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News in Brief

Alabama: On January 11, 2024, two state prison guards at Elmore Correctional Facility (CF) were arrested when their contact information was found in a prisoner’s contraband cellphone, WSFA in Montgomery reported. Eli Charlie DeRamus, 33, and Bunion Thomas, 24, were then accused of smuggling food items in exchange for bribes of $3,500 and $600, respectively. Both were charged with abusing their official position for personal gain and resigned from the state Department of Corrections (DOC). A week later, on January 18, 2024, Staton CF guard Ebony Breauna Chillous, 28, resigned when she was hit with the same charge for allegedly taking unspecified CashApp payments to smuggle unidentified drugs to an unnamed prisoner in November 2023. She was taken to Montgomery County Detention Facility and held on $50,000 bail. DeRamus and Thomas were booked into the Elmore County Jail and released.

Alabama: Five days after he escaped the city lockup in Bessemer and fled in a stolen getaway car, Tyree Chapman, 22, was chased down in Georgia and nabbed on January 17, 2024. The Birmingham News reported that he’d been jailed on misdemeanor charges on December 29, 2023, and jailers said his escape was “not dramatic.” But the drama escalated when he stole an Infiniti from a Planet Fitness parking lot and drove it to Atlanta, where a police helicopter later spotted the car and tracked it to a convenience store. From there Chapman fled on foot into a residential neighborhood, where the chopper again spotted him hiding in a garbage can. He was taken into custody, along with a handgun that a K-­9 dog sniffed out of another trash can.

Alabama: On January 22, 2024, Lawrence County Jailers caught Kirk D. Muckenfuss, 43, “in the act” of cutting through the jail fence, allegedly to reach a broken window through which he planned to smuggle 32.5 ounces of meth they found on him. The Birmingham News reported that he was arrested and jailed at the lockup on a $1.578 million bond.

Arizona: Heather A. Neff, 38, a former guard at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Safford, was sentenced on February 13, 2024, for having a sexual affair with an unnamed prisoner. The federal Department of Justice (DOJ) said that she resigned from the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) after she was caught in 2019. According to her August 2023 guilty plea, Neff took bribes to smuggle the prisoner contraband, including nutritional supplements, loose tobacco, hygiene items and rum. She also mailed his letters and provided “non-­public” information from BOP’s SENTRY database about other prisoners—one of whom was later assaulted. She will spend 18 months in federal prison followed by 36 months of post-­release supervision. See United States v. Neff, USDC (D. Ariz.), Case No. 4:23-­cr-­00204.

California: The Sacramento Bee reported that state prisoner Albaro Amaral was shot and killed on January 25, 2024, by High Desert State Prison guards who saw him stabbing a fellow prisoner with a homemade weapon. Amaral’s unnamed victim survived and was in fair condition at a hospital, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said. Amaral, 33, was serving a life sentence for the June 2020 murder of fellow San Jose gang member Kevin Medina-­Lopez, 27. His killing was CDCR’s second of the month; Son Tran, 53, was found murdered in his cell at Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP) on January 6, 2024, the Orange County Register reported. Fellow SVSP prisoner John Lydon, 50, was suspected in the killing, though CDCR didn’t specify how he did it. Lydon is serving life without parole for murdering two fellow prisoners. Tran was 23 years into a 50-­year sentence for sex crimes.

California: Deeming him a flight risk, the Los Angeles Superior Court denied bail on January 24, 2024, to actor Danny Masterson, 47, while he appeals his conviction for raping two women in 2003. USA Today reported that the co-­star of That 70s Show will remain in CDCR custody serving a term of 30 years to life handed down for the rapes in September 2023. His wife, Almost Famous actress Bijou Phillips, 43, filed for divorce about a week later, giving Masterson “every incentive to flee,” Judge Charlaine Olmedo ruled. He is held at the Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.

