $120, and was arrested on January 12, 2017. Smith was still a probationary DOC employee when she was busted.
North Carolina: Gregory Dustin Gouldman, 33, was sentenced on January 31, 2017 to five years in federal prison for extortion. According to prosecutors, the Polk Correctional Institution guard had been smuggling contraband cell phones, tobacco and drugs into the facility for years, in exchange for bribes. Gouldman’s contraband scheme was first discovered in 2014 when prisoner Kelvin Melton used an illegal cell phone to orchestrate the kidnapping of a local district attorney’s father. [See: PLN, Dec. 2014, p.56]. Melton was convicted and is serving life without parole in ADX Florence, the federal supermax prison in Colorado.
Ohio: On January 18, 2017, Cleveland.com reported that prisoners at the Cuyahoga County Jail were no longer eating with plastic forks and spoons after one of the utensils was used to jimmy open a cell door. Instead, meals are served with rubber spoons and prisoners are no longer allowed to have spoons in their cells. The policy change came after county investigators discovered how a prisoner walked out of his cell by manipulating the lock with a hard plastic spoon. A new rule now requires guards to verify that cell doors lock properly every time they are opened or closed; previously, cell door checks were conducted only at the end of each shift.
Oklahoma: An alert guard spotted prisoner Marcus Mitchell walking through a common area at the Dick Conner Correctional Center with a large bag on December 25, 2016. Inside the bag, guards found six footballs and two basketballs that had been cut open, filled with contraband, taped shut and thrown over the fence. Prison officials recovered 39 cell phones, three MP3 players, a Bluetooth earpiece, nine cellphone chargers, 20 USB cords, five packages of rolling papers, four cigars and 9.5 pounds of tobacco. Security footage taken around the time of the incident showed unidentified accomplices tossing packages over a perimeter fence.
Pennsylvania: In February 2016, three SCI-Greene prison guards were charged with trading contraband for confidential information; the contraband ranged from televisions and other electronic items to a six-inch shank. [See: PLN, July 2016, p.63]. John C. Smith, Jr., who received only a written reprimand from the Department of Corrections, and Andrew Schneider, Jr., who received a one-day suspension, were acquitted on January 27, 2017 of all charges associated with the scheme. However, the third guard, Michael S. Berry, collapsed when the jury announced a guilty verdict on two counts of unlawful use of a computer and one count of reckless endangerment. Berry was freed on an unsecured bond until his sentencing hearing.
Pennsylvania: Former Allegheny County jail guard Joshua Reber said he made “some very regrettable choices” after admitting in court that he had coerced two female prisoners into sexual acts. On January 5, 2017, Reber was sentenced to six to 20 months behind bars plus two years of probation after entering a guilty plea to two counts of official oppression; the plea agreement reduced his initial charges of institutional sexual assault to misdemeanors. Both of Reber’s victims accused him of fondling them in their cells and in a cleaning supply closet. He also faces lawsuits filed by the women.
Peru: Alexander Jeferson Delgado Herrera, 27, was serving a 16-year sentence for robbery and sexual assault when he escaped by drugging his visiting twin brother, donning his clothes and walking out of the maximum-security Piedras Gordas prison. Herrera’s brother, Giancarlo Steven Delgado Herrera, claimed he knew nothing about the escape plot. Both Giancarlo and the guards who were on duty at the time of the escape were questioned by police and could face charges. Alexander Herrera, who was two years into his sentence, was the subject of a massive manhunt; according to a January 14, 2017 news report, he was still on the run.
Philippines: More than 100 armed men, believed to be Muslim rebels, attacked a jail in the city of Kidapawan on January 4, 2017, freeing 158 prisoners and killing a guard. The attack was the latest in a long line of dramatic escapes. “It is the biggest ever jailbreak in our history,” said Bureau of Jail Management and Penology spokesman Xavier Solda. Jail warden Peter John Bonggat added, “There are high-value targets in our custody who were the subject of a rescue operation.” It was unclear how many of the escapes were related to the rebels’ rescue mission and how many prisoners simply sought to flee during the chaos. Security forces killed six of the escapees and captured eight in an ensuing manhunt. Bonggat said the jail, a former school building located in a secluded area, held 1,511 prisoners.
