Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

News in Brief

Alabama: In Mobile on January 21, 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama announced that an 18-month federal prison sentence for bribery had been handed down by a federal court to Lakerdra Shanta Snowden, 31, a former guard at the Escambia County Detention Center (ECDC) in Brewton. She pleaded guilty on July 20, 2021, to accepting $5,000 in bribes to smuggle contraband—including cash, cell phones and K2 “spice” paper—to an unnamed federal detainee being held at the jail. She has since been fired. She was also ordered to serve two years of post-release supervision and pay $100 in special assessments.

Arkansas: A jail guard in Parkin, about 35 miles outside of Memphis, Tennessee, was accused in mid-October 2021 of driving prisoners to buy beer. According to WREG in Memphis the guard, Darnell Crowder, 49, drove to the Cross County Detention Center to take two prisoners for a court hearing. After the hearing, Crowder is said to have taken them to a house so they could pick up money and after that to a nearby gas station, where he allowed them to buy alcohol and cigarettes. They were caught on camera walking around the store still in handcuffs and orange jail jumpsuits. Crowder now faces felony charges of impairing the operations of a public facility and furnishing prohibited articles. Sheriff David West said that he is attempting to have Crowder decertified from law enforcement.

California: According to KTLA in Los Angeles, a prisoner at San Quentin State Prison was granted clemency on January 13, 2022. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) commuted the sentence of the prisoner, Rahsaan “New York” Thomas, 51, who is best known for producing the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Podcast “Ear Hustle” from inside prison. Newsom’s move will allow Thomas to go before a parole board to decide whether or not he will be released. That board has previously recommended a clemency grant. Thomas was sentenced to more than 55 years on a second-degree murder conviction in 2000 for a fatal shooting during drug deal. He is the chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists at San Quentin and a regular contributor to publications both in the prison and outside of it. Newsom said he based his decision on Thomas’s dedication to rehabilitation. Newsom’s predecessor, former Gov. Jerry Brown (D), commuted the sentence of Thomas’ “Ear Hustle” co-host, Earlonne Woods, in 2018.

California: According to KSWB in San Diego, a former county Sheriff’s deputy pled guilty to manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a detainee making an escape. The plea came on January 7, 2022, from the former officer, Aaron Russell, 25, who admitted shooting Nicholas Bils in the back as the 36-year-old fled from Russell’s patrol car on May 1, 2020. Bils, who was unarmed, was being taken to a detention center when he tried to escape. According to prosecutors, another officer attempted to stop a truck in front of Bils and subdue him, but Bils shoved the truck door on the officer’s leg. Russell, the only officer to draw a firearm, then shot Bils four times. A manslaughter conviction in the state typically carries a term of three, six or 11 years. Russell was sentenced to one-year prison term on February 7, 2022.

California: In early January 2022, a detainee at the Butte County Jail in Oroville was charged with smuggling fentanyl into the lockup. According to US News, Eric Robert Rehse, 35, had hidden the illicit substances in his “anal cavity” when he turned himself in for an outstanding warrant for property crimes on January 5, 2022. The next day four prisoners at the jail were reported suffering overdoses. Another was reported the day after that. As of January 9, 2022, none of the prisoners had died. Investigators soon determined that the new prisoner was the source of the drugs and charged him. A statement from the office of Sheriff Kory Hornea said that suspects are thoroughly searched when taken into custody, but without a court order and professional medical personnel, deputies are not permitted to search body cavities.

Connecticut: According to ABC News, both U.S. senators from Connecticut were denied access to some areas of a federal prison where they were inspecting conditions on January 26, 2022. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D) and Chris Murphy (D) said that while they were inspecting the Federal Correctional Institution at Danbury, in response to reports of poor staffing and a lack of COVID-19 precautions, prison officials denied them access to certain parts of the facility. The federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed the denials but said they were issued due to concerns about the spread of the disease. However, the senators were far from satisfied with that reasoning. Both said it is their duty to inspect federal prison conditions in their state no matter the conditions, and they specified that poor COVID-19 conditions were exactly what they were there to inspect.

Costa Rica: As of January 21, 2022, 19 prisons across the country had received voting booths, according to The Tico Times, and 8,000 prisoners were registered to vote in time for the national elections on February 6, 2022. A total of 27 polling locations were opened in the 19 prisons, and during the election they were fully staffed. They also received international observers, like other polling locations throughout the country. Political parties were also allowed to promote their candidates at the polling locations in the days leading up to the election. After the polls closed the ruling Citizen’s Action Party lost both the Presidency and all of its seats in the national legislature. A runoff is scheduled for April 2022 between the top two Presidential contenders, former President José Maria Figueres of the National Liberation Party and the Social Democratic Progress Party candidate, Rodrigo Chaves Robles, who served as finance minister under outgoing Pres. Carlos Alvarado Quesada.

