News In Brief
Arizona: After two escaped prisoners were recaptured and returned to the Arizona State Prison in Florence on January 31, 2021, Phoenix station KNXV reported that at least part of the blame for their escape was assigned to short-staffing of guards at the state Department of Corrections (DOC). Carlos Garcia, Director of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association, the state guards’ union, then called on state lawmakers to increase guard pay in order to address staffing issues that he said put the public, guards, and prisoners alike in danger. The two prisoners, John Charpiot and David Harmon, were nabbed five days after an escape on January 26, 2021 which PLN previously reported. [See: PLN, Mar. 2021, p. 62.]
Arkansas: A jail guard in Eldorado, Arkansas, was arrested on December 8, 2021, accused of sexually assaulting a prisoner. KNOE in Monroe, Louisiana, reported that the guard, Sgt. Michael Vick Jr., was observed engaging in “inappropriate behavior” with a female prisoner under his watch at the Union County Detention Center. Following a subsequent investigation, authorities obtained a warrant for his arrest on four counts of fourth-degree sexual assault on December 7, 2021, taking Vick into custody the next day when he arrived for work.
Arkansas: Seven state prisoners were charged on February 28, 2022, for rioting at the North Central Unit in Calico Rock, Arkansas. According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the incident began on the night of February 2, 2022, when 18 prisoners from three housing barracks at the prison allegedly refused to comply with guards’ instructions. Though the ensuing fight saw no prisoners using weapons, the responding guards deployed pepper spray. No staff injuries were reported, and two prisoners were treated at a hospital before returning to the prison the next day. Prisoner Tattan Cummings, 22, along with Donte Davis, Steffon Hunter and Lloyd Smith, all 20, were charged with multiple counts of rioting and battery. Three others were also charged with causing damage to prison property. Anthony Dennis, 33, was charged with causing $14,677.50 in damage to windows. Jessie Helms, 20, was charged with causing $7,543 in damage to six windows. Dayvon Walker, 20, was charged with causing $1,286.91 in damage to medical equipment. The state DOC reported a staff vacancy rate of 54% as of early February 2022.
California: After two prisoners died in separate northern California lockups on January 8, 2022, their cellmates were named as suspects. According to KOVR in Sacramento, the two who died were Benjy S. Wade, 40, at High Desert State Prison (HDSP) in Susanville, and Deandre A. Lewis, 37, at California State Prison (CSP) in Folsom. Within days, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation identified two suspects: John C. Connell, 55, who was Wade’s cellie at HDSP, and Shamar L. Thornton, 36, who shared a cell with Lewis at CSP. Both suspects are serving life sentences. Connell was sentenced in the late 1980s for battery and armed robbery. Thornton was sentenced in 2009 for first-degree murder.
California: Workers World reported that prisoners went on a hunger strike at the Alameda County Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, California, on January 7, 2022. The 24 prisoners taking part launched their protest over conditions at the massive 3,489-bed jail, where they say the food they’re served is “tasteless,” “overcooked,” generally inedible, and contains rat feces. The prisoners were also protesting what they called high prices for alternative food at the prison commissary, which is operated by Trinity Food Services under a contract that pays a 40% kickback to Sheriff Greg Ahern from sales. Items like a package of ramen noodles, which costs 25 cents at Walmart, cost $1.39 at the jail commissary. A previous hunger strike involving 400 detainees at the jail lasted six days before ending on November 5, 2019. The current strike was still ongoing three weeks after it started.
California: Nine immigrant detainees held at a private prison in Imperial County, California, made a formal complaint to authorities with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), over allegedly hazardous conditions of their confinement on January 25, 2022. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, complaints at the Imperial Regional Detention Facility (IRDF) include contaminated water, toxic air, and mold growth. IRDF is managed under contract from ICE by Utah-based private prison operator Management and Training Corp. (MTC). ICE’s San Diego office said it is working with MTC to ensure the facility meets legal requirements. An earlier list of “poor conditions” that “endangered the health and safety of detainees” at IRDF was the subject of a December 2020 report from the DHS Office of the Inspector General. A month later, the state Department of Justice also issued a report critical of ICE and MTC for holding some immigrants at IRDF in “extremely restrictive” conditions. Meanwhile, in what looks like a desperate attempt to change the subject, MTC issued a January 2022 press release touting efforts by IRDF staff to raise donations for a local food bank serving area homeless.