Florida: Calling it an “act of betrayal,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister announced the arrest of a five-­year-­veteran Facilities Technician at the county’s Faulkenburg Road jail on January 31, 2024, for allegedly ripping off 210 pounds of copper and 183 pounds of brass worth over $3,000. WFLA in Tampa said that Rodgers Ruiz, 45, is accused of fencing the material to a recycling company and pocketing the cash. Chronister knows a thing or two about betrayal, having turned on his “good friend” Andrew Warren, the county’s then-­State Attorney, when he was removed in 2022 by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), in a blatantly political stunt that the federal court for the Northern District of Florida said it was nevertheless powerless to redress. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit disagreed, though, and sent the case back to the district court on January 11, 2024, saying it looked like DeSantis punished Warren for voicing progressive opinions that are protected by the First Amendment. See: Warren v. DeSantis, 90 F.4th 1115 (11th Cir. 2024). If the governor is forced to reinstate Warren, Sheriff Chronister may once again have to work with his former “good friend” rather than Warren’s appointed replacement, Suzy Lopez, a DeSantis toady who named her own dog “Rhonda Santis.”

Florida: After a video posted to social media showed two Hamilton Correctional Institution guards striking a prisoner in a “power slap” competition, they were fired by the state DOC on February 9, 2024, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Neither the prisoner nor the guards were named. In 2022, three former guards at the lockup were sentenced for beating a restrained prisoner unconscious, as PLN reported. [See: PLN, May 2022, p.34.]

Georgia: The state DOC arrested two prison guards for smuggling at separate lockups on back-­to-­back days, beginning on January 7, 2024, when a search of Nicholas Grindle’s locker at Hays State Prison turned up contraband that included seven vape pens, a vape bottle, wireless earbuds, 20 charging cables, five charging blocks, 14 cell phones, 222 grams of marijuana and 760 grams of methamphetamine, WSB in Atlanta reported. The day after his arrest, when Hancock State Prison guard Jehan Landau arrived for work, she was found carrying a hidden supply of men’s street clothing, including underwear, shorts, socks and a sweatshirt. She was arrested and placed in the Hancock County Jail. Grindle, 31, was being held in the Chatooga County Jail.

Georgia: A week after boarding his kid’s school bus to threaten other Northside Elementary School students that he accused of bullying his child, Coweta County Correctional Institution guard Kristopher D. Elder, 37, was arrested on January 12, 2024. The Newnan Times-­Herald reported that Elder flashed his state DOC badge at the students and threatened to handcuff them before the unnamed bus driver booted him from the bus. While the driver had to pull over and calm the frightened students, Elder went to meet with school Principal Amy Addison, who promised to investigate the bullying claims. She pulled security camera footage from the bus and discovered Elder’s behavior, saying it left her “appalled.” Elder was charged with disruption of public schools.

Georgia: Almost halfway through a 33-­month sentence for threatening to blow up the White House in a March 2021 letter to Pres. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D), BOP prisoner Travis L. Ball, 56, pleaded guilty to mailing more threatening communications on January 19, 2024. The Atlanta Journal-­Constitution said that sharp-­eyed FBI agents noticed the letters were handwritten on jail-­issued legal paper. Another tip-­off: They were stamped “Inmate Mail” and sent from the Upson County Jail while Ball was incarcerated there. In one March 2023 letter, Ball pretended to be a Secret Service agent who investigated the threat earlier mailed to Biden and demanded Ball’s release. In two others sent that month and in May 2023, Ball signed his cellmate’s name to threats to burn down the federal courthouse in Valdosta. He sent a fourth letter in July 2023, claiming to be an FBI agent working a “top-­secret” case and demanded that jail records be scrubbed of Ball’s name and photo. This is Ball’s third conviction for mailing threats; he finished a two-­year federal prison term in 2019 for mailing phony anthrax to the state Bar Association and Atlanta newspapers in 2016.

Illinois: Over the objection of Dekalb County prosecutors, pretrial release was granted on January 30, 2024, to retired BOP guard Joe D. Reamy, Jr., 50, who was arrested the day before on kiddie porn charges. The Dekalb Daily Chronicle reported that Reamy admitted sending two videos depicting child sex abuse via the Kik Messager app to an unnamed recipient. Judge Joseph Pedersen of the state’s 23rd Circuit Court put Reamy on electronic monitoring and ordered him to keep away from children and off the internet.

