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News in Brief

Alabama: On June 3, 2022, a guard was arrested for having sex with a prisoner at Alabama’s Pickens County Jail, according to a report by WTVA in Tupelo, Mississippi. The guard, Marquita Booker, 28, was fired after her arrest, which followed an investigation that earlier in the week uncovered evidence she allegedly engaged in sexual activity with an unnamed jail prisoner. Booker, who had worked just four months for county Sheriff Todd Hall, was charged with 16 counts of custodial sexual abuse. Hall, who lost his re-election bid in the GOP primary on June 22, 2022, has faced mounting calls for removal since body-cam video surfaced in July 2021 of deputies fatally shooting Wallace Wilder in his home two years before. Those calls intensified after the December 2021 death of former NFL player Glen Foster, Jr. in the county jail. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) did nothing, but GOP voters gave Hall’s opponent, Jordan Powell, a narrow 59-vote win.

Alabama: The Dothan Eagle reported that a state prisoner was murdered at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility near Bessemer, Alabama, on June 15, 2022. The prisoner, Mitchell Cosby, 41, was fatally stabbed in an “inmate on inmate” assault, according to the state Department of Corrections (DOC). Cosby, who was serving a life sentence for a 2002 murder conviction, was evacuated by helicopter to a local hospital but died en route. His was the second death at the prison in just 12 hours, after that of an unnamed 68-year-old prisoner who succumbed to natural causes, DOC said. The Birmingham News reported a third death at the prison just five days later, when Matthew Wade Mork, 33, was found unresponsive in the infirmary, where he was being treated for a “significant natural disease,” DOC said. Mork, who was serving a life sentence for a 2010 conviction for child sex abuse, died on June 20, 2022, six days before prisoners at the lockup set fire to a garbage pile they claimed was attracting rats, the Montgomery Advertiser reported. A pending lawsuit filed by the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) in December 2020 accuses DOC of permitting unconstitutional negligence and abuse by staff at state prisons. [See: PLN, April 2021, p.34.]

Alaska: KTVK in Salt Lake City reported that a Utah man imprisoned in Juneau was found unresponsive on July 14, 2021. The prisoner, Kenneth Manzanares, 43, was pronounced dead 40 minutes later at Lemon Creek Correctional Center. So far both COVID-19 and homicide have been ruled out as a cause of his death. Manzanares was serving a 30-year sentence for fatally beating his wife on an Alaskan cruise in 2017, while their small children listened outside the cabin door to their mother’s dying screams. He was awaiting transfer to custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at the time of his death, which is being investigated by state police and the medical examiner.

Arkansas: On May 4, 2022, a federal prisoner convicted of sending death threats to a U.S. judge in Memphis pleaded guilty to committing the same crime again, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas announced. The prisoner, Jeffrey Scott Williams, admitted to sending threatening messages through the mail, a criminal act he was apparently quite fond of. After he was convicted of mailing a death threat to a U.S. judge in Tennessee in March 2017—receiving a 10-year sentence for the crime—he went on to send out more death threats to more judges and an Assistant U.S. Attorney in May 2018, February 2019, and March 2020. He now faces up to 10 more years in prison.

Arkansas: CBS News reported that on June 22, 2022, a guard was shot and killed with his own gun by a detainee at the Perry County Detention Center in Perryville, Arkansas. The guard, Jeremiah Story, 21, was allegedly murdered by Roderick Lewis, 37, who had been booked into the jail on suspicion of drug-related offenses when Story took him to the bathroom to change into jail-issued clothing. That’s when the detainee allegedly wrestled Story’s gun from him and shot him with it. A third man on the scene, a jail trustee accompanying the other two, disarmed Lewis of the pistol, which other deputies later noticed had jammed, likely saving the life of the trustee. Lewis was secured in the jail’s drunk tank until he could be transferred to the Faulkner County Detention Center.

California: A California state prisoner in Sacramento who was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to life was accidentally released on June 9, 2022. The California Globe reported that the prisoner, Shaquile Lash, a gang-affiliate sentenced to life in 2013 for armed robbery and carjacking, was out of custody for 13 hours before being recaptured. Lash, who was 19 at the time he was convicted, was allegedly one of several state prisoners who took part in a scheme to defraud the state Employment Development Department of an estimated $2 million in COVID-19 relief in 2020-21. [See: PLN, July 2022, p.62.] He was supposed to be transferred to the Sacramento County Jail to face arraignment on those charges, but an apparent mix-up resulted instead in his release from the state prison in Solano, where he has now been returned. State prison spokesman Sgt. Rod Grassman emphasized that Lash committed no new crimes during his short-lived freedom.

