News in Brief
Alabama: On August 19, 2021, twoconvicted robbers were convicted of murder in the death of a fellow prisoner they and two others attacked in 2017 at Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent, Alabama. According to a report by Montgomery TV station WSFA, Dominique Covin and Roderick DeLaune were found guilty of killing Cedric Jerome Robinson in an attack which also left another unidentifed prisoner with injuries described as non-life-threatening. Two other convicted robbers involved in the attack, Anthony Bright and Byron Epps, also face capital murder charges in Robinson’s killing. Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson said that Covin was sentenced to a 30-year prison term for the murder conviction, adding that DeLaune’s sentencing was waiting on a pre-sentence investigation.
Arkansas: Ivermectin, a veterinary medicine touted by some conservatives as a COVID-19 treatment has been used to treat prisoners at the jail in Washington County, Arkansas, a justice of the peace there revealed at a county meeting on August 24, 2021. According to a report by TalkingPointsMemo.com,Justice of the Peace Eva Madison shared a photo at the meeting of a prescription for the medication written for a jail employee by its contracted healthcare provider, Dr. Rob Karas. Though Madison said she was “mortified” by the news, Karas was singled out for praise at the same meeting by Sheriff Tim Helder who confirmed that the doctor was using the drug on prisoners at the county jail. Those who took the drug have since said it was given to them without their consent. Conservative voices such as TV commentator Laura Ingraham, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward have all touted the drug as a COVID-19 treatment. But the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned against using Ivermectin to treat the disease, especially in doses sized for horses and cows. State Health Secretary Jose R. Romero said that reports to a poison-control hotline of adverse reactions to the drug had increased. The state Department of Corrections felt compelled to issue a statement on August 27, 2021 that it was not using Ivermectin on state prisoners. But Karas insisted, “I got experience and don’t really need more studies.”
Arkansas: A former Arkansas prison guard was arrested on August 26, 2021 and accused of sexually assaulting a prisoner through the food flap in her cell door. According to a report by Little Rock TV station KATV, the former guard, 46-year-old McPherson Unit Cpl. James Franklin Lowe, admitted the crime to investigators from the state Department of Corrections (ARDOC), after they reviewed surveillance video from the prison in Newport that showed him sticking his arm through the flap. They also said he had sexual conversations with the prisoner. ARDOC confirmed that he is no longer employed by the agency.
Arkansas: A former prisoner at the Dallas County Jail in Arkansas was given an additional five-year sentence on August 31, 2021 for his role in a conspiracy to bring contraband into the lockup. Four other people were also caught in the scheme, including a former jail guard, according to a statement from the federal Department of Justice. The former prisoner, 32-year-old Terry McClendon, was being held at the jail on federal firearms charges in 2017 when he approached guard Laron Williams with an offer to pay him a bribe to smuggle drugs into the jail. Surveillance video then showed Williams delivering to McClendon’s cell packages that turned out to contain cocaine and heroin. McClendon was convicted in 2017 on the firearms charges and sentenced to five years in federal prison, after which his new sentence will begin. Williams, along with three other co-conspirators—former jail prisoners Antonio Fowler and Michael Brewer, as well as Brewer’s wife, Dekimberol Brewer—have all pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
Australia: The Australian newspaper published a florid love letter written to a prisoner by a guard after the purple-penned missive was released at her trial on August 29, 2021. By that time, the scandal had already cost the guard, 24-year-old Melissa Goodwin, her job. Her former lover, 23-year-old prisoner Corey London, had suffered a broken jaw in an attack he claimed was in retaliation for revealing their relationship, in an apparent fit of jealousy, after he discovered via her social media posts that Goodwin had started dating another former prisoner. For fear of further reprisal, though, London said he refused to testify against her. Goodwin was convicted anyway of conducting an inappropriate relationship that included performing oral sex on London a half-dozen times in the laundry of the New South Wales prison where she was supposed to be guarding him. After he was transferred to another facility in January 2021, she began a new relationship with another prisoner, Caleb Valeri. When he was released, the couple began documenting their affair on social media, where the posts caught London’s attention. He spilled the story of his own relationship with Goodwin during an expletive-laden phone call with his mother, which prison officials were monitoring.
California: A San Diego Central Jail prisoner is facing an additional charge of murder after being accused of killing his cellmate on August 22, 2021. According to a report by the San Diego Tribune, a coroner’s inquest ruled the caused of 46-year-old Richard Lee Salyers’ death was strangulation. He had been booked into the jail on August 18, 2021 on suspicion of contempt of court. His alleged assailant, 32-year-old Steven Young, is a registered sex offender who was booked into the jail on the same day for violating conditions of his parole. He had been extradited to California from Oklahoma, where he was apprehended on July 8, 2021, after attempting to elude authorities by jumping into the Oklahoma River, Oklahoma City TV station KOKH reported.