California: On January 28, 2022, a prisoner at Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad, California, was sentenced to almost 22 more years for his role in a prison drug smuggling scheme, according to the Mercury News. The prisoner, Todd “Fox” Morgan, 54, an alleged member of the Aryan Brotherhood white supremacist gang, received the 262-month term after he admitted being part of a conspiracy to smuggle methamphetamine into the lockup. The plan was to direct smugglers to throw the contraband over a prison fence, where those involved on the inside would pick it up and distribute it in the prison. The plot was attempted and foiled in September 2020.
Connecticut: Two prisoners at a New Haven jail were found dead in their cell on February 24, 2022. WVIT in New Britain reported that the two were being held at the New Haven Correctional Center when they were found unresponsive by a guard conducting a routine check. Suspecting fentanyl was involved, the guard called for medical staff, who performed CPR and administered Narcan, which is used to reverse opioid overdose affects. One of the prisoners was pronounced dead in the cell. The other was rushed to a hospital, where he died. One of the guards at the facility also began showing signs of exposure to fentanyl and was given Narcan before being taken to the hospital, where he was said to be recovering. No names were released of any of those involved.
District of Columbia: DCist reported that a D.C. prison guard was arrested on February 24, 2022, on suspicion of smuggling drugs, weapons, and other contraband into the city’s Central Detention facility. The guard, Johnson Ayuk, 31, was charged with possessing contraband in prison and bribery. He is accused of smuggling cellphones, drugs, and guns into the facility. Ayuk, who had worked at the prison since April 2021, was released under strict supervision to await his first hearing, set for March 2022. The issue of contraband at the facility became a significant concern after the U.S. Marshals Service conducted a surpise inspection that led it to issue a harsh review. The investigation into the smuggling case was picked up by the D.C. DOC and the FBI Washington Field Office.
Florida: Bill Kapri, also known as rapper and philanthropist Kodak Black, was arrested in his hometown of Pompano Beach, Florida, on the morning of January 1, 2022. Popculture reported that Black was taken into custody at 1:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day and accused of trespassing. Black’s last prison sentence—for lying on a background form used to buy a gun he threw from his car during an April 2016 police chase—was commuted by former Pres. Donald J. Trump (R) on his last day in office in January 2021, though not before the rapper accused federal prison officials of religious discrimination. [See: PLN, Jan. 2021, p. 62.] He still faces a February 2016 criminal sexual assault charge in South Carolina.
Florida: WFTS in Tampa reported a work stoppage by 14 state prisoners at the Taylor Correctional Institution in Perry, Florida, on January 3, 2022. The prisoners were protesting what they described as substandard living conditions, an inadequate parole system, conditions of “slavery” and “forced free labor,” unethical mental and physical healthcare, unreasonable canteen prices, and unjust sentencing. The protest was in line with a statewide movement among prisoners looking to pressure the state legislature into instituting prison system reforms. Word of the protest was spread via a flyer that encouraged prisoners to engage in a peaceful sit-down resistance to forced work at prison jobs. Prisoners’ families reported other state prisons went on lockdown in anticipation of the protest. According to the state DOC, the protest at Taylor did not cause any significant issues.
Florida: A defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale was arrested on January 7, 2022, and accused of smuggling narcotics into the Palm Beach County Jail. According to WPTV in West Palm Beach, attorney David Casals was charged with felony cocaine trafficking and introducing contraband into a county facility. He is accused of attempting to bring legal documents with him into the facility that had been saturated with cocaine. Casals has practiced law since 2000 and has his own firm. His attorney said he will plead not guilty. His is the first arrest for smuggling at the jail since three guards were charged in a similar scheme in April 2021. Cases are still pending against those three, Jose Gutierrez, Karl Glen Kirkland and Samuel Pierre.
Georgia: A federal prison guard in Atlanta is accused of boring a hole through a wall into a visitor’s bathroom, where he then picked up drugs and other contraband he distributed throughout the lockup with the help of two prisoners. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia reported that the guard, 47-year-old Patrick Shackelford, was charged in late December 2021 with bribery and smuggling at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta. Along with the prisoners, Patrick Kirkman, 35, and Mitchell Arms, 41, he was accused of smuggling drugs, including marijuana and methamphetamine, as well as other contraband between June 2018 and February 2019. The FBI has opened an investigation into the case.
