News in Brief
California: For each of the last five years, members of the Golden State Warriors basketball team have visited San Quentin State Prison. Superstars Kevin Durant and Draymond Green sat among the prisoners and observed from the sidelines as members of the Warriors front office staff played a pickup game against select prisoner ballers during the September 24, 2016 visit. The pair also signed autographs and played some dominos.
California: “It was pretty much like being locked in a toilet bowl,” said Josh Snyder, one of 33 prisoners who filed separate yet identical lawsuits against Riverside County for unsanitary jail conditions that stemmed from a plumbing problem known as “ping pong toilets.” Each of the suits claims that if a toilet is flushed in one cell, those in nearby cells overflow and spill sewage onto the floor. Riverside County’s chief deputy overseeing corrections, Geoff Raya, denied the fetid conditions. “Not just the toilets, but everything from drinking fountains to showers are working as designed,” she claimed. In an August 11, 2016 article published by the Desert Sun, PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann was quoted as saying, “If you had overflowing sewage in public schools or the Legislature or the mayor’s office, they would get right on it.”
California: On September 30, 2016, a Butte County jail guard was arrested by his coworkers on a felony count of sexual contact with a prisoner. Ryan Woolery, 32, resigned after he was charged. In a statement, the sheriff’s department said its “investigation revealed a romantic relationship had developed and Woolery and the inmate had engaged in consensual intimate contact. Despite the fact it was consensual, the conduct was inappropriate and in violation of the law.” In August last year, Butte County settled three federal lawsuits filed on behalf of prisoners who alleged sexual assault and harassment.
Colorado: Limon Correctional Facility prisoner George McClain, 25, was killed on September 22, 2016 in a housing unit, according to Laurie Kilpatrick, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections. She said McClain’s death was “being investigated as a murder.” The CDOC’s Office of Inspector General and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation were called in to assist with the investigation. The Limon County coroner’s office has not announced the cause of McClain’s death.
Georgia: On October 19, 2016, an appellate court affirmed the conviction of James Satterfield on three counts of terroristic threats and two counts of terroristic threats with intent to retaliate against a judge. Satterfield had threatened Cobb County Superior Court Judge Rueben Green, who presided over Satterfield’s divorce, writing in a five-page letter that he would “kill and eat” the judge’s children. A jury had previously found Satterfield guilty but mentally ill after a four-day trial, and he was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Georgia: WRDW.com reported on September 27, 2016 that attorney Craig Jones had filed a lawsuit on behalf of prisoner Carlos Seal, who suffered memory problems and headaches over a year after he was tased by Deputy Donnie Crawford at the Richmond County Detention Center. Surveillance video showed that Seal was compliant and standing facing a wall with his hands behind his back when the stun gun was deployed. He fell onto his head as he collapsed and remained unconscious for three to four minutes. “Like a lot of people who come to jail, he wasn’t happy about it and he was running his mouth, but he didn’t do anything to deserve being tased,” Jones said. Eight days after the incident, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office fired Crawford citing misuse of force and mistreatment of detainees.
Georgia: Gene Harley, spokesman for the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team, announced on November 3, 2016 that a federal prison guard had been arrested for trafficking drugs. Harley said a joint state and local operation resulted in charges against Akeiran Lawson, 22, who was employed as a guard at the McRae Correctional Facility, operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, now known as CoreCivic). During the investigation undercover agents said Lawson willingly agreed to transport large amounts of cocaine and left with the drugs. He was charged with criminal attempt to traffic cocaine, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and criminal use of a telecommunication device.
Greece: On October 13, 2016, a court in Thessaloniki sentenced a dozen prison guards to terms of 5 to 7 years each after finding them guilty of the March 2014 assault and torture of Albanian prisoner Ilie Kareli at the Nigrita Prison. [See: PLN, Jan. 2015, p.56]. The guards were cleared of responsibility for Kareli’s subsequent death from a heart attack hours after the assault, and freed pending their appeal. A coroner testified that Kareli, who was beaten in retaliation for killing a prison guard, suffered from a previously-undetected heart condition.
Haiti: One guard was killed and 174 prisoners escaped following an October 22, 2016 riot at a facility in Arcahaie. According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office, the uprising was led by “heavily armed individuals,” though it was unclear who they were. The U.S. Embassy issued a warning to American citizens to avoid the area about 30 miles north of the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Nearby residents were urged to use caution and cooperate with police as a manhunt for the escaped prisoners progressed.