Canada: With wooden cell doors and signage in native Inuktitut instead of English, a new jail was set to open in September 2021 in the far northern Canadian province of Nunavut, according to a report by The Star. Costing $90 million CAD, the 96-bed Aaqqigiarvik Correctional Healing Facility in Iqualuit replaces the Baffin Correctional Center (BCC), which acting Director of Corrections Mickey McLeod said was “not a very healthy place.” A 2015 report from the Auditor General agreed that BCC needed to be replaced not only because it was unsanitary and unsafe but also because chronic problems with contraband and a dearth of culturally appropriate programming were violating prisoners’ rights.
Florida: An Orlando man was over 450 miles from home when he was caught trying to toss a package of drugs over the fence into Century Correctional Institution (CCI) near Pensacola on August 24, 2021. According to a report by NorthEscambia.com, the state prison was placed on lockdown after guards with the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) spotted a man who turned out to be 35-year-old Dickale Tanzano Cothrell near the perimeter fence. They immediately began conducting a prisoner count, while two of them apprehended Cothrell near the perimter fence and found him carrying a package containing three cellphones, 23.8 grams of suspected “spice” (synthetic cannabinoids), 111.5 grams of tobacco in cigarettes, a cellphone charger and two charging cables. He was turned over to deputies from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, who took him to the county jail. Cothrell is charged with one count of introduction of a contraband into a state correctional facility and one count of interference with prisoners. FDOC Press Secretary Paul Walker said all prisoners at CCI were accounted for.
Florida: Two state prisons will soon close in northern Florida, and another now closed will not reopen, due to chronic staffing shortages, the prison guard’s union said August 26, 2021. A report by the Miami Herald cited the president of the Corrections Chapter of the Police Benevolent Association, Jim Baiardi, who said he had received the information from Secretary Mark Inch of the state Department of Corrections (FDOC). Reassigning some 1,200 guards from the shuttered prisons may temporarily help shortages at other prisons, Baiardi said, but it is a “band-aid” that “is not going to solve the vacancy problem.” FDOC lost 1,802 beds when Cross City Correctional Institution (CI) was shut down by flood damage on August 4, 2021. Leaving it mothballed, along with the decision to close Baker CI, an 1,165-bed prison in Sanderson, and New River CI, a 1,050-bed lockup in Raiford, “should come as a shock to nobody,” according to the vice chair of the state Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg). He said the moves were made out of “desperation” fueled by FDOC’s nearly 5,000 vacant guard positions. The shortage persists despite the fact that the state’s prisoner population has shrunk by 20,000 since that beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Former prison inspector Aubrey Land said there are “a lot of inmates who have been in prison for a lot of years who are parole eligible.” Yet FDOC promised that the closures “will not result in the early release of inmates.”
Florida: On September 3, 2021, a former Florida prison guard made his first court appearance on federal civil rights charges for beating a prisoner and lying about it on his official report. According to the federal Department of Justice, the former Santa Rosa Correctional Institution guard, 29-year-old Andrew J. Fremmer, carried out the alleged attack and cover-up in July 2019. His victim was not named. Fremmer faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Georgia: In a since-deleted video posted on August 22, 2021 to the Facebook page of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) in Jesup, Georgia, deputies scissored the uniform shirt off the naked torso of a guard found smuggling contraband into the county lockup. A report by Savannah TV station WTOC identified the guard as Dayton Beasley, who was “stripped of his authority and status as a detention officer,” according to a statement released by Sheriff R.E. “Chuck” Moseley. Beasley was fired after a two-week undercover investigation by the Jesup-Wayne Tactical Narcotics Team. He is charged with Violation of Oath of Office, Trading with Inmates without Consent of Warden or Superintendent and Crossing the Guard Line with a Controlled Substance. In the video post, an unnamed WCSO deputy told Beasley, “You’re a disgrace to this uniform and you need to go to jail for good.”
India: Two Indian prison guards were arrested on August 13, 2021 after a prisoner’s wife accused them of raping her when she went to visit her husband. According to a report by the New Indian Express, the incident allegedly occurred on August 1, 2021 at Narsinghgarh sub jail in the Rajgarh district of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Neither the victim nor her husband were named, but he has been confined at the prison four years on counterfeiting charges. She said the two guards also threatened her after the sexual assault.