Georgia: Using a contraband cell phone, a man held in a Georgia prison in 2015 began a scam in which he threatened elderly victims with incarceration on bogus charges of failure to appear in court if they didn’t pay him a fine. U.S. News reported that the now-former prisoner, Andre Deaveon Reese, 32, pleaded guilty on January 28, 2022, to engaging in the telephone scam while he was held at Autry State Prison in Georgia. Two of the victims, a pair of Louisiana septuagenarians, paid Reese and his accomplices $9,797 in August 2016. The scheme continued through his July 2020 release. After pleading guilty to a single count of wire fraud, he was set for sentencing on May 20, 2022.
Indiana: An unidentified prisoner at Miami Correctional Facility in Bunker Hill, Indiana, was taken to a hospital with injuries received during an assault on February 25, 2022, according to the Kokomo Tribune. It was the latest in a series of assaults reported over the previous six months at the state prison. In March 2021 a guard was speaking through cell bars when prisoner Levi Greenup reached out and stabbed him with a shank. In another assault by prisoners on August 8, 2021, three guards sustained injuries. No one was named in that incident. In September 2021, prisoner Matthew Koch, 42, was found stabbed to death in his cell. In November 2021, prisoner Leo Cullen, 43, was also fatally assaulted. In December 2021, another prisoner was stabbed. His name has not been released.
Kansas: A former guard at a private prison in Leavenworth was accused of smuggling cellphones there on February 28, 2022. The Wichita Eagle reported that Angelica Grant, a guard at the Leavenworth Detention Center (LDC), was accused of buying at least 20 cellphones and smuggling them into the facility, where she then sold them to prisoners. The alleged scheme took place between February and May 2020. After she resigned in May 2020, Grant allegedly convinced another guard to continue the smuggling scheme. She is not the first LDC employee accused of smuggling. Former guard Willie Golden, 31, pleaded guilty in late January 2022 to taking $7,370 in bribes to smuggle tobacco, marijuana and cell phones to prisoners from April through November 2020. A fellow former guard, Janna Grier, 36, also pleaded guilty in that scheme. Two more former guards, Cheyonte Harris, 29, and Jacqueline Sifuentes, 25, face smuggling charges handed down in an indictment by a federal grand jury in September 2021. LDC is owned and operated for the U.S. Marshals Service by private prison giant CoreCivic.
Lithuania: A former CIA “black ops” site near Vilnius went up for auction in January 2022, according to the Washington Post. Known by codenames “Detention Site Violet” and “Project No. 2,” the site was put up for sale by the Lithuanian government’s fund for real estate on January 24, 2022. It is one of several such sites set up around the world under the administration of former Pres. George W. Bush (R), with non-U.S.-citizen terrorism suspects held there without being charged and subjected to brutal torture methods, including waterboarding, solitary confinement, and sleep deprivation. The Lithuanian parliament investigated Detention Site Violet and found that it had in fact been used by the CIA. But it claimed that there was no evidence that prisoners had been held in it.
Mexico: A prison riot in Colima left nine prisoners dead and seven injured on January 25, 2022. ABC News reported that the riot started as a fight between rival gangs, a common occurrence in the coastal region, where drug cartels are prominent. The exact cause of the conflict was not disclosed. The riot lasted for an hour before authorities retook the cell block where the violence occurred. Some control of prisons by cartels is not uncommon in Mexico. This riot came on the heels of another at a prison outside Monterrey on January 8, 2022, when 56 prisoners were injured in a dispute over rival extortion attempts between gangs.
Michigan: A prisoner in Milan admitted on February 10, 2022, that he killed a fellow prisoner who was the convicted “mastermind” of an international child porn ring. According to MI Headlines, Adam Taylor Wright, 41, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after admitting he worked with two other prisoners, Alex Albert Castro, 41, and Jason Dale Kechego, 40, to murder a fourth prisoner, Christian Maire, on January 2, 2019. Wright admitted repeatedly beating and stabbing Maire before throwing his body down a flight of stairs, the same charges which remain pending against his two alleged accomplices. Maire was sentenced in December 2018 to a 40-year term for coercing underage girls to perform sex acts for his porn website. For killing him, Wright took a plea agreement adding more than 27 years in prison to be served concurrently with his current term for unrelated convictions. The cases against Castro and Kechego are pending.
