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News in Brief

 

Alabama:The Birmingham News reported that a jail guard in Mobile was arrested on May 17, 2022, for smuggling adult movies intoMobile County Metro Jail. The guard, Fredrick Johnson, 37, was charged with 21 counts of promoting contraband that included a camera, phone chargers, and flash drives, as well as a selection of movies featuring several adult films. He was discovered when reporting for duty and jail authorities performed a random bag check. Investigators believe Johnson, who has been a guard at the jail since 2019, was sneaking the contraband into the lockup to sell to prisoners and detainees.

Alabama:On May 10, 2022, two state prison guards in Birmingham were arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death a prisoner. The nonprofit Equal Justice Initiativereported that the guards, John Rodgers and Latasha Terrell, were accused of killing prisoner Jason Kirkland, a mentally ill man serving 15 years for nonviolent offenses at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility. Kirklandwasthe third prisoner to die in the segregation unit at the prison in 18 months. The state Department of Corrections (DOC) earlier reported the deaths of prisoners Tommy Rutledge and Victor Russo in the facility’s segregated housing unit on December 7, 2020, and February 23, 2022, respectively.Both deaths were attributed in part to neglect and use of excessive force by guards. Kirkland died on July 5, 2021, the first of no fewer than seven prisoner deaths in 39 days, according to WKRG in Mobile. 

Alaska:On May 2, 2022, a Nazi prison gang leader named Filthy Fuhrer was convicted of a murder in Anchorage,NBC News reported. Five men associated with the 1488 gang were convicted of brutally maiming and murdering fellow member Michael Staton on August 3, 2017, cutting his gang tattoo off his ribs with a hot knife before shooting and burning him. One of the five was Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club member Craig King, who conspired in the killing with 1488 members Roy Naughton, Glen Baldwin, and Colter O’Dell. Their leader, 45-year-old Fuhrer (who changed his legal name from Timothy Lobdell) is a state prisoner who sent out members he trusted to find and kill other members he thought were underperforming gang duties. Two other members, Nicholas Kozorra and Dustin Clowers, previously pleaded guilty in the murder. Thefivenewly convicted men face sentencing in October 2022 for kidnapping, assault, racketeering, and murder.

California:A former federal prison guard pleaded guilty in federal court in Los Angeles on May 14, 2022, to sexually assaulting a female prisoner, theAssociated Pressreported. The guard, Jose Viera, 49, admitted to getting into bed and assaulting the Metropolitan Detention Center prisoner while she was in isolation recovering from COVID-19, leaving his ejaculate on theprisoner’sbedsheets, where it was later found, analyzed and traced to him. Court documents also indicate that Viera lied about what happened when he was interviewed by the FBI. He faces a maximum potential sentence of 10 years.

California:The New York Timesreported that in May 2022, 13 people including state prisoners and a California prison guard were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and bank fraud. The alleged ringleader of the operation, Natalie LeDeMola, 37, is serving a life sentence at the California Institute for Women for the murder of her mother in 2001. The unnamed guard allegedly accessed the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation database to steal identifying information and social security numbers of others, including other prisoners, to make false applications between June 2020 and April 2021 for pandemic relief aid.The scheme amassed a total of at least $2 million, according to the indictment, which included 31 counts of bank fraud, each with a 30-year maximum sentence, and seven counts of aggravated identity theft, with mandatory two-year sentences.

California:KTLA in Los Angeles reported thatan Orange County jail guardwas chargedwithassaulting a prisonerwithscaldingwater on December 14, 2021. The guard, Guadalupe Ortiz, 47,isaccused of assaulting a mentally ill detainee atthe Sheriff’s Intake Release Center in Santa Ana on April 1, 2021. When the man refused to pull his hands out of a hatch in his cell door, Ortizallegedlyresponded by a pouring a cup of scalding water on them.After closing the hatch, guards didn’t check on the man for more than six hours, by which time his hands were “red and peeling” with injuries later diagnosed as first- and second-degree burns. Ortizwas fired onDecember10, 2021,andchargedfour days laterwithonecount each of assault or battery by a public officer and battery with serious bodily injury.He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

California: In response to a widening sex abuse scandal at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Dublin, 25 prison guards were reassigned to other Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities around the country, KTVU in Oakland reported. Five officials at the women’s prison, including former Warden Ray Garcia, have been accused of having sex with prisoners. The guards all received letters of reassignment on May 17, 2022, sending some as far as Miami under threat of “administrative action up to and including removal.” A regional official with the prison guard’s union called that unhelpful, saying it instead only furthered the problem exposed by the scandal, since some of those reassigned were at fault and were only taking the same issues to other BOP facilities.