Illinois: Three Pontiac Correctional Center guards, identified as Lt. James Boland, Officer Deal and Officer Bufford, were named as defendants in a lawsuit filed on October 4, 2016 by the ex-wife of a prisoner who died due to excessive force. Terrance Jenkins was assaulted by the trio of guards after they found him with a small amount of toilet paper in his breast pocket during a pat-down search. According to the suit, Jenkins was compliant and restrained with handcuffs and leg irons when the guards attacked and beat him. An autopsy found that Jenkins suffocated to death from paper that had been shoved down his throat – the lawsuit speculated it was the same toilet paper that triggered the assault.
Indiana: Nicholas Grant was being held at the MarionCounty Jail II, operated by CCA (CoreCivic) when he died of a drug overdose on October 14, 2016. He had ingested a balloon of heroin when the facility was undergoing a major contraband shakedown. Marion County Sheriff John Layton called Grant’s death “an unfortunate deal directly connected to the fact that we were hitting the place at the time.” The investigation into the death and the role of CCA employees in the incident has included the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Coroner’s Office and Marion County Forensic Services Agency.
Iowa: The parents of a 14-year-old girl are suing Marion County prosecutor Ed Bull to prevent him from filing charges against their daughter that could brand her as a sex offender for life. “Nancy Doe” posed in two suggestive, but not nude, photos that surfaced during a police investigation into sexting at Knoxville High School. The lawsuit, filed in September 2016 by the ACLU of Iowa, asks a judge to issue an injunction to stop Bull from pursuing sexual exploitation of a minor or child pornography charges. Doe’s parents say the photos show no more skin than many swimsuit ads. “We wish to deal with this as a family in our own manner and in our own time without government interference,” said the girl’s mother, identified as Jane Doe. “It’s our job to raise our daughter, not the county attorney’s.”
Kentucky: Damon Wayne Hickman, 39, faces up to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty on November 9, 2016 to beating a prisoner who later died. The former Perry County deputy admitted guilt to three charges: using excessive force against prisoner Larry Trent, deliberately failing to summon medical help and making a false log book entry indicating that Trent was OK after the assault, when he wasn’t. A second deputy jailer, Curtis Howell, faces charges related to the same incident; however, according to his attorney, an evaluation found Howell was not competent to stand trial.
Kentucky: A homesick 25-year-old Jeremiah Bowling stole a car in an attempt to return to his central Kentucky home from Las Vegas, Nevada in August 2016. Bowling pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny and was held at the Clark County Detention Center. On October 8, 2016, his cellmate, Franklin Sharp, beat and strangled him to death during an apparent fight. Bowling’s family started a GoFundMe account to raise the money needed to bring his body home to Kentucky for burial. According to a WDRB interview with Bowling’s mother, her son headed west for a change in his life despite her pleas not to go. Sharp, 33, has been charged with murder.
Kenya: With the stroke of a pen, President Uhuru Kenyatta spared the lives of the country’s 2,655 male and 92 female prisoners on death row, commuting their sentences to life imprisonment on October 25, 2016. Kenyatta’s mass reprieve drew criticism as a political stunt to appear more compassionate to voters, but also received praise from Amnesty International’s director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. Director Lynne Muthoni Wanyeki said, “The decision to commute death sentences brings Kenya closer to the growing community of nations that have abolished this cruel and inhuman form of punishment.” PLN previously reported on former Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki’s mass commutation of 4,000 death row prisoners in 2009. [See: PLN, Dec. 2009, p.48].
Louisiana: The U.S. Department of Justice announced in November 2016 that three former supervisors had been indicted for beating a handcuffed and shackled prisoner at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, then conspiring to cover up their misconduct by falsifying official records, committing perjury, and tampering with witnesses and physical evidence. A fourth former supervisory officer had previously pleaded guilty for his role in the incident. Former Major Daniel Davis, former Captain John Sanders and former Captain James Savoy were charged in a multi-count indictment. The fourth defendant, former Captain Scotty Kennedy, pleaded guilty on November 1, 2016.
Louisiana: A transgender prisoner who was raped by her male cellmate at the newly-opened Orleans Justice Center filed a federal lawsuit on September 19, 2016, alleging her sexual assault occurred because deputies at the jail lacked proper training and a “failure to separate transgendered inmates from the general inmate population” contributed to the risk of sexual abuse. According to the suit, “At all times during the rape, Plaintiff repeatedly screamed for help, but no deputy ever came to the cell to investigate.” The complaint also accuses the jail of failing to properly classify prisoners or separate vulnerable prisoners from violent ones.