Indiana: A prisoner who died at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana on August 24, 2021—a day after he was beaten by a fellow prisoner—was a former guard with the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). According to a report by U.S. News, Michael Rudkin was serving a 90-year sentence at the 1,100-bed maximum-security lockup for a 2009 conviction on charges he plotted to have his wife killed with a prisoner he was sexually involved with at the federal lockup in Danbury, Connecticut, where he worked [See PLN, Jun. 2012, p. 38]. Part of the $5,000 he promised to pay in that plot was deposited into the woman’s commisary account at the prison. After he went to prison, he was caught asking fellow prisoners to help arrange another murder-for-hire plot again targeting his wife—from whom he was by then divorced—as well as other intended victims, including an agent with the federal Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General. A second prisoner, 47-year-old Stephen Dwayne Cannada, was killed on September 6, 2021, the very day he arrived at the prison, prompting questions about understaffing and lack of security at the federal facility.
Kansas: A pre-trial detainee held for the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) at a private prison in Kansas died after he was assaulted by a fellow prisoner on August 2, 2021. According to a report by the LeavenworthTimes, 39-year-old Scott W. Wilson was kicked, punched and struck with a tray by his 28-year-old assailant, whose name has not been released because he has not yet been charged. Wilson died two days later from his injuries. All of the Leavenworth Detention Center was placed on lockdown after the assault. It is owned by Leavenworth County and operated by Tennessee-based CoreCivic, the nation’s second-largest private prison firm with 2020 revenues of $1.91 billion. The company has given notice that it will not renew its contract when it expires at year end because the administration of Pres. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D) has prohibited the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) from signing or renewing contracts with private prison operators. USMS is part of DOJ. But on May 5, 2021, county commissioners said they were not interested in running the prison, either, because of concerns about liability, throwing its fate and that of the pre-trial detainees it holds in doubt.
Kentucky: A jail guard in Henderson County, Kentucky, was arrested on August 13, 2021, and charged with attempting to smuggle drugs into the county lockup where he works. According to a report by the Henderson Gleaner, two unnamed prisoners and an unnamed outside accomplice were also charged in the scheme with 47-year-old Deputy Jailer Jason A. Evans. He allegedly was promised $200 to deliver a package which he thought contained 113 grams of loose tobacco. But it actually had another package hidden inside with 10 grams of crystal methamphetamine when he left it in a bathroom inside the jail for one of his prisoner accomplices to find on July 6, 2021. He didn’t know then that Pennyrile Narcotics Task Force agents had already been tipped-off to the plot, and they had set up the hand-off of the package from the outside accomplice to Evans. They were also monitoring the bathroom where the prisoner accepted the delivery. Evans and the two prisoners are charged with trafficking. The prisoners also face additional charges of promoting prison contraband.
Maryland: On August 13, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland unsealed an indictment against a prisoner held by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), accusing him and his father of laundering drug proceeds through cryptocurrency transactions while the man has been incarcerated. According to a report by the Baltimore Sun, federal prosecutors now want about $130 million of bitcoin seized from 37-year-old Ryan Farace and his 57-year-old father, Joseph, three years after the younger man was sentenced to a 57-month term in 2018 for manufacturing and selling 920,000 tablets of alprazolam over the so-called “dark web” using the handle “Xanaxman.” At his earlier sentencing, Farace was ordered to forfeit over $5.6 million in cash and 4,000 bitcoin, the value of which has since skyrocketed 700 percent. It was not clear if the newly seized cryptocurrency was part of what Farace was originally ordered to surrender. He and his orginal co-conspirator, Robert Swain—who is also 37 and was also convicted in the scheme—used fake IDs to accept cash payments of about $5 million mailed from buyers of bitcoin they earned in their drug business.
Maryland: Officials at Maryland state prison in Baltimore said a prisoner was killed on August 27, 2021, according to a report by local TV station WJZ. The prisoner, identified as 33-year-old Shane Burton, died from an apparent stabbing at an intake center for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (MDDPSCS). He was being held on assault and drug charges. MDDPSCS said that state police were assisting in the investigation, which had already identifed several suspects who were not named.
Michigan: A Michigan prisoner was fatally stabbed on August 28, 2021. According to a report by MLive, two fellow prisoners at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon—who were unnamed—were transferred to a maximum-security facility after the attack that killed 40-year-old Joshua Kenneth Stead. His unnamed cellmate was also transferred. Stead was serving a 15-year sentence for fleeing and assaulting police in a violent run-in November 2016 in the Upper Peninsula, during which he allegedly rammed a state trooper’s crusier before another state trooper shot him three times. He had three prior convictions for drug possession and burglary dating back to 2000.