Colorado:A guardat the Denver Downtown Detention Facility was fired on April 19, 2022, after an investigation found that two prisoners he was supposed to be watching smuggled drugs into the facility inside orders of burritos and Chinese food from Uber Eats orGrubhub.Corrections Onereported that the guard, Derreck Peterson, was allegedly not aware of the smuggling. But he violated jail policy when he allowed the prisoners to order the food in the first place. Peterson claimed that he merely wanted to reward the prisoners, one of whom was accused of murder, for helping to clean the housing pod. It later came out that Peterson had spoken with a relative of one of the prisoners about working for a business he owned. The guard insisted he was trying to show humanity to the prisoners and that he was tired and not in the right state of mind when he allowed them to order food twice.The drugs hidden inside the deliveries were suspected in the attempted suicide of another prisoner, who survived.

District of Columbia:WTOP news radio reported that three prisoners overdosed in mid-May 2022 at the D.C. Jail. Ramone O’Neal, 28, was found unresponsive on May 13, 2022, and Sean Lee, 37, was found on May 15, 2022, also unresponsive. Both died from fatal overdoses. Lee’s cellmate was alsofound unresponsive, but he was successfully revived with NARCAN before being rushed to a hospital. The incidents prompted responses from local officials, including Ward 8 City Council Member Tryon White(D), who visited the jail to get information on how so many overdoses happened in such a short time. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), who faces a challenge from White for the Democratic nomination in this year’s Mayoral election, announced an investigation.

Florida:The Free Pressreported thata state prison guard was sentenced in May 2022 to a 30-month prison term for attempting to smuggle drugs into Charlotte Correctional Institution’s offsite workcamp in Fort Myers. The guard, Leslie Spencer, 49, pleaded guilty on September 21, 2021, to a charge of attempting to possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances at the prison. He was caught by a confidential FBI informant, for whom Spencer agreed to smuggle methamphetamine, MDMA, and two cellphones into the facility. He then met with an FBI agent posing as a supplier, who gave him fake drugs. He was subsequently arrested by federal agents in a nearby shopping center parking lot.

Florida:Four state prison guards in Miami have been charged with murdering an elderly, mentally ill prisoner, theMiami Heraldreported. The prisoner, Ronald Gene Ingram, 60, was found dead in the back of a DOC van on February 14, 2022. Guards had gone to retrieve Ingram for the transfer when he reportedly threw urine on them, after which they allegedly beat him and left him in the van. He diedenroute to Ocala, 345 miles away, where the van stopped, and his corpse was discovered. Ingram had been serving a life sentence fora1986 murderin Hillsborough County and held in a single-occupancy cell in the mental health unit of Dade Correctional Institution. Jeremy Godbolt, 28, was the last of the four arrested on April29, 2022, a day after Ronald Connor, 24, Kirk Walton, 34, and ChristopherRolon, 29. All now face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated abuse of an elderly or disabled person, conspiracy to commit second-degree murder, and cruel treatment of a detainee.

France:On March 2, 2022, a Corsican nationalist serving a life sentence on the French mainland was beaten and suffocated by another prisoner, theBBCreported. Yvan Colonna, 61, was serving time for the assassination of Corsican prefect ClaudeErignacin 1998, when he was attacked by another prisoner, former Cameroonian jihadist FranckElongAbé, 35. For eight full minutes, Abé beat Colonna and tried to suffocate him with a trash bag. After the assault, Colonna slipped into a coma and died. His death sparked outrage in Corsica, where many saw Colonna as a hero of their independence movement. Some had been petitioning for Colonna to be moved to a prison on the island, while others wanted him fully released. Riots broke out in some places, with protestors shouting for independence and callingAbéan assassin for the French government. The civil unrest left 67 injured, including 44 police officers in just one city, but it resulted in what some see as a softening on the French government’s hard line against Corsican independence, with French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin vowing during a visit to hold negotiations on some form of autonomous government for the island.

Georgia:Georgia Law Newsreported that a contract medical assistant with the Fulton County Jail went on the run after she was caught attempting to smuggle narcotics into the facility. The doctor,TreQueraLashell Ford, 24, allegedly smelled like marijuana when she arrived at the jail on May 14, 2022. The stench caught the nose of guard, who askedabout it. Instead of playing it off, Ford made a run for it, leaving her personal effects behind. When prison authorities searched them, they found controlled substances including marijuana, crackcocaine, cigarettes, and chewing tobacco—which is banned at the jail—as well as personal medical information. Ford was subsequently arrested in Mississippi on June 17, 2022, for possessing marijuana and cocaine with intent to distribute, fleeing a police officer, and obstructing a law enforcement officer.