Indiana: Two Hoosier State jail guards were arrested for smuggling in 11 days, beginning on January 13, 2024, when Lincoln County Jail guard Shayna Haynes, 29—who had just been hired in June 2023—was accused of slipping K2 to an unnamed detainee three times over the previous month; she was booked into the jail on a $100,000 cash bond, Lincoln News Now reported. Then on January 24, 2024, Wayne County Jail guard Adrian Jo Blanton, 24, was charged with taking a $2,000 bribe to smuggle drugs to detainee Shawn Christopher Lee Farrow, 30. The Richmond Palladium-­Item said that Farrow was found with 64 suboxone strips in August 2023, after which investigators discovered incriminating recorded phone conversations with the guard. Blanton now faces up to six years in prison for felony trafficking with an inmate.

Indiana: After finding Orange County Jail detainee Jeanne Ross dead in her cell on December 30, 2023, investigators issued an arrest warrant for one of the 54-­year-­old’s visitors. Sarah Shipman, 31, was accused of smuggling the drugs that caused Ross’ fatal overdose. WAVE in Louisville, Kentucky, said that Shipman turned herself in on January 23, 2024, and she is being held on a $500,000 bond.

Kentucky: State DOC guard Amanda Kulka, 42, was arrested on February 14, 2024, for allegedly having sex with an unnamed prisoner and smuggling him drugs at Green River Correctional Complex. The Lexington Herald said that Kulka admitted the sexual relationship but denied drug-­smuggling. State police arrested her on a third-­degree sodomy charge. She was being held in Muhlenberg County Detention Center on a $5,000 bond.

Louisiana: On August 15, 2023, a former state prisoner exonerated a year earlier filed for $480,000 in state compensation—$13,000 for each of the 36 years he spent wrongfully incarcerated. However, the New Orleans Times-­Picayune reported that Sullivan Walter, 53, must first convince a state judge that he is “factually innocent” of the 1986 rape for which he was convicted at age 17—a legal bar crossed just 30 times in the past decade. The judge presiding at his August 2022 exoneration called it “horrible” when prosecutors admitted asking criminologist Harry O’Neal to “fudge” testimony at Walter’s trial about blood tests that in fact cleared him. “I’m at a loss of words to express the sorrow and the anger I have,” Judge Darryl Derbigny said. Walter’s wrongful imprisonment was one of the longest for any teenage convict in U.S. history.

Louisiana: The Baton Rouge Advocate reported that Ascension Parish Jail guard Andrew R. Wheeler, 36, was arrested and fired on February 4, 2024, after he admitted smuggling unidentified contraband to unnamed detainees. He was hired less than a year earlier. Sheriff Bobby Webre said the investigation would continue after detainee Peggy Valentine, 45, was rushed to a hospital with a fentanyl overdose on February 15, 2024. She was treated and returned to the lockup, where she is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of breaking into the home of her ex-­fiancée’s girlfriend and stabbing the woman’s 55-­year-­old mother with a boxcutter.

Maryland: Former Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) guard Ajee X. Meyers, 29, was charged on January 12, 2024, with carrying on a months-­long sexual affair with an unnamed prisoner assigned to work in the kitchen that Meyers supervised at Maryland Correctional Institute for Women. The Annapolis Capitol Gazette said that DPSCS investigators found over 700 recorded phone calls between Meyers and the prisoner, to whom she also allegedly sent lewd selfies and money. In addition, Meyers was accused of threatening another prisoner who was the woman’s girlfriend.

Mississippi: East Mississippi Correctional Facility guard Justin Whipps, 30, had just been promoted to captain when he was fatally shot by fellow guard Caboris McAfee on December 27, 2023. WTVA in Tupelo said both guards were on duty when they got into an argument in the prison parking lot that led to the shooting. The lockup is operated for the state DOC by Utah-­based private prison contractor Management & Training Corp. McAfee was being held at the Lauderdale County Jail.

Mississippi: Former state DOC guard Loomis Muhammad, 41, was sentenced to 10 years in state prison on January 31, 2024, for pistol-­whipping his girlfriend while he was off-­duty from South Mississippi Correctional Institution in October 2022. The unnamed woman lived with him and his wife in a “throuple,” the Laurel Leader-­Call reported, when an argument erupted with Muhammad, formerly known as Louis Mitchell. He sucker-­punched her from behind, beating her with his handgun after she fell to the floor. The live-­in mistress managed to escape to a friend’s waiting vehicle, which had come to give her a ride to a medical appointment after Muhammad denied her use of his car and sent her walking. Meanwhile Muhammad drove himself to Jones County jail, getting into a scuffle with Sheriff’s deputies who demanded he remove his kufi religious headwear.