Minnesota: A Minnesota prisoner sustained a restraining order against a prison guard on August 30, 2021. According to a report by the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, the order has prevented the guard, Anthony Pietrzak, from reporting to work at Lino Lakes State Prison since it was first granted in June 2020 to the prisoner, Dane Michael Vandervoort. He is serving time for a conviction on assault charges after pointing a gun at a police officer responding to a call from a former girlfriend that Vandervoort was threatening her in her home. His release is expected in 2023. In his application for the restraining order, he alleged that Pietrzak “harassed, threatened, and intimidated” him and also “wrote lies, spread rumors, made vulgar and explicit gestures.” Vandervoort added that he had been “bullied” by the guard “on several occasions,” concluding as a result: “I do not feel safe when he is around me.” In granting the initial order, Anoka County District Judge Thomas Fitzpatrick barred Pietrzak from direct or indirect contact with Vandervoort and ordered him to stay three blocks away. That has kept the guard on paid leave, argued state Department of Corrections (MNDOC) attorney Jeanine Putnam, who said “his attendance is needed to ensure the safety and security of inmates, staff, and the community.” The order was then amended to keep the guard 500 feet away from Vandervoort.
Nebraska: A prison nurse resigned from the Nebraska Department of Corrections (NEDOC) after she was arrested on September 3, 2021 on suspicion that she sexually abused a prisoner. According to a report by the Lincoln Journal-Star, the 46-year-old nurse, Summer Brandt, is also accused of unauthorized communication with the prisoner at the Community Corrections Center-Lincoln (CCC-L) and the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center (D&EC). Both charges are felony offenses. Brandt had been employed by NEDOC since 2016. CCC-L houses 88 women and 312 men participating in work-release programs. D&EC is a skilled nursing facility with 12 beds.
New York: A state prison transport bus caught fire in Fishkill, New York, on August 28, 2021. According to a report by New York City TV station WCBS, trapped and screaming prisoners reportedly fought with guards before being rescued from the burning vehicle. Police said two prisoners were sent to a hospital with minor injuries they sustained in the scuffle. The other 25 prisoners aboard were transferred to another transport bus. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.
New York: Just after giving New Yorkers two weeks notice on August 10, 2021 that he was resigning, embattled Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) handed out several clemencies. Cuomo resigned under pressure after allegations surfaced that he had sexually harrassed multiple women. One of those granted clemency was political prisoner David Gilbert, 76, who is serving a life sentence for the famed 1981 Brink’s robbery in which he was an unarmed getaway driver. Another who received clemency from Cuomo was Jon-Adrian Velasquez, 45, whose claims he was wrongfully convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 had been taken up by actor Martin Sheen. Nehru Gumbs, 36, had his conviction commuted for a shooting when he was 18 that killed a bystander on his way home from Christmas Eve services. Richard “Lee” Chalk, 63, had his sentence reduced for a second-degree murder in 1988 in which he was a hitman’s getaway driver. Seven pardons were handed out for lesser crimes, including five to immigrant felons who would otherwise be deported.
New York: A Long Island jail guard was arrested on August 20, 2021 and charged with taking $100 bribes from prisoners in exchange for smuggling them cigarettes. According to a report by Patch.com, the guard, 35-year-old Harris Ferro, faces a five-count indictment, one for each occasion on which he allegedly smuggled contraband into the Nassau County Jail in January and February 2021. Acting County District Attorney Joyce Smith said on two of the occasions Ferro also smuggled a lighter which is also considered contraband. The payments he recieved were allegedly arranged through a third party, whom Smith did not identify.
North Carolina: A prison guard was arrested on August 9, 2021 after she was caught trying to smuggle marijuana into the Pasqotank Correctional Institution (PCI) near Elizabeth City, North Carolina. According to a report by the local Daily Advance, the guard, 29-year-old Vanessa Uniqua Spence, resigned the same day from the state Department of Public Safety (NCDPS). At the time she worked as a housing manager at PCI. She was charged with possession of a controlled substance while in a prison facility as well as possession of drug paraphernalia, after a routine search of her possessions turned up 12 grams of marijuana, along with “grinders, rolling paper and smoked marijuana cigars.” She had worked for NCDPS since August 2015, receiving two promotions the following year that boosted her annual salary to $45,744 at the time of her arrest. Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten said someone had recently attempted to fly contraband into PCI using a drone that crashed into a fence. NCDPS spokesman John Bull said his agency investigated the allegations against Spence in cooperation with Wooten’s deputies.