Democratic Republic of Congo: According to Aljazeera, ten prisoners at the Kasapa Central Prison in Lubumbashi each had an extra 15 years added to his sentence on January 19, 2022, after the ten men were convicted of raping 30 women at the jail during a three-day riot in September 2020. According to lawyers of the victims, three of the women assaulted contracted HIV and 16 became pregnant. The ten prisoners were ordered to pay the equivalent of $5,000 USD to each of the victims. All ten were also charged with setting fire to the Kasapa facility.

Florida: According to WFLA in Tampa, a nurse at the Land O’Lakes Detention Center in Pasco County exposed hundreds of diabetic prisoners at the facility to HIV after injecting them with insulin using the same needle. According to a lawsuit filed on January18, 2022, the unnamed nurse, who worked for Wellpath, the jail’s for-profit healthcare contractor, injected an HIV-positive diabetic patient with insulin and then used the same needle for other prisoners’ insulin injections. The nurse also claimed that what she did was consistent with her practice over the entirety of her tenure at the facility since January 2021. Wellpath later administered treatment to any exposed prisoners still in custody at the jail, but it allegedly did not track down those since released nor inform any of their potential exposure to the infection.

Florida: On January 28, 2022, the Sheriff’s Office in Manatee County announced that three prisoners and a food services crew leader had been arrested and charged with smuggling drugs into the county jail. According to the Bradenton Herald, the food services employee, Gretchen Rupprecht, 64, is said to have smuggled into the facility narcotics, including a THC vape pen, for three prisoners. The contraband was discovered on January 23, 2022, during a search of the cells of two prisoners after guards suspected they were high. Under questioning, the prisoners identified Rupprecht, known in the facility as “Granny,” as the person smuggling the contraband. After her arrest, she allegedly confessed to her role in the scheme. She is also said to have developed an attachment to one of the prisoners, Corey Crews, 35. A pair of her co-defendants outside the jail was also arrested: Adrian Conde, 38, and Dalton Cook, 46.

Georgia: A prisoner at Hays State Prison in Rome was sentenced to extended time behind bars after he was caught trying to steal millions of dollars’ worth of heavy equipment. According to U.S. News, the prisoner, Damon Thomas Young, 39, was convicted of aggravated identity theft and wire fraud and sentenced to seven additional years in August 2021 for using a contraband cellphone to attempt the theft from his cell. He had been serving a sentence for assaulting a police officer. In 2019 he used a contraband cellular device to attempt the theft, posing as a purchasing officer for a pharmaceutical company to order almost $3 million worth of equipment.

Kentucky: In mid-December 2021, seven prisoners from the Graves County jail helped in a rescue operation after a powerful EF-4 tornado destroyed a candle factory in Mayfield where they had been assigned to a work detail. According to People, the prisoners joined rescue teams after the twister leveled the factory on December 10, 2021, imperiling them and the rest of its 110 workers, of whom 80 died. Prisoners were said to have worked diligently to rescue as many of the survivors as possible. One prisoner was reported to have escaped, but he was actually taken to a hospital for a minor injury, released and then turned himself back in.

Kentucky: According to WTVQ in Lexington, a Letcher County Sheriff’s deputy was arrested on February 1, 2022, and charged with coercing sex from a woman whose court-ordered electronic monitoring he provided. The deputy, Ben Fields, is said to have coerced Sabrina Adkins into having sex in exchange for waiving home-incarceration fees while they were waiting in a judge’s office at the county courthouse in Whitesburg. They had become acquainted while Fields was on duty at the county jail, where Adkins was held in the spring of 2021 on various charges, including some related to drugs. Fields was fired from the Sheriff’s department after his criminal charges were filed. In addition to those, he is also accused in a civil lawsuit of unwanted sexual conduct in violation of Adkins’ constitutionally mandated rights. In addition, that suit accuses Sheriff Mickey Stines of failing to properly supervise Fields.