Guam:Guam Daily Postreported that a prison warden was put onpaidleaveonMay9,2022, for allegedly sexually harassing a female guard.The warden, Alan Borja, a U.S. Navy reservist and 30-year DOC veteran, was accused of harassing the unidentified prison guard, who was also reassigned. An investigation was opened, with aid from the Guam Police Department’s Internal Affairs section.

Illinois:As of May 11, 2022, a second Illinois jail was receiving an in-person facility for incarcerated voters.WFLD in Chicagoreported that Will County Detention Facility in Joliet will now have equipment to allow detainees to participate in in-person polling for primary and general elections. The only other facility in the state to have this nationally rare serviceis Cook County Jail in Chicago. Illinois is one of only a handful of states to allow polling places at detention facilities, along with Washington, DC, and Los Angeles. Voting rights activists encourage a broader expansion of access for people held pre-trial in jails, who have not been convicted and somaintain their right to vote.Butmanyfacemassive obstacles to exercising the right while behind bars. Making jail facilities polling places is one way to ease those obstacles.

Indiana:A now-former guard at the Marion County Jail was sentenced to 18-months in federal prison on May 13, 2022, after pleading guilty to using excessive force against a detainee. The Indianapolis Starreported that guard Jorge AlbertoMateos, 26, assaulted the unidentified detainee on September 9, 2021, after issuing an order for the detainee to take off his shoes and the man allegedly kicked them off before taking a seat in his cell.Mateos then entered the cell and hit the man in the face repeatedly, continuing to throw punches even after other guards separated them and placed the detainee in handcuffs. When interviewed about the incident, the guard lied that he didn’t throw the first punch and then lied again that he didn’t return to beat the detainee some more after the man was restrained in handcuffs.

Kansas:Federal prosecutors are seeking as much as 37 months in prison for a former guard at a CoreCivic-operated federal prison inLeavenworth, theKansas City Starreported. As of May 10, 2022,Cheyonte Harris, 29,was facing more than three years in prison after pleading guilty that Februarytosmuggling contraband into Leavenworth Detention Center in exchange for bribes. Harris at first lied to federal investigators, telling them that she did not have CashApp, even changing her account in an attempt to hide $8,565 in bribes she received there. She ultimately admitted to smugglinga number of prohibited items into the prison between January 2020 and June 2021, including tobacco. Her case was investigated by the FBI, and federal prosecutors said they are looking to make an example of her for other guards at facilities maintained by or for BOP. The past seven months have seen sixCoreCivicguards at the facility face federal misconduct charges.[See:PLN,April 2022, p.62.]

Kentucky:An employee at the Louisville Metro Detention Center was arrested on May 6, 2022, when she was charged with smuggling 60 prescription pills to distribute to prisoners. Marissa Brown, a contract food services employee also known as Carlotta Phillips, was charged with promoting contraband in the second-degree, possession of a controlled substance in the first-degree, and prescription not in a proper container, WAVE reported. After Brown was arrested, a search of the food services area turned up suspected fentanyl, for which detainee Carlos Spain was then charged with trafficking in a controlled substance in the first degree, promoting contraband in the first degree, and tampering with physical evidence.

Louisiana:The West Side Journalreported that a state prison guard in Baton Rouge was arrested onOctober 8, 2021, when he wasaccused of unnecessarily pepper-spraying a prisoner. The guard, Juan Harris, 49, was charged with aggravated battery for the assault, which allegedly took place in August 2021 at theElaynHunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel. Harris had been employed there since 2011. Once the allegations reached prison authorities, he was investigated by the Iberville Sheriff’s Office, during which period he was placed on paid leave.

Michigan: On March 24, 2022, as the winter snow thawed in a Michigan ditch, the body of a dog was found.The Washington Postreported that the dog’s legs were bound and its muzzle duct-taped closed. It had been shot in the head three times. The dog’s owner, Genesee County Jail guard Jacob Wilkinson, was accused of the murder. The county Sheriff explained in a statement that investigatorsbelieve Wilkinson killed his pet in September or October 2021, after the pit bull mix nipped at him when Wilkinson cut its nails too close. He had adopted the dog, Habs, not long before, afterit failed service animal training to work with veterans at Saginaw Correctional Facility, a state prison where Wilkinson used to work. He was charged with second-degree torturing and killing of an animal, and he faces up to seven years in prison.