California: KTVU in Oakland reported that a federal prison guard in Los Angeles pleaded guilty on May 24, 2022 to sexually assaulting a prisoner at BOP’s Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC). The guard, Jose Viera, 49, admitted to entering the cell of a female prisoner who was in COVID-19 isolation on December 20, 2020, getting into bed with her and “sandwiching her between his body and the wall” before forcing himself on her sexually. He also then lied about the assault during interviews with federal authorities. Viera was placed on supervised release until his sentencing, which was set for March 13, 2023. MDC-Los Angeles holds 676 detainees, most awaiting trial in federal court.

California: KTVU in Oakland reported on June 28, 2022, that three more prisoners have come forward with claims they faced sexual assault and harassment from guards at BOP’s Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Dublin. The three women join other prisoners alleging numerous instances of sexual assault and retaliation since 2019, which has so far resulted in charges for five prison employees, including its former warden. [See: PLN, May 2022, p. 28.] The three women accuse guards at the prison of forcing them to have sex with each other and making them expose their naked bodies for guards to see. One of the women who came forward said a guard regularly made sexual comments to her and her cellmate, ordering them to expose themselves and perform sex acts with each other. The two women, who were both new to the facility, said they went along for fear of retaliation.

Colombia: The Guardian reported on June 28, 2022, that 51 prisoners died during a riot overnight at a prison in Tuluá, Colombia. What began as a prisoner protest of lousy conditions devolved into mattress-burning, and the flames spread, resulting in the deaths of 49 prisoners, plus two more who died after being transported to a hospital. The Colombian prison system is struggling under significant overcrowding, holding about 97,000 prisoners in facilities built for just 81,000. Prisoners fed up with the overcrowding have now been protesting for years, and sometimes those protests turn violent. Outgoing President Iván Duque promised an investigation into the calamity at Tuluá, while his successor, Gustavo Petro, released a statement in support of prison reform, calling for “humanization of jail and dignity for the prisoner.”

Connecticut: A 97-year-old was released from a Connecticut prison in March 2022. WSHU in Westport reported that Francis Smith had served 72 years for the murder of a security guard at a Greenwich yacht club in 1949. His only taste of freedom in those decades were 12 days on the run after a 1967 escape from an Enfield prison farm before he was recaptured and a 1975 parole that was cut short after 10 months when he committed another offense. Shockingly, he may well have been innocent all these decades. There were two guns and two shooters involved in the murder for which Smith was convicted. Another man, George Lowden, also pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony against Smith. But Lowden, who was released in 1966, recanted his story on the witness stand, saying prosecutors forced him into it. Another witness also recanted her testimony against Smith. In 1953, Smith’s attorneys tracked down David Blumetti, then imprisoned in Alabama for a burglary spree, who confessed that he was Lowden’s accomplice in the murder. Even after that, Smith lost an appeal of his conviction in 1954, missing a date with execution that year by just hours before then-Gov. John D. Lodge (R) commuted his sentence. Connecticut governors do not have authority to parole prisoners. Smith was released to a nursing him in Rock Hill, where he will spend the rest of his life on supervised parole.

Florida: The Daily Commercial reported that a prisoner at FCI-Coleman in northern Florida was charged with first-degree murder on June 23, 2022, after he allegedly strangled his cellmate. The prisoner, Romeo Lopez-Hernandez, 37, was indicted by a federal grand jury after admitting to the murder to FBI interviewers, telling them he hid his cellmate’s body behind a bedsheet. The victim was not named. Guards found the man face down and unconscious in bed with a sheet wrapped around his neck and dark ligatures on his skin. A coroner confirmed the cause of death was strangulation. Lopez-Hernandez claimed that he committed the murder to “maintain respect from other inmates,” authorities noted. If convicted of the charges against him, he faces life in prison.