Louisiana: The Raymond Laborde Correctional Center, a state lockup in Cottonport, evacuated around 1,500 prisoners on January 20, 2022, when a fire broke out at the Cottonport Monofill tire plant, just 300 yards away. According to the Associated Press, the blaze started on January 16, 2022, continuing through the week. Firefighters were able to contain most of it, but they struggled to fully extinguish it as weather conditions, including strong winds, combined with the remoteness of the location to make operations difficult. The area around the plant also had little supply of accessible water for the operation. The fire itself is under investigation.

Maryland: According to Complex, a state prisoner was sentenced to an additional 15 years in early December 2021 for planning a murder from behind bars. The prisoner, Aaron Brice, was serving time for a number of crimes, including violating a protective order, when he used the account of another prisoner to call a friend over the phone on March 10, 2021, asking the friend to shoot the victim he identified and even going so far as to provide information on how and where to find her and her family. Brice also provided the friend with a street address and license plate. The call was traced, and the friend’s home was searched by authorities, who found the phone that took the call with the victim’s address stored on it. Brice was convicted on one count of solicitation of murder and sentenced to 25 years, with 10 years suspended.

Mexico: The body of a deceased infant was discovered in a garbage container at a prison in the Mexican state of Puebla, according to NDTV. The body was found in late January 2022 and identified as that of a baby who had been buried in Mexico City on January 6, 2022, after succumbing to a generalized infection. The Social Reintegration Center where it was found in San Miguel sits around 80 miles from the place the infant was buried. The body of the three-month-old was discovered by a prisoner searching for recyclables in the garbage container. The Mexico Daily Post said the parents of the dead baby identified it as their son, Tadeo, who was born the day before he died. The paper also said the child’s body had reportedly been “stuffed with drugs.” As the result of a subsequent investigation at least 21 officials at the prison were arrested. Guards and supervisors were among those listed as suspects.

Michigan: Several prisoners at Kent County Correctional Facility were pepper-sprayed during a contraband check by guards on January 22, 2022, according to FOX17 in Grand Rapids. The guards had smelled smoke coming from an area where prisoners were permitted to congregate. All of the occupants of the block were subsequently ordered to return to their cells, and when some did not comply, backup was called for as guards opened fire with OC spray and pepper balls to force the prisoners into compliance. The incident highlights concern from prisoners and their families that the facility is unsafe, thanks to neglected healthcare and a lack of cleaning supplies, on top of the tactics demonstrated by guards. The spray is said to have gotten in the air vents, making it hard for some prisoners to breathe.

Minnesota: In January 2022, a federal prisoner was sentenced to an extended term in prison for reporting a crime—sex-trafficking by a Minnesota GOP political operative—to the FBI. According to The Daily Beast, the prisoner, Benjamin Freedland, was sentenced to an extended period in the Federal Correctional Institution in Marianna, Florida, after getting in contact with the FBI through a friend to report that Anton Lazzaro, a Minnesota Republican strategist, had bragged to him about sex-trafficking underaged girls. Freedland said he went through his friend after he couldn’t get through to the Minneapolis FBI using the prison’s phone system. He was subsequently placed in solitary confinement and had his sentence extended from late 2021 to early February 2022, a move he claims was an act of retaliation. During his extended sentence, Freedland also became infected with COVID-19.

Mississippi: According to Magnolia State Live, a prisoner pled guilty in early February 2022 to twice committing arson at the Shelby County Jail in May 2019 as well as fatally beating another prisoner there with a brick in December 2021. That trio of guilty pleas by Drew Johnson, 30, accompanied another plea to charges that he fatally stabbed an associate 24 times in April 2016. For that murder—of Calvin Holloway Jr., 25—Johnson received life without parole, along with 15 years for each of the other charges. He is to serve them all concurrently. Johnson also has another pending murder case in Rankin County.

New Jersey: According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, two men admitted their roles in a scheme to use drone aircraft to fly contraband into the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix. The men, Adrian Goolcharran, 37, and Nicolo Denichilo, 40, pleaded guilty on January 10, 2022, and in the fall of 2021, respectively, to attempting to use drones to smuggle cellphones, cellphone accessories, weight-loss supplements, eyeglasses and tobacco products into the facility. According to court documents the two made the drone-drops multiple times between November 2018 and March 2020. They each were convicted on a charge of conspiracy to defraud the federal Bureau of Prisons.

New York: A riot broke out at a maximum-security state prison in Romulus on January 31, 2022, according to Corrections One, sending five guards to the hospital. The incident is said to have started in the mess hall at Five Points Correctional Facility when two prisoners refused to comply with guards’ directions. In response, the guards put one of the prisoners in a body hold and removed him from the room, at which point other prisoners charged the guards, who called for backup. A fight ensued in which guards were assaulted and prisoners were teargassed. Once the violence was under control, four of the prisoners involved were transferred to Elmira Correctional Facility and three others to Attica Correctional Facility.