Michigan: The September 24, 2016 closure of the Pugsley Correctional Facility was expected to result in 51 layoffs, according to an announcement from Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz. Most of the prison’s 230 workers chose to relocate to other facilities, but the 51 terminated employees declined to accept positions elsewhere. The state has consolidated or closed over 25 prison camps and facilities since 2005. The shutdown at Pugsley is expected to save the state $22 million during the first fiscal year.
Michigan: On October 12, 2016, a woman received a 12-month jail term with credit for two days served plus 24 months of probation, and was ordered to pay a $1,158 fine, for fabricating a horrifying kidnapping and sexual assault story that implicated innocent people. According to court documents, Leiha Ann-Sue Artman, 25, told police that four men abducted her, threw her in the trunk of their car and took her to an unknown location where she was beaten and raped. Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office attorney Matt Roberts said it was unclear why Artman made up the story.
Nebraska: Jim Timm, president and executive director of the Nebraska Broadcasters Association, said on October 26, 2016 that his organization and Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale had decided to pull potentially misleading public service announcements about a pending death penalty ballot initiative from radio broadcasts. Death penalty opposition group Retain a Just Nebraska argued that the ads were unclear that life imprisonment would be an option if voters chose to support the retention of the state’s death penalty moratorium. The group also claimed that large numbers of voters, including young people and non-English-speakers, could miss the radio-only message. The death penalty was abolished by Nebraska’s legislature in May 2015.
New Jersey: A federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of prisoner Jon Watson’s family on October 5, 2016, alleging that Cumberland County jail staff failed to monitor Watson or screen him for mental health issues before he committed suicide by hanging. The suit seeks damages in excess of $1 million and also names private contractor Corizon Health as a defendant. Watson’s was the fourth death at the jail since 2014. In addition to the case involving Watson’s suicide, attorney Conrad Benedetto is representing the families of David Hennis, Alissa Allen and Robert Lewis, who all committed suicide by hanging while held at the Cumberland County jail.
New Jersey: The Mountain View Project Student Organization (MVPSO) at Rutgers University held a demonstration on October 20, 2016 to raise awareness about solitary confinement reforms. MVPSO president Anna D’Elia said the students set up a 7’x9’ duct tape rectangle outside Brower Commons to represent a solitary confinement cell. The organization protested for 24 hours, with a person sitting inside the taped-off area for each of 23 hours; the last hour the rectangle remained empty, representing the one hour per day prisoners in solitary are allowed out for recreation. D’Elia said the organization collected signatures for a petition in support of Senate Bill 51, which would limit the time and reasons why prisoners can be placed in solitary confinement.
New York: City Comptroller Scott Stringer, a trustee of the New York City Employee Retirement System(NYCERS) and fiduciary for four other city pension plans, announced on September 8, 2016 that the funds would consider divesting from private prison stock. “We believe the time has come to study whether our holdings in private prisons meet both our fiduciary standard as well as our standard to invest responsibly,” Stringer said. “Prisons should not be profitable at the expense of humane conditions and safety,” added John Adler, director of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office of pensions and investments, in the same news release.
New York: Mary Lynne Werlwas, director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project, issued a public statement on September 2, 2016 in response to news that Rikers Island emergency response guards would be equipped with Tasers in addition to batons and pepper spray. “The militarization of the Emergency Services Unit – a command with a profoundly troubling reputation for use of force – will not make line correction staff any safer, but will only destabilize a system all agree needs to change,” Werlwas said, adding, “This is a serious step backward for reform.” Since 2012 more than 50 jail guards have been charged with assault, smuggling contraband and falsifying reports, according to a Reuters article. In 2015, the city settled a class-action lawsuit filed by prisoners who accused Rikers jailers of systemic brutality. [See: PLN, July 2015, p.1].
New York: “I understand that I shall not download, access, or otherwise engage in any Internet-enabled gaming activities to include Pokémon Go,” reads the latest entry on a long list of stipulations that paroled New York sex offenders must agree to. Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted the policy in August 2016 to protect children who play Internet-based games, including Pokémon Go – which involves capturing virtual creatures in real world locations using cell phones or other devices. Civil liberties advocates were skeptical of the new stipulation, which would apply to about 3,000 paroled sex offenders. Erin Beth Harrist, a senior staff attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement that the gaming restrictions “appear to have no meaningful public safety benefit and are so vague as to possibly sweep in wholly innocuous behavior.”