Georgia: On May 31, 2022, Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents announced the arrest of an elderly jail guard in Walker County who allegedly “had sex with a woman without her consent while on duty and in uniform,” according to the agency’s press release. The guard, Jerry Glover, 81, reportedly went to the home of the unnamed victim while he was on duty on May 11, 2022, raping her before returning to work, according to Sheriff Steve Wilson. Glover apparently knew the woman from the county court, where he was assigned as a court officer to guard detainees making appearances from the county jail.  He is charged with rape, false imprisonment, and violation of his oath of office. He has worked for the county Sheriff’s Office off and on over four decades, as well as with the Atlanta Police Department. He was released on a $100,000 bond on June 8, 2022, after his attorney, Jad Johnson, argued that the guard’s age and his “heavily” mortgaged 38-acre Rock Springs ranch meant he was not a flight risk in “any shape, form, or fashion,” the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

Indiana: The Star Press reported that a guard at the Delaware County Jail in Muncie was fired and arrested after he allegedly fired a pepper ball launcher into a cellblock from a control room March 31, 2022, injuring several prisoners. The former guard, Matthew J. Lloyd, 21, was charged on May 13, 2022, with battery resulting in bodily injury and criminal recklessness. A supervisor said the weapon is reserved for situations in which guards face active aggression, which Lloyd was not facing. However, other guards reported that Lloyd was not the first to use the launcher on prisoners just for being slow to lock down for the night. State police also found that Lloyd lacked training in use of the weapon. He faces a potential year in prison for battery and 180 days for criminal recklessness.

Kentucky: A former BOP guard in Lexington was sentenced to 135 months in prison on June 10, 2022, for sexual abuse of prisoners and violating their rights. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky reported that Christopher Brian Goodwin, 46, a former guard at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, was sentenced on three counts of sexual abuse and deprivation of rights, after pleading guilty in March 2022 to sexually abusing four prisoners between April and September 2019. According to his plea, he grabbed one victim when she was leaving an office and assaulted her near a door so that he could keep an eye on the hallway through the door’s window. He also admitted groping the other three on their breasts, buttocks and groins, as well as engaging in oral sex with them. He will be released to five years of supervised probation after completing his sentence, when he will be subject to Kentucky sex-offender registration requirements.

Louisiana: The Advocate reported that a state prison guard at Louisiana’s Elayn Hunt Correctional Center was arrested and suspended on June 14, 2022, for making phony log entries to cover up the fact that she wasn’t completing her required rounds when a prisoner committed suicide 12 days earlier. The guard, Master Sgt. Samantha Joubert, 28, was charged with falsifying public documents and malfeasance in office. She began work at the prison in April 2018. Her arrest followed that of Warden Kirt Guerin two weeks earlier, after he wrecked his state-issued vehicle on May 31, 2022, and responding police charged him with driving under the influence of “prescribed pain medication.” A shakedown in early December 2021 turned up a massive cache of contraband at the prison, including 60 shanks, 100 cellphones, drugs, and “gallons of beer.”

Maine: A detainee who had been taken from the Cumberland County Jail to the Maine Medical Center tried to escape custody through the ceiling on May 17, 2022, WCSH in Portland reported. The detainee, Lucas Raine, 25, was being discharged when he went to the bathroom and allegedly attempted to climb through the ceiling tiles, still wearing restraints. Guards intervened and returned him to the jail, where he was being held on charges of disorderly conduct and suspicion of drug-related crimes.

Massachusetts: Law & Crime reported that a former Bay State prison guard was indicted on June 16, 2022, for a 1988 murder that had been a cold case. The former guard, Marvin “Skip” C. McClendon Jr., 74, had since relocated to Alabama, where he was arrested. He is accused of murdering 11-year-old Melissa “Missy” Ann Tremblay, who was found dead on September 12, 1988, in the Boston and Maine Railway Yard in Lawrence. Her parents were in a club nearby the night Tremblay went off to play in the neighborhood and was killed. Witnesses recalled seeing a van in the vicinity, but the case eventually turned cold. Investigators were finally able to link McClendon to the crime using DNA evidence from Tremblay’s remains. The nature of that evidence was not made public. McClendon lived in the area at the time and owned a van that matched the description of the one spotted near the crime scene. No motive has been offered in the killing.

Montana: The academic testing program at CoreCivic’s Crossroads Correctional Center in Shelby, Montana, was “indefinitely suspended” on April 13, 2022, after it was discovered a test administrator was helping prisoners cheat. The tests under suspicion were high school equivalency exams, the Daily Montanan reported. The allegations resulted in the shuttering of the HiSET (GED) program at the prison, which is privately operated for the state DOC by Tennessee-based CoreCivic, the second-largest private prison operator in the U.S.  The state Office of Public Instruction was tipped off to the cheating by a former prisoner who reported he had witnessed test administrators changing prisoner answers, giving prisoners essay questions to study in advance, and generally cheating and plagiarizing. CoreCivic promised to cooperate in the DOC’s investigation while continuing to provide the education to prisoners so that tests can resume once the program is restarted at the prison, which holds 758 prisoners, all men.