Nevada: At Southern Desert Correctional Center (SDCC), near Indian Springs, a disturbance between prisoners on December 8, 2021, resulted in a fire. According to both the Las Vegas Sun and KTNV in Las Vegas, the incident started when a number of prisoners refused to return to their cells when ordered and then started multiple small fires. Authorities were able to extinguish the fires with relative speed and no one was seriously injured. The incident involved 25 prisoners, 15 of whom have since been transferred to higher-security facilities.

North Carolina: According to Corrections One, a prisoner in Greensboro used a guard’s own Taser on him on January 26, 2022. The prisoner, Eric Dwayne Swain, Jr., 21, was being at held at the Guilford County Jail when he swiped the weapon and used it on the unnamed guard, who was subsequently taken to the hospital for examination. Swain, of Roanoke, Virginia, was being held on suspicion of carjacking. He is also wanted in connection with an armed robbery carried out on January 23, 2022, in Bassett. It is not clear what led to his altercation with the guard.

Ohio: A Cincinnati prison guard was sentenced to 42 months in prison on December 14, 2021, after pleading guilty to using excessive force on a prisoner. According to, the guard, Jason Mize, 35, had a history of using excessive force before pleading guilty in January 2021 to assaulting 61-year-old Mark Myers at the Hamilton County Justice Center in August 2016. Mize walked up behind Myers, who had just been brought into the lockup, told him to stand, and then shoved him so hard that the suspect was taken off his feet, slamming head-first into a cement wall and splitting his head open, as well as breaking his hip. While Myers then lay semi-conscious, Mize covered the door-window to the cell with a curtain. The detainee was not found until later by a supervisor, who called for medical assistance. Myers, who spent two weeks recovering from his injuries in a hospital, was later acquitted of the charge against him. During Mize’s trial, prosecutors shared a Facebook post made after he resigned from his job in which he claimed, “I miss choking people.”

Oklahoma: According to KUSH, a prison guard at the Cimarron Correctional Facility (CCF) was caught attempting to smuggle tobacco pouches and Suboxone strips into work with him at the lockup in Cushing. The guard, Nolan James Higgins, 30, was arrested on December 29, 2021, after he tried twice to pass through a metal detector in the lobby of the facility, and the machine indicated he had metal. He then excused himself to the bathroom. Upon returning he went through the metal detector successfully. The guard in attendance at the lobby checkpoint found the behavior suspicious and checked the bathroom, finding the contraband hidden in a beef jerky package. Higgins now faces one to five years in prison and a fine up to $1,000. CCF was operated by private prison contractor CoreCivic for the state Department of Corrections until July 2020. CoreCivic then announced plans to shutter the prison, but it picked up a contract in September 2020 to hold detainees there for the U.S. Marshals Service.

Pennsylvania: According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, a federal prisoner in Allenwood pleaded guilty to possession of a contraband cellphone on January 20, 2022. The prisoner, Geraldo Rodriguez-Diaz, 27, received a 2-month sentence for having the phone in the Low Security Correctional Institution at Allenwood, which will be served concurrently with the ten-year sentence he has been serving for a conviction in a cocaine-smuggling scheme.

Philippines: A prison fight in the National Capital Region left six detainees dead and 33 wounded on January 10, 2022. According to TRT World, the fight broke out between rival gangs at the Caloocan City Jail (CCJ) when two prisoners got into an altercation, drawing more in with them. There is still a great deal that authorities have not determined about the size and specific causes of the fight, but they have not ruled out a ban on family visitations since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as a possible instigating factor. It is not the only recent incident at a Filipino facility, which authorities blame on system-wide overcrowding resulting from a slow judicial system. CCJ, for instance, was designed for just 200 residents, but at the time of the fight housed around 1,900 prisoners.

South Carolina: A Summerville woman was charged with plotting to airlift drugs into a state prison in Jasper County on January 19, 2022. According to The Sun News, Shelene Jean Walk, 25, is accused of planning to use drone aircraft to fly tobacco and marijuana to prisoners held at Ridgeland Correctional Institution, which has reportedly been plagued by contraband. She is now facing a single charge of attempting to supply prisoners with contraband, one count of criminal conspiracy, and one count of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Tennessee: One of the most wanted men in Tennessee was found dead in Mexico in late January 2022. According to WJHL in Johnson City, Charles Kennedy, 35, escaped the Fentress County Jail on July 19, 2021, along with 22-year-old Casey Ridenour, stealing a guard’s car to make a high-speed get-away before abandoning the vehicle and continuing on foot. Ridenour, who was originally arrested on a murder charge, was recaptured later the next day. Kennedy, who was being held on charges including burglary, theft and vandalism, was then placed on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Top Ten Most Wanted List. The circumstances of his death and the exact location of his body in Mexico have yet to be released.