Montana: “I never thought it was something wrong to do, to resell weed,” stateDOC Sgt. Scott Patrick Elliott told the Helen Independent Record. The Montana State Prison guard was charged on February 13, 2024, with taking marijuana that had been legally obtained from a dispensary and illegally reselling it to unnamed fellow employees. Five of them were placed on leave along with the credulous guard. DOC emphasized that no drugs were sold to prisoners.

New Hampshire: Former Strafford County House of Correction guard Patrick Schaeffer, 42, was charged on November 7, 2023, with coercing sex from jail detainees with bribes including extra peanut butter. Foster’s Daily Democrat reported that allegations against Schaeffer went nowhere until former detainee Jennifer Duckworth, 39, went public with her claim in April 2023. That led to an investigation and charges against the former guard, who now lives in Texas. He remained free on his own personal recognizance after arraignment but if convicted could be imprisoned up to 80 years.

New Hampshire: Former state DOC guard Matthew Millar, 39, was charged with second-­degree murder on February 8, 2024, for kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed and psychotic detainee until he died at the state prison in Concord in April 2023. AP News reported that Jason Rothe, 50, was not a prisoner but had been civilly committed in 2020 to the state psychiatric hospital, from which he was transferred to the prison psychiatric unit for the safety of himself and others. Six other unnamed guards were involved in the incident, but the office of state Attorney General John Formella (R) said no charges would be filed against them. As of December 2023, DOC said Millar was no longer an employee, though it was unclear when and how his employment ended.

New Jersey: For taking an unspecified cash bribe to smuggle a cellphone to a detainee, Atlantic County jail guard Gerald Oquendo, 35, was sentenced to three years in state prison on January 24, 2024. Altice USA’s News 12 Network reported that the unnamed detainee was taped discussing the scheme in phone conversations with two family members. The guard was also caught on surveillance video bringing the contraband object to the detainee. Oquendo was convicted of official misconduct and will be parole-­eligible in just two years.

New Jersey: Passaic County Jail guard Lorenzo Bowden, 39, and two fellow guards, Sgts. Jose Gonzalez, 45, and Donald Vinales, 38, were arrested on January 18, 2024, for allegedly taking an unnamed and handcuffed detainee to an area away from surveillance cameras and beating him in January 2021. The Patterson Times said the detainee had reportedly splashed them with urine before they retaliated with the beat-­down, sending him to a hospital. None of the guards filed a required use-­of-­force report after the incident, and all denied it happened when questioned by investigators. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice, 10 years for deprivation of rights and five years for making false statements.

New Jersey: Five months after failing to show up for jury selection in his September 2023 human trafficking trial, retired Cape May County Jail guard Kurt Young, 56, was declared a fugitive on February 6, 2024, and state officials asked the public’s help in tracking him down. The Cherry Hill Courier Post said that Young was fingered in 2020 when Tiffany N. Davis, 43, admitted bringing a 14-­year-­old girl to his home to have sex with him after Young paid her pimp, Derek V. Ross, 30. For her role in the scheme, Davis was sentenced to 15 years in prison in November 2023, when Ross also got a 20-­year prison term and a $15,000 fine.

New York: Riker’s Island detainee Tiequan Ward, 38, jumped into the unmanned driver’s seat of an idling New York City DOC bus on January 9, 2024, throwing the gearshift into reverse and immediately smashing into a gray Honda parked nearby, the New York Daily News said. No injuries were reported to Ward or anyone else aboard the bus, including two guards and nine other detainees. The unnamed guard who abandoned the driver’s seat was suspended.

New York: Former Westchester County Jail guard Recaldo Fray, 31, was charged on January 15, 2024, with taking part in a home invasion and robbery of an unnamed couple at their Newburgh residence the month before. The Westchester Journal News reported that Fray and co-­defendant Kaheem Palmer, 31, allegedly muscled their way into the home on December 4, 2023, robbing the couple at gunpoint of identity documents, marijuana and $4,500 in cash. Fray allegedly then returned 12 days later to threaten the victims with retaliation if they reported the crime. County DOC Commissioner Joseph Spano said Fray’s employment was terminated.