Montana: The Great Falls Tribune reported that a prisoner who disemboweled himself died on May 23, 2022, at Montana State Prison. The prisoner, Shaun Duncan Morrison, 39, had a history of mental illness and self-harm before cutting into his own stomach on May 19, 2022, and setting off a four-day fight for his life that was ultimately lost. He was originally sent to prison after attacking a police officer, but he was then handed a life sentence for murdering another prisoner in 2011. During his time at the prison, Morrison had joined a class-action lawsuit challenging the mental health treatment provided to prisoners by the state DOC. Bernadette Franks-Ongoy, Executive Director of Disability Rights Montana (DRM), blamed prison authorities for his death, saying she believed it was preventable. DRM is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Morrison had attempted to take his life multiple times before succeeding. He was being held in the Secure Adjustment Unit for prisoners with histories of mental illness. Like the Restrictive Housing Unit, it holds prisoners in lockdown for 22 hours a day.

New York: A guard at the Attica Correctional Facility was suspended without pay on May 17, 2022, after posting an offensive meme to his Facebook (FB) account that made light of a mass shooting in Buffalo earlier in the month. Ten people died in that event and three others were injured, most of them Black. The alleged shooter, Payton Gendron, 18, left behind a racist online manifesto justifying the shooting. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that the guard, Gregory C. Foster II, was suspended for the meme, which included a photo of the supermarket where the mass murder occurred with a caption calling for “clean up on aisle 3, no wait aisle 4, also on 7, 9, 12 and 13.” To that Foster added a smiley face and his own message: “Too soon? This should weed out some FB friends.” The state Department of Corrections and Community Services (DOCCS) released a statement calling the post “despicable” and announced an internal criminal investigation as well as a referral of the matter to the state’s Civil Rights Task Force. Foster then retired from DOCCS in July 2022, according to WNBF-AM in Binghamton.

North Carolina: On March 29, 2022, a prisoner at North Carolina’s Bertie Correctional Institution in Windsor was murdered by a group of fellow prisoners. The dead man, Semaj Short, 24, was serving time for the murder of a toddler, Black Enterprise reported. Prison medical staff attempted to resuscitate Short but were unable to save him. Three other prisoners also injured in the fight were taken to a medical facility with non-life-threatening injuries. The incident is under investigation. Short was serving 31-years after admitting guilt on April 3, 2017, for the murder of Dy’Unanna Anderson, 2. Short was 17 when he shot into the window of the child’s home at her mother, apparently in a convoluted attempt at retaliation for the murder of a 15-year-old acquaintance who had been shot by the woman’s brother. The woman survived. Her child did not. The woman’s mother—Anderson’s grandmother—was also shot and survived.

North Carolina: A prisoner who escaped from the custody of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS) was recaptured a day later on May 17, 2022. WTVD in Durham reported that Tyrell Dickey managed to evade capture for most of the night after leaving the Orange County Correctional Center, where he was being held for DPS, at around 11:00 p.m. He was caught just before 7:00 a.m. the next morning in Rutherford County near Lake Lure. Dickey, who is serving a seven-year sentence for felony breaking and entering in Rutherford County, was scheduled for release in September 2024. He now faces an additional charge of felony escape.

Ohio: WDTN in Dayton reported that on the morning of June 1, 2022, a Montgomery County jail detainee fatally shot a guard and then killed himself at Miami Valley Hospital. The detainee, Brian Booth, 30, was being treated in an emergency room at the hospital. He had been picked up for an alleged parole violation stemming from a 2015 conviction. He was at the ER for detox treatment when he managed to wrestle the gun away from guard Darrell Holderman, 78. Booth ended the fight by shooting Holderman in the back of the neck, before escaping the hospital and threatening to shoot bystanders. When he reached the parking lot, he shot and killed himself. Holderman was employed by Merchants, a security company with a longstanding relationship with the office of county Sheriff Rob Streck, who insisted there hadn’t before been a shooting like the one at the hospital. He also claimed that there was little in Booth’s history to warn of what he did. An investigation was opened into the incident, including why the prisoner was not handcuffed.