Michigan:WTVB in Coldwater reported that more than 600 state prisoners incarcerated at Lakeland Correctional Facility were transferred after mold was found in the facility in the spring of 2022. Officials assured the public that there was no evidence it was black mold and that the amount that had been found was not immediately harmful to the prisoners. The ventilation system also was separate from the part of the attic where the mold was found. However, the sheer amount of mold prompted them to be cautious and move prisoners to other facilities while repairs were carried out. Officials also clarified that concerns over water at the facility were totally separate from those of mold. The plan, as of May 3, 2022, was to move all prisoners back once the repairs were completed.

Missouri: KSDK in St. Louis reported that a city jail guard and a prisoner were charged in connection with drug overdoses at the Medium Security Institution (MSI), one of the city’s jails.The guard,JoeishaCofer, and the prisoner, Anthony Chatman, were charged with smuggling fentanyl into MSI, where two non-fatal overdoses occurred on November 18,2021. The two were caught when investigators found text messages between them showing Coferhad delivered fentanylon October 23, 2021 to Chatman, who was being held on charges stemming from a shooting on May 18, 2021. Jail surveillance video also captured Cofermeeting with someone in a car in the parking lot. From there she took things inside the jail and into Chatman’s cell, where 33 fentanyl pills were then found.Coferwas ordered held without bail.

New York: A BOP guard was indicted in federal court in Manhattan on March 18, 2022, when he was charged with smuggling a loaded .22 caliber gun into the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC). The guard, Greg McKinzie, 35, joins 11 other current and former MCC employees and prisoners charged with smuggling contraband at the facility, where billionaire accused sex trafficking pedophile Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide in August 2019. One employee allegedly even threatened a prisoner to keep him from cooperating with investigators.When interviewed by the FBI on November 4, 2021, McKenzie denied knowledge of the weapon, which had been recovered from a prisoner’s cell. But investigators then traced a “burner” cellphone to him that was used to contact the prisoner. The contraband smuggling scheme was allegedly carried out between October 2019 and January 2021, with two other BOP employees, Perry Joyner and Sharon Griffith-McKnight, who is accused of receiving bribes totaling tens of thousands of dollars. All three face charges of introducing contraband and obstruction of justice for lying to investigators. See: U.S.A. v. McKenzie, USDC (S.D.N.Y.), Case No. 22-cr-00166; andU.S.A. v. Joyner, USDC (S.D.N.Y.), Case No. 21-cr-00673.

Nigeria:Three prisoners in Delta State escaped theAgborCustodial Center on May 7, 2022, after heavy rains collapsed a wall surrounding the prison.All Africareported thatpolice were deployed to track down the escaped prisoners and prevent others from attempting to escape. However, a spokesperson for the Nigerian Correctional Service denied that any prisoners had escaped after the collapse, which he said happened to a “fence” and not a “wall.”Premium Timesthen published pictures of the collapsed wall, with prison officials standing atop and studying it.

Oregon: On May 14, 2022, a federal prisoner who escaped from FCI-Sheridan was recaptured in Carson City, Nevada.The Columbian reported that the prisoner, Andrew CainKristovich, 38, was found living in a tent545 miles awayfrom theprison in Oregon he escaped on April 25, 2022, where he was serving time on a weapons conviction and another for conspiracy to distribute fake oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl. He apparently managed to escape by crawling under a fence before being picked up by his ex-girlfriend, who reported to authorities that he called her for ride from the prison, saying he’d been released, then sexually and physically attacked her before taking off in her car. That vehicle was found abandoned two days later in a parking lot in Edmunds, Washington. When authorities caught up with Kristovich 18 days later, they found him with a semi-automatic gun. He was indicted in federal court on May 27, 2022, on one count of escaping custody.

Pennsylvania: On April 1, 2022, the Warden of the Northumberland County Jail retired, leaving behind a prison only about half-staffed. That staffing shortage resulted in a declared state of emergency for the facility in March 2022,The Daily Itemreported. The retiring Warden, Bruce Kovach, was succeeded byacting Warden JimSmink, who days later submitted a letter to announce his retirement as well. Soon after, on May 2, 2022, Smink’sacting Deputy Warden, David McCoy, allegedly put a gun to a woman’s head and was soon reported missing.The next day Locust Township police visited McCoy’s house to investigate his disappearance and found him with a loaded .22 semi-automatic pistol. He was allegedly uncooperative and had to be restrained so that his weapon could be disarmed. He was subsequently arrested on charges of endangering the welfare of another and making terroristic threats.

Pennsylvania:A prisoner at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill was found dead in his cell on May 4, 2022, according to the Cumberland Daily Voice. An investigation and autopsy determined that the prisoner, Joel Vanderpool, 39, died from “injuries sustained during a physical altercation with another inmate,” state police said. The father of three was serving a six-year sentence on drugs charges. His death was ruled a homicide, but no suspect has been named.