North Dakota: On September 2, 2021, a former guard at the North Dakota State Penitentiary was charged with taking bribes to smuggle contraband to a prisoner. According to a report by U.S. News, the prisoner, Joshua Gomez, allegedly sent a text outlining the scheme to an unnamed woman who provided the information to investigators with the state police. They say that the guard, Matthew Taylor, took two MoneyGram payments totaling $900 from the woman in exchange for delivering Gomez a cellphone, two SIM cards and a cigarette package that later tested positive for methamphetamine. Gomez faces charges of possession of a controlled substance by an inmate and possession of an electronic device by an inmate. He was moved to the James River Corrections Center by the state Department of Corrections (NDDOC). Taylor’s employment with NDDOC ended in November 2020 when the investigation began. No charges have been announced against the woman.
Panama: On April 16, 2021, guards at a Panamanian prison found an apparently feral cat wandering in the door. On closer inspection, however, they discovered the cat was dressed in a bandana holding packages containing a white powder, leaves and vegetable matter—later confirmed to be cocaine, crack and marijuana, according to a report by Newsweek. The contraband was seized, and the so-called “Narcocat” was turned over from the Nueva Esperanza Prison to a pet adoption agency. It is not the first animal used in attempt to mule drugs into one of the country’s 23 prisons, where drug-laden pigeons have also been intercepted. The Panamanian Prison System holds 18,174 prisoners, fully 25 percent over its capacity of 14,591.
Pennsylvania: A Pennsylvania state prison guard was arrested on August 16, 2021 and charged with having sex with a prisoner under her watch. According to a report by the Washington Observer-Reporter, the guard, 40-year-old Melanie Nicole Lewis, was recorded performing sex acts on the unnamed prisoner—while she was in uniform—in images found on a cellphone discovered in his cell at the State Correctional Institution at Fayette in Luzerne Township, a 2,000-bed maximum-security lockup for men where state license plates are manufactured. After her arrest on charges of institutional sexual assault, obstructing administration of law or other government and official oppression, Lewis was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond.
Pennsylvania: A former prison guard in Pennsylvania pleaded guilty on August 27, 2021 to forging documents in order to get paid leave for U.S. Army reserve training he never attended. According to a report by PennLive.com, the former guard, 24-year-old Anthoney Brooks, may have tipped off administrators at Lycoming County Prison when they discovered he had filed a phony bereavement request to attend his mother’s funeral in October 2020. That request was never paid, but two earlier requests were disbursed for reserve training, one for $2,067 over three weeks in July and August 2020 and another for about $700 in October of that year. Brooks resigned on November 2, 2020, shortly after county Detective Stephen J. Sorage contacted the administrator of Brooks’ reserve unit and discovered he had fabricated both events. As part of his plea agreement, he must repay the entire amount he swindled—nearly $2,800—and also serve 18 months on probation following any sentence he receives. County Judge Nancy L. Butts postponed a hearing on that matter until October 26, 2021 in order to give prosecutors time to prepare a presentence report because she wanted to know more about Brooks.
Virginia: A prisoner uprising on August 10 and 11, 2021, which heavily damaged the Lynchburg, Virginia, Detention Center, was precipitated by unsanitary living conditions and inadequate food, according to an interview with an unnamed employee broadcast by local TV station WSET on August 20, 2021. That report noted a 2019 compliance audit from the state Department of Corrections had found some of the problems that allegedly still persist, including broken drinking-water fountains, clogged showers and ceiling leaks. Those reports did not mention mold and cockroaches that caused the employee to say that “cleanliness was awful” at the jail. The employee also reported that food rations were so inadequate that “sometimes it wasn’t enough beans, it was just soup.” Yet the jail passed all food inspections in 2019 and 2020. Prisoners who missed roll call while assigned to kitchen work were also denied medication, ultimately prompting the employee to resign.
Wisconsin: A Wisconsin state prison guard who admitted having sex with a prisoner was sentenced on August 27, 2021 to 42 months of imprisonment and supervised release. According to a report by the Wisconsin State Journal, the unnamed Oakhill Correctional Institution prisoner also sold fellow prisoners contraband delivered by the guard, 36-year-old Mariah S. Kreinke, and split the money with her. The scheme was uncovered when prison officials acting on a tip discovered an illegal cellphone in the prisoner’s cell that contained text messages with Kreinke referencing the payments. Her nude photos were also found on the cellphone’s camera roll, at which point the prisoner admitted the two had also had sex in the prison kitchen. In addition to the cellphone, the contraband—which was delieverd in December 2020 and January 2021—also included nutritional supplements, food and chewing tobacco.