New Zealand: Corrections officials were following the recommendation of a coroner when they launched an investigation into suicides over the past five years at the Christchurch Women’s Prison. The coroner said she was “concerned” at the extent to which word of mouth was used to relay important information about prisoners. According to an August 12, 2016 report, the decision to audit the suicides came after the medical examiner investigated the death of prisoner Adeline Kate Rogers. “The purpose of this review is to consider more broadly the circumstances in each case and how the Department’s systems and policies could be improved in order to avoid similar deaths,” said Christchurch Women’s Prison director Wayne McKnight.
New Zealand: Private prison operator Serco fought in court to have a derogatory report rewritten and an opportunity to respond after Corrections Department staff tried to release the findings of their investigation into “fight clubs” at Auckland’s Mount Eden Prison. On August 11, 2016, corrections officials announced that the High Court had ruled in their favor, finding the “investigation was fair and the report is without error.” The probe was initiated after video footage surfaced on YouTube that allegedly showed organized fighting within the facility. The government did not renew Serco’s contract, and Corrections Department chief Ray Smith said the Mount Eden Prison would transition to public management.
North Carolina: A 26-page lawsuit filed in Forsyth County Superior Court on August 17, 2016 against Correct Care Solutions, LLC and Grand Prairie Healthcare Services claims the for-profit medical providers failed to prevent the painful and unnecessary death of a pregnant prisoner. The suit also names certain employees of the companies as defendants. Jennifer Eileen McCormack Schuler was three months pregnant and suffering from nausea and vomiting when she experienced a “severe cardiac event” caused by lack of oxygen to her brain. Schuler died when she was removed from life support after five days in a vegetative state. A Forsyth County medical examiner determined that hypoxic brain injury, acute kidney failure and dehydration likely caused Schuler’s death.
Ohio: The Ohio State Highway Patrol is investigating a use of force incident at the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, a prison operated by CoreCivic (formerly CCA). On September 21, 2016, an unnamed guard repeatedly slammed prisoner Timothy Davis – who was handcuffed – into a wall, causing serious brain injuries that required emergency surgery and rupturing his left eardrum, leaving him deaf in that ear. CCA’s director of public affairs, Jonathan Burns, declined to comment on the incident, saying the company was taking it “very seriously” and cooperating with state investigators.
Oklahoma: On October 19, 2016, Associate District Judge Stephen Kistler sentenced a former guard at the CoreCivic (CCA)-operated Cimarron Correctional Facility to a deferred six-year prison term for smuggling methamphetamine and marijuana. Mykah Summer Joy Wayman was ordered to serve seven days in jail, complete a substance abuse evaluation, follow recommendations from that evaluation, undergo random drug tests, comply with the methamphetamine registry, perform 50 hours of community service and pay $2,160 in fines and assessments plus court costs. She was caught reporting to work at the prison with 69 grams of marijuana and 15 grams of meth.
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia resident Ivan Haynes became caught up in a criminal justice nightmare following a minor car accident on July 30, 2016 in New Jersey. Haynes was arrested on a failure to appear warrant and transported to the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center. It was a Saturday and he expected to be released on Monday. Instead, he remained jailed for 41 days after paperwork errors failed to acknowledge he waived extradition back to Pennsylvania. Deputy Tony DiSandro, head of the warrant unit at the Bucks County Sheriff’s Office, said their agency was notified of Haynes’ arrest in New Jersey right away, but “we were not notified that he waived extradition until Sept. 6,” At a court appearance in October 2016, Judge C. Theodore Fritsch, Jr. sentenced Haynes to time served.
Pennsylvania: On June 28, 2016, police were called to investigate a sexual assault at the home where Jennine Risley was staying temporarily. Risley claimed a man wearing boots had woken her up around midnight and raped her. The crime scene featured overturned furniture, a knife and a bottle of vodka. The investigation also turned up Risley’s Fitbit device, which tracks the user’s activity and sleep patterns. When officers downloaded the Fitbit data, they discovered Risley was actually awake and active when she claimed to be sleeping. Local authorities charged her with several misdemeanors, including filing a false police report and tampering with evidence.