New York: Already serving 15 years for a 2016 conviction on rape and weapons charges, state prisoner Joseph McCrimmon, 56, is facing another 15 years in prison after a jury convicted him on February 1, 2024, of assaulting two Clinton Correctional Facility (CF) guards. The Plattsburg Press-­Republican identified the first victim in the May 2022 attack as guard Michael Garrison, whom McCrimmon scalded with hot liquid, leaving burns on Garrison’s forehead. The second victim, Justin Mahan, was on the responding cell extraction team; McCrimmon kicked and bit him, striking him with a weapon fashioned from a food can tied in a sock. A search of the prisoner’s cell turned up another weapon fashioned from a can lid fitted with a paper handle plus a sharpened toothbrush. Another state prisoner was sentenced on February 16, 2024, for dousing a Collins CF guard with urine in November 2020. Chautauqua Today reported that Calvin Pietri, 30, had 18 to 36 months for that attack added to his current sentence for gang assault and manslaughter. No serious injury was reported to the guard. Pietri was moved to Mid-­State CF.

New York: A state prison guard fired from Five Points Correctional Facility for obtaining sick leave benefits with forged medical notes was sentenced to five years’ probation on February 5, 2024. WWNY in Watertown reported that Stephanie Saber, 29, pleaded guilty in November 2023 to the fraud, which lasted from December 2021 to July 2022.

North Carolina: WCTI in New Bern reported that Carteret County Jail guard Zackery R. Smith was arrested on January 22, 2024, and accused of conspiring to smuggle drugs to detainee James E. White, Jr., muling them from two un-­incarcerated accomplices, Octavian Godette and Ksandra Curtis. They were also arrested and charged in the scheme, Godette with no bond, Curtis with a $7,500 secured bond and White, Jr. with a $20,000 secured bond. The guard’s unsecured bond was set at $50,000.

North Carolina: Five hours after he walked off a work assignment at Marion Correctional Institution on February 7, 2024, Rutherford Correctional Facility prisoner Billy Lee Smith, 42, was back in custody, facing additional charges for the escape and for taking a woman hostage while on the lam. The Charlotte Observer reported that Smith forced the unnamed woman to drive him to Asheville before getting out of her car and heading into the woods where he was found. He may have been missing longer before state Department of Adult Correction guards noticed that the “low level offender” was gone. Smith was serving a 10-­year sentence for a 2022 drug trafficking conviction.

Ohio: Days before his trespassing charges were dropped, Montgomery County Jail detainee Dejuan Johnson, 25, took a guard’s gun and fatally shot himself on January 26, 2024. The Dayton Daily News said Johnson was at a hospital for unspecified treatment when he wrestled the gun from the unnamed guard and fled. Responding Dayton cops tracked him to a house where they heard a gunshot, finding Johnson dead of an apparently self-­inflicted wound. Residents of the home said they had no connection to him. His earlier charges for trespassing were posthumously dismissed on January 29, 2024.

Pennsylvania: Former Blair County Prison guard John Mollica, 24, was arrested on February 7, 2024, after an unnamed 14-­year-­old confessed that the two had a sexual affair. As if that wasn’t enough, the Altoona Mirror reported that the guard expressed surprise to discover her age—he thought she was only 11. Cops found text messages on the girl’s phone from Mollica, who wrote, “I’m obsessed with you.” He also allegedly attempted to buy her silence about their affair with vapes, cash and a new iPhone, though clearly that didn’t work.

Pennsylvania: Apparently distracted guards at the Luzerne County Prison released the wrong detainee on January 26, 2024, according to WNEP in Moosic. After bail was posted by Drake Partington, 21, guards brought half-­brother Billy Partington, 30, to be processed and released. Not only did fellow guards then fail to request his prison ID but they also didn’t check his face against the photo provided in the discharge request. County Manager Romilda Crocamo blamed human error rather than jail policy, insisting that was sufficient. Yet she didn’t explain why it took jailers three days to notice their mistake. The elder Partington was found and placed back in custody on January 31, 2024, claiming he had lost his ID before the mix-­up.

South Carolina: On February 9, 2024, state DOC officials charged Nasidd Z. Vereen, 22, with throwing two duffel bags stuffed with contraband over the fence around Wateree River Correctional Institution. WYFF in Myrtle Beach reported that the bags contained meth, marijuana, Oxycodone, vape pens, cellphones, vodka, lighters, knives and tobacco. Vereen