Ohio: The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that three prison guards at the Cuyahoga County Jail were fired in June 2022 for allegedly stealing snacks from the commissary for themselves and prisoners. The dismissals resulted from an investigation launched in January 2022 in response to accusations that guards were stealing food and giving it to prisoners. Guards Voyice Clark and Louis Colon were both fired on June 10, 2022, and fellow guard Denise Sims was fired on June 17, 2022. Sims, a 26-year veteran of the county corrections department, was reportedly caught on camera taking food for herself before admitting she also gave some to people incarcerated at the jail. But she maintained that she took only damaged items and received permission from the warden before to giving them to prisoners. Clark and Colon were also accused of providing “goodie bags” to prisoners. The guards’ union, the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, filed grievances on their behalf. An attorney with the union insisted the guard’s actions were “common practice.”

Paraguay: A Paraguayan gangster walked right out of a prison in Asunción on May 30, 2022, while dressed in women’s clothes. César Ortiz, also known as “Gordito Lindo,” escaped Tacumbú National Penitentiary after a visit from an unnamed woman, whom authorities believe then handed off the disguise to him in a private part of the prison, Vice reported. Ortiz was caught on surveillance video leaving the facility after passing multiple checkpoints wearing a blue skirt, nail polish, and a face mask. He was recaptured a few blocks away, along with four co-conspirators who reportedly planned to take him to a safe house. Ortiz is allegedly a high-ranking member of the Rotela Clan, Paraguay’s largest and most powerful criminal gang, which moves crack cocaine around the country, controlling multiple prisons and fending off a rival Brazilian drug cartel, First Capital Command. Ortiz was also one of 11 prisoners charged in a February 2021 riot during which seven other prisoners were beheaded. After his arrest, he was moved to the Emboscada prison, about an hour away. But his pregnant girlfriend has publicly claimed he might be killed there and called for him to be moved again to a different prison.

Pennsylvania: WJAC in Johnstown reported that after two detainees escaped the Clearfield County Jail on May 31, 2022, both were recaptured the following month. Donald White, 46, and Robert Miller, 42, were outside the jail on a detail mowing the grass when they stripped off their jail-issued clothing and fled in their underwear. White, who was being held on charges including kidnapping and making terroristic threats, had agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a four-month sentence, with credit for three months he’d already served. He was recaptured on June 17, 2022. Miller was being held on a charge of receiving stolen property, as well as drug-related crimes. He was nabbed on June 27, 2022. By then, mass call-outs by guards had forced the jail into lockdown. The county Prison Board met and responded with reforms restricting the ability of pre-trial detainees to leave the building. Warden David Kessling opened an investigation into the call-outs and also promised to review the vetting of detainees for groundskeeping detail. He said he’d instituted the requirement that those performing outside maintenance must wear jail clothing because they had been allowed to wear street clothes prior to his arrival two years earlier. That they might take off their clothes and run away in their underwear had not occurred to him, he said.

Tennessee: After a contract food service worker at a Tennessee prison was assaulted by a prisoner on May 27, 2022, other prisoners rushed to beat up her attacker, WJHL in Johnson City reported. Ginger Gross, who has worked for five years in the cafeteria at Northeast Correctional Complex for its private food service contractor Aramark, blamed a shortage of guards for the attack by the prisoner, whose name has not been released by the state DOC pending results of an investigation. Gross said she fought the man for four and a half minutes before she managed to escape and alert other prisoners working in the kitchen, who then turned on her attacker and beat him. The prison’s guard problems are not new. Former guard Shannon Clark was convicted in June 2021 of misconduct in office after she was found guilty of giving a prisoner a cellphone. DOC Commissioner Tony Parker said her conviction shows the department will not tolerate misconduct by employees. Despite a boost in starting guard pay to $44,500 in 2022, the prison remains short-staffed, with 37% of 387 guard positions still vacant at the end of February 2022.

Virginia: On June 17, 2022, four prisoners escaped a federal prison satellite camp in Virginia, NPR reported. Corey Branch, 41, Kareem Allen Shaw, 46, Tavares Lajuane Graham, 44, and Lamonte Rashawn Willis, 30, slipped away from the camp in Hopewell, which is near the Federal Correctional Complex in Petersburg, around 10 p.m., but they weren’t missed until nearly four hours later. Graham then returned to the camp and surrendered on the morning of June 19, 2022. Shaw and Branch surrendered on June 21, 2022. Willis eventually surrendered at the Petersburg medium security facility on June 22, 2022. An investigation into the escape was launched. The camp from which the men escaped is a minimum-security facility. Graham, Branch, and Shaw were all serving time for convictions on drug charges. Willis was being held on fire-arm possession charges. Minimum security facilities such as the one in Hopewell provide prisoner labor for the nearby main BOP facilities, and they consist of prisoner dormitories with little to no perimeter fencing, officials noted. 

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