Mississippi: A former prison guard in Yazoo, Mississippi, was arrested on December 15, 2021, on suspicion of having sex with a prisoner at the Yazoo County Regional Correctional Facility (YCRCF). U.S. News reported that after her arrest, Tiffany Necole Simmons, 37, was fired from her job, which she had held since August 2021. YCRCF officials identified the prisoner involved as Tommy White. He was being held on charges he murdered Phillip Dunn, who went missing in February 2020 before his body was recovered from the Big Black River late the next month. By then blood evidence recovered from his car had led to charges against White.
Mississippi: A Mississippi prisoner was recaptured on February 15, 2022, two days after escaping Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF), 130 miles away. The Clarion Ledger reported it was the third escape by Michael “Pretty Boy” Floyd Wilson, 51, who climbed over a 12-foot fence and 2 feet of razor wire to break free. The next day he was treated at a nearby hospital for the injuries he sustained in the act yet managed not to be captured, prompting a DOC spokesperson to say he “must be really, really convincing. I mean, he should be an actor.” When found by authorities, Wilson was headed south toward the Gulf, where he is originally from. He is serving a life sentence without parole for a number of crimes dating back to 2001, including two murders, a burglary, grand larceny and auto theft, as well as two other escapes from different facilities. A Mississippi DOC spokesperson said some employees of the prison will face disciplinary action as a result of his most recent breakout.
Missouri: KTVI in St. Louis reported that a state prison in Bonne Terre was on lockdown after a string of violent incidents in early February 2022. The move came after a bloody weekend at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (ERDCC), when there was a stabbing three days in a row. The first two victims were unidentified prisoners. The last was a guard, Doug Montgomery, who was flown to a hospital after he was knifed on February 7, 2022. His injuries were deemed not life-threatening. His son said he was set to retire in a month after a 30-year career. ERDCC, which holds medium and maximum-security prisoners, has been facing staffing shortages, the Missouri DOC admitted. The investigation into the incidents is ongoing.
New Jersey: On February 17, 2022, a former federal prison guard was sentenced to 26 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $50,000 in bribes he took to smuggle drugs to prisoners at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, WFMZ reported. As previously reported by PLN, the guard, Paul Anton Wright, 36, was arrested in April 2018 and pleaded guilty in November 2019. [See: PLN, Jan. 2019, p.62; and Dec. 2020, p.62.]
New York: A Manhattan prison administrator was arrested for assault on January 27, 2022, after allegedly beating his estranged wife and slashing her tires. The Daily Voice reported that Shon Brown, an assistant deputy warden at the Manhattan Detention Complex—also known as the Tombs—was once honored by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) for saving a baby’s life on the New Jersey Turnpike. Brown allegedly slashed his estranged wife’s car tires on December 31, 2021, and then chased her damaged vehicle in his own, eventually confronting her face to face in Yonkers, where he allegedly threw her into a glass wall and began strangling her. She passed out, but he wasn’t done, reportedly screaming at her unconscious body that he would kill her. The following day, when the woman went to get her tires fixed, Brown showed up and offered to pay for the damage, saying that he had hired someone do it. He was arrested on charges of strangulation, menacing, endangering the welfare of a child, stalking, and assault.
New York: When a jail guard at the Erie County lockup was arrested for smuggling on January 4, 2022, he resisted and was tasered. WGRZ reported that the Erie County Correctional Facility guard, Jason Stachowski, was accused of taking part in a contraband scheme, which was uncovered in a December 2021 investigation into smuggling at the facility launched after the discovery of marijuana, a cellphone, and a cellphone charger. According to a Sheriff’s Office press release, Stachowski was resistant and confrontational when authorities pulled his car over at 6:30 p.m., prompting them to use a Taser in order to take him into custody.
North Carolina: The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of North Carolina reported that a former federal prison guard was sentenced to 15 months in prison on December 9, 2021, after he was convicted of taking bribes from prisoners. The former guard, Casey Covington, 46, pleaded guilty on July 8, 2021, to charges he accepted bribes from three prisoners in exchange for smuggling contraband into the facility over the course of 2019 and 2020. The three prisoners—Robert Henry Huitt, Christopher Lee Davis and Antonio Demond Byers—paid Covington more than $31,000 for smuggling contraband that included marijuana, alcohol and cellphones. Each of the three pled guilty to their roles in the crime during the summer and fall of 2021.