Tennessee: A prisoner housed at the Tennessee Prison for Women, unnamed because she was the victim of a sexual assault, received insult to injury during follow-up interviews after guard Daniel Sievers was fired in May 2016 for raping her. Investigators asked if she had an orgasm during the encounter. The victim wrote in a statement, “When you are victimized by a man, the last thing you want to do is talk about it to five men. I believe this could have been prevented. No male officer should have had the opportunity to enter my cell and engage in any sexual acts.” Jesse Lerner-Kinglake, communications director for Just Detention International, a Los Angeles-based organization that advocates for an end to prison rape and sexual abuse, said, “That’s exactly the kind of behavior of an investigator that makes people say, ‘No, of course I’m not going to come forward’” to report sexual misconduct by prison staff.
Tennessee: Amanda Lemka, incarcerated at the Tennessee Prison for Women, gave birth to a baby boy inside the facility’s medical wing without a qualified OB-GYN, in non-sterile conditions and without pain medication, according to her lawsuit filed in September 2016 against Centurion, a private company that contracts with the state to provide prisoner health care. The suit alleges that Centurion doctors and nurses had accused Lemka of “faking” her labor, even though she was nine months pregnant and near her due date. Her baby spent five days in intensive care with a severe infection, but has recovered and lives with his father while Lemke serves the remainder of her sentence for a parole violation for a nonviolent crime.
Texas: The Gulf Coast Violent Offenders and Fugitive Task Force arrested two former guards at the Willacy County Regional Detention Center on November 4, 2016. Stephan Salinas and Harry Cordero, who worked at the Management and Training Corp. (MTC)-operated prison, are accused of accepting bribes to bring contraband into the facility. Salinas and Cordero were fired by MTC in January 2016. “As soon as we concluded our internal investigation of these two individuals, we immediately notified the U.S. Marshals Service and worked cooperatively with them,” according to a statement issued by the company.
Texas: Ross LeBeau was arrested during a December 2016 traffic stop in Houston after police mistook kitty litter that he used to eliminate fog in his car windows for methamphetamine. “They thought they had the biggest bust in Harris County,” LeBeau said. “This was the bust of the year for them.” Two field tests came back positive for meth, but a third test, conducted by the county’s forensic lab, revealed that the suspected controlled substance was in fact kitty litter. “I was wrongly accused,” said LeBeau, who spent three days in jail. “I’m going to do everything in my power to clear my name.” In January 2017, PLN reported on a similar Florida case in which the “meth” in question was actually Krispy Kreme donut glaze. [See: PLN, Jan. 2017, p.63].
United Kingdom: The increasing number of prisoners in the UK using contraband cell phones to make social media posts is as prevalent as it is in the United States. On October 12, 2016, The Mirror reported on several recent prisoner Instagram videos believed to have emerged from HM Prison Forest Bank. In one clip, naked prisoners bark like dogs while leashed and on all fours. Another documents the “Forest Bank Crew’s” desire to avenge a prisoner who suffered a broken nose. The Mirror reported that HM Prison Service officials had launched an investigation after being provided with the video footage.
Venezuela: Juan Carlos Herrera said his 25-year-old son was the victim of notorious cannibal Dorancel Vargas – nicknamed “people eater” – when a mutiny raged inside the nearly triple-capacity-housed Táchira Detention Center. According to an October 14, 2016 report from Fox News Latino, Herrera discovered the grisly details of his son’s murder during a visit to the prison three days after a month-long uprising. “One of those who were with him [Herrera’s son] when he was murdered saw everything that happened,” he said. “My son and two others were taken by 40 people, stabbed, hanged to bleed, and then Dorancel butchered them to feed all detainees. The [prisoner] with whom I spoke to told me that he was beaten with a hammer [in order] to force him to eat the remains of the two boys.”
Virginia: On November 4, 2016, an indictment was unsealed that alleged members of the Mad Stone Bloods and their associates had carried out a wide range of criminal offenses, including attempted murder, fraud, robbery and drug trafficking, both in and out of prison. Twenty people were charged with racketeering and other charges in the sweep, including three former prison employees who cooperated with the gang to smuggle in drugs. Only Shaunda Rochelle Jones and Jaymese Jenee Jones, who worked at the Buckingham Correctional Center, were identified.
Washington: Protesters marched with signs along the sidewalk outside the GEO Group-owned and operated Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma on October 11, 2016. Protests at the immigration detention facility aren’t unusual, but this one was different as the picketers were GEO Group employees. Spokesmen for the group said the action was an “informational strike” to bring attention to the workers’ frustration with low wages, inadequate training, mandatory overtime and a lack of sick days. In typical fashion, the GEO Group did not comment on the labor unrest.
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