Tennessee: Clarksville police officer Shandie Owenby filed an arrest warrant against Jason Dondi Littleton on January 26, 2017 that grossly overstated Littleton’s ability to smuggle contraband into a penal facility. According to the arrest warrant, “While being searched at the jail, deputies found the carton of Newports inside Mr. Littleton’s anal cavity. Deputies also found a broken glass pipe with burnt residue, and a tire pressure gauge with burnt ends also inside Mr. Littleton’s anal cavity.” After a story based on the warrant was posted online, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sandra Brandon quickly clarified the report. Brandon told reporters the arrest warrant was incorrect and the items had been found inside Littleton’s clothing, not inside his “anal cavity.”
Texas: Former Central Texas Detention Facility guard Barbara Jean Goodwin was indicted on January 22, 2017 for having sex with a prisoner. That same day, the grand jury also indicted Ray Alexander Barr for providing meth and alcohol to prisoners at the same facility. If convicted, Goodwin faces 15 years in prison; Barr could face up to 20 years. The Central Texas Detention Facility is operated by the GEO Group, a private prison firm, and houses immigrant detainees on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Texas: On January 5, 2017, former Bexar County jail guard Avery Lawrence was sentenced to a year in prison and fined $4,000 after being convicted of official oppression, assault and civil rights violations. Lawrence was involved in a bloody altercation with prisoner John Cory Garcia in 2014 that left Garcia with a broken rib, punctured lung and head injuries. Jail Captain Timothy Walston testified at Lawrence’s sentencing; he told the court, “My opinion, based upon the reports that I’ve reviewed and everything, is that he is a bad officer.” Before sentencing Lawrence, Judge Melisa Skinner said: “The people we deal with, no matter what they’re accused of, are human beings, and as such they do deserve respect.”
United Kingdom: An unnamed prisoner at HMP Peterborough wanted to practice his “Sith Lord” religion, but prison authorities banned him from wearing a hoodie to cover his head like Star Wars villain Darth Maul. In December 2016, the Charity Commission rejected the Temple of the Jedi Order’s application to be considered a “religious organisation” on the basis that it was not a “cogent and distinct religion.” Followers of the Order of the Sith Lords – which includes Star Wars characters like Darth Vader – practice daily meditation, mind control and dexterity exercises. In a letter the prisoner stated, “At least the UK Census recognises the Jedi as a religion, Sith do not have this luxury.”
Virginia: Jason Anthony Miller, 24, a former guard at the Rappahannock Regional Jail, was charged with three felony counts of carnal knowledge of a prisoner on January 25, 2017. According to court records, the sexual contact occurred three times with the same prisoner and was consensual. Despite the female victim’s admission that she had agreed to the relationship, it is a crime for a guard to engage in any sexual activity with a prisoner.
West Virginia: Western Regional Jail guard Brittney Branham, 28, was arrested and fired on January 24, 2017 after she was seen entering a cell where drug contraband was later found. An unnamed jail official stated he saw Branham, via surveillance video, enter a male section of the jail and enter a cell before her shift started. The official said the area was outside where her duties required her to be. Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said they will continue “to enforce a zero-tolerance stance regarding contraband. Such cases are prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.”
Wisconsin: According to a criminal complaint, a former Fox Lake Correctional Institution guard sexually harassed prisoners at the facility. Sgt. Thomas J. Lukas, 45, pleaded not guilty to the charges on January 24, 2017 and was released from jail on a $1,000 signature bond. During an interview with the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office, one prisoner described how Lukas had engaged in inappropriate behavior. He said the guard sexually harassed him daily, used racial slurs, made “humping motions” on him, posted photos of half-naked men in his cell and left an article about gay marriage on his bunk. The conditions of Lukas’ bond require that he not have any contact with his victims or other prisoners. He also cannot enter the premises of any correctional facility or have violent contact with anyone. Lukas, a 16-year veteran employee, had been fired by the DOC in August 2014 following an internal investigation.
Wisconsin: Walworth County jail guard Cheyne Count was asked to resign and charged with two felonies after being caught giving four Tylenol tablets to a prisoner with a broken tooth. Jail supervisors had denied the work-release prisoner’s request to go to an emergency room, believing it was a ruse to see his mother at the hospital. Count said he was only trying to help someone he thought was in pain, and wasn’t aware of his superiors’ concerns. “I was there to provide safety and wellness to the inmates. That’s my job. I thought that’s what I was doing. I don’t have any more to this story. It was over Tylenol,” he stated. On January 13, 2017, WKOW.com reported that the former jailer was fighting the charges, which were reduced to misdemeanors.