Tennessee: A Black Lives Matter (BLM) leader was sentenced to prison in late January 2022 for illegally voting while on probation from a felony conviction. According to the New York Times, Pamela Moses, 44, the founder of the BLM chapter in Memphis, was sentenced to six years and a day for voting six times in the years following her 2015 felony conviction on an evidence-tampering charge, to which she says she pleaded guilty only to avoid jail time. The Shelby County Election Commission was supposed to remove her from the voter roll, but the clerk of the county court failed to make notification of her conviction. In fact the commission even signed off on her 2019 voter registration renewal. The state Department of Correction sent the commission a letter the next day informing the commission that Moses was still on probation, leading to criminal charges. Moses argued in court that she did not falsify anything to register, and that she sincerely thought she was allowed to do so after the election commission’s sign-off. Her lawyer said that she is planning to appeal her case.

Texas: A prisoner at the Smith County Jail (SCJ) pleaded guilty on January 26, 2022, to his role in a smuggling ring inside the facility. According to KYTX in Tyler, Tommy Joe Allen, 61, was one of several SCJ prisoners charged in the conspiracy to smuggle contraband into the facility in 2020. In addition to the prisoners, one guard, Lance Watson, was also charged in the plot. Allen was being held at the jail after being sentenced to 12 years for manslaughter and driving under the influence when he crashed a car and killed two people in 2019. As a result of his latest conviction—on an organized crime charge for his role in the smuggling ring—he received a two-year sentence to be served concurrently with his manslaughter term. Watson, 61, is set for trial on May 9, 2022. The guard was arrested after investigators found tins of tobacco hidden in sandwich buns inside his lunchbox. The Smith County Sheriff, coincidentally named Larry Smith, said that Watson “was pretty much a model employee, but that’s what you’d expect.”

Texas: According to The Washington Post, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced on February 7, 2022, that it was starting to lift a nationwide prison lockdown put in place on January 31, 2022, after a fight in a Texas facility involving members of the MS-13 street gang left two prisoners dead. That incident sparked concern over potential retaliation by MS-13 members incarcerated in other BOP facilities around the country, leading to the lockdown. The fight at the U.S. Penitentiary in Beaumont also left two prisoners injured. Under the lockdown, prisoners were confined to their cells 23 hours per day. Visits from family and friends were already canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the lockdown also put the kibosh on attorney consultations. BOP said it plans to gradually ease the restrictions in what it called a “tiered response,” in which certain facilities deemed no longer under significant threat of violence would shift to a modified mode of operation short of full lockdown.

Wisconsin: According to WITI in Milwaukee, a prisoner at the Washington County Jail received a life sentence in early December 2021 after he was found guilty of attacking and killing a fellow prisoner. The victim, Jalen Proft, 23, was killed in “a vicious and unprovoked” attack by George Telford, Jr., 31, Sheriff Martin R. Schulteis said. On August 17, 2022, Telford entered Proft’s cell and beat him, kicking him in the head 28 times. Proft was transported to a hospital, where he later died. He had been in the jail just two days at the time he was attacked. Telford had been held in the lockup since July 4, 2022, unable to post bond after an arrest for a domestic violence incident. He is also wanted in North Dakota, his birth-state, on charges of domestic abuse. He reportedly had no criminal record prior to those charges.

Wyoming: A man is in hot water after his girlfriend informed authorities that drugs she had been caught with were actually his. According to the Associated Press, the unnamed couple was pulled over in their SUV for speeding on November 9, 2021. As the cop was writing a ticket, a drug-sniffing dog alerted him to what turned out to be a package of methamphetamines stuck with a magnet to the underside of the SUV. The girlfriend, 22, claimed responsibility and was subsequently arrested. But when her 30-year-old boyfriend failed to bail her out the next day, she began calling a friend. In these calls, which were recorded by the jail, she complained about not being bailed out and said she was especially angered because the drugs actually belonged to him. The hapless boyfriend was then arrested on November 24, 2021, with 20 grams of methamphetamine in his pocket. 

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login