Oklahoma: Four prisoners were eventually recaptured after escaping the McCurtain County Jail in Idabel, Oklahoma, on February 3, 2022. All four prisoners—Kolby Watson, Justin Hughes, Jerome Rutherford Jr. and Donnie Middlebrooks—were being held on charges of distribution and possession of stolen property and narcotics, according to reports by KOTV and KOKI in Tulsa; KTEN in Ada; KXII in Sherman, Texas; and KSLA in Shreveport, Louisiana. Watson, whose brother has since been charged with aiding in the escape, was arrested by police during a manhunt on February 5, 2022. Middlebrooks was next to be captured, on February 9, 2022. Hughes was then arrested by authorities early on February 16, 2022, followed by Rutherford that night. The manhunt involved officials from local, county, state, and tribal law enforcement.
Pennsylvania: A prisoner in Pittsburgh was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for helping a guard in a contraband smuggling scheme. Trib Live reported that the prisoner, Rashon Richardson, 31, pleaded guilty to bribery of a public official, conspiracy, and possession with intent to deliver in mid-February 2022. The charges were related to his soliciting of Indiana County Jail guard Alex Lewis to smuggle contraband cellphones into the facility from June to August 2019. Richardson, who had been serving time after his 2016 indictment for drug charges, used an intermediary to pay Lewis $400 per phone and used the phones to make secret calls from inside the jail. [See: PLN, May. 2021, p. 62.] For his part in the scheme, Lewis received a sentence of two years in prison with 18 months supervised release in November 2021. [See: PLN, Jan. 2022, p. 62.]
Rhode Island: Yahoo! News reported that a state prison guard in Cranston, Rhode Island, has been accused of having sex with prisoners. The guard, Justin M. Toye, 36, was arrested on December 5, 2021, on three charges of improper sexual relations with prisoners. The case was handled by the state police and the state DOC Office of Internal Affairs. In a statement, DOC Director Patricia A. Coyne-Fague made it clear that the department considers there to be no tolerance for such behavior, stressing that Toye’s actions stand to harm the “good work” of the people at facilities and that his punishment will be “severe.” Punishment has not yet been meted out to another guard accused of having sex with seven prisoners at the Gloria MacDonald Women’s Facility, Collins Umoh, since his arrest in May 2019. However, Umoh was reportedly driving for Lyft the summer after his arrest.
South Africa: News 24, a news outlet in South Africa, reported that a prisoner in Johannesburg stabbed three guards on the morning of February 10, 2022. The prisoner, who was not named, was being held at Johannesburg Prison when he assaulted the guards, who were also not identified. According to an announcement by Singabakho Nxumalo, a spokesperson for the Department of Correctional Services, the prisoner was disarmed with “minimum force” and is expected to be charged. The three guards were taken to a hospital and discharged later that day.
Tennessee: Two prisoners who escaped the Sullivan County Jail in Blountsville, Tennessee, on February 4, 2022, were killed three days later in a car chase trying to outrun police in North Carolina. The Independent reported that Tobias Wayne Carr, 38, and Allen Sarver, 45, escaped the jail through an air vent along with a third prisoner, Johnny Shane Brown, 50. Carr was being held on charges of murdering his wife in 2019; Sarver was accused of illegally carrying a weapon, car theft, identity theft, and possessing drug paraphernalia; and Brown was charged with harassment, breaking protection orders, aggravated stalking and domestic assault, among other crimes. Their escape prompted an emergency bulletin and a manhunt. The trio ended up 300 miles away tin Wilmington, where they allegedly robbed a convenience store. Carr and Sarver reportedly stole the clerk’s car before leading police on a chase that ended when the vehicle was “disabled,” an incident neither man survived. Brown escaped and was captured in Wilmington on February 9, 2022, driving a white pickup that police believed the trio originally used to escape Tennessee.
West Virginia: Starting on February 1, 2022, state Natural Resources Police (NRP) in West Virginia began working at state prisons to offset staff shortages. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the prison system had a vacancy rate as high as 25%, and that number has only gotten worse as the virus has torn through the rural state, where just 56.2% of the population was fully vaccinated at the time. In response, Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced that he was pushing for guard pay raises to help solve the staffing problem. The state announced in late January 2022 that NRP would begin providing support for prison staff, filling jobs like perimeter security and manning guard towers. Some began a shortened training program on January 28, 2022.
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login