Russia:In the spring of 2022, the supposed oldest standing prison in the country was discovered by investigators to be a crypto-mining farm.Watcher Newsreported that the Moscow prison calledButyrka, said to have been built in 1771, had been fitted with hardware to “mine” crypto currency, a term used to describe generation of more units of the digital currency. A mining operation sees more crypto created, and itstransactions verified. TheButyrkaoperation was a secret one not approved by Russian authorities, who were nonetheless paying for massive amounts of electricity it consumed. An investigation indicated that officials at the prison, including some high up the chain of command, had installed the technology in November 2021 and had run the operation through February 2022, costing the government the equivalent of about $1,000 USD per day. The Deputy Warden was put under investigation.

South Carolina:As of May 10, 2022, a former BOP guard at FCI in Edgefieldwas set to plead guilty to his role in a cigarette smuggling scheme at the facility that ran for five months in 2021. The Index-Journalreported that in exchange for his plea, prosecutors would not seek any prison time for the former guard, Phillip Orlando Coleman, so long as he abided by a promise to repay $49,051.66 plus a $52,500 forfeiture judgment. Also included in the agreement was a condition that he give up two AR-15 rifles.

South Carolina:A state prisoner was attacked and stabbed by fellow prisoners at McCormick CI on May 24, 2022.The Statereported that the prisoner, Eric Lamont Washington, 45, died of his injuries at a hospital soon after. The attack took place at the entrance to a living area at the prison, where Washington had been serving a 25-year sentence for armed robbery after a 2001 arrest. He had also been convicted of criminal sexual conduct with minors in 1995. He was not the first prisoner at the facility to be killed, however. Since late 2020 at least two other prisoners were killed by other prisoners, including Garret Lamont Lyles, Jr., 31, who was fatally stabbed in June 2021, and Deshawn Livaughn Simmons, who was also fatally stabbed in December 2020. Two of his fellow prisoners, Jonathan Sentel Dominick, 35, and Darius Rasean Ransom, 31, have been charged with Simmons’ murder, according to the Island Packet.

Tennessee:On May 2, 2022, Gov. Bill Lee (R) announced the suspension of all state executions for a review of lethal injections.USA Todayreported that Lee had granted a reprieve to a condemned prisoner in April 2022 for an oversight in the lethal injection procedure. In his press release announcing the decision, Lee clarified that he supports the death penalty for “heinous”crimes and explained that he reviews every state execution. Because he takes the matter seriously, he said, he wants tomakesure that the procedures are carried out correctly.The issue was reportedly that the chemicals used in lethal injections had not been tested for endotoxins. The independent review will be carried out by former U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton.

Tennessee:The Tennesseanreported that a state prison guard in Nashville wasarrested on multiple charges of exploitation of a minor for possession of child pornographyon May 3, 2022.Michael Vernon White, 54, a guard at a local special needs prison who was originally hired inJune2012, was caught by his Internet service provider uploading the criminal images and videos between late February and mid-March 2022. The provider subsequently reported the activity and White was arrested.A DOC spokesperson indicated that disciplinary action was pending.

Tennessee:A Maury County jail guard was chargedin May 2022 with falsifying records after he allegedly did not properly reportsexual contact with a prisoner.WTVF in Nashvillereported that the guard, James Stewart Thomas, 31, was accused of obstructing an investigation. In an official report, Thomas claimed a female prisoner had made sexual advances on him at a hospital while she was in his custody and that he reported the incident to two of his supervisors at the jail. He also claimed they then instructed him not towrite about the sexual advances. Investigators claim that the report was false, that he never reported the incident to his supervisors, and they never told him to keep the incident secret. He also is accused of continuing a sexual relationship with the prisoner after her release. He faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

United Kingdom:The Guardian reported that £11 million was made by a private prison company in the sameyear that inspectors declared the firm’s prison “inadequate.” Those inadequacies affected the safety of up to 87 youths held at the facility,Rainsbrook Secure TrainingCentre (RSTC)in Warwickshire. RSTC is owned by Management & Training Corp., aU.S.-based company which was awardedcontracts worth millions of pounds by the U.K. Ministry of Justice. During the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the young prisonerswere held in solitary confinement up to 23 hours a day, and when inspectorstook a lookinside, they raised concerns about safety, especially low staffing levels,weapons being carried around, and some staff and children warning of potential prisoner deaths.Despite this, the firm’s profits rose in 2020 from £1 million to £11 million. The last 33 youths were removed from the facility in June 2021, after which Prisons Minister Victoria Atkins admitted an “enormous amount of public money” had been spent “for nothing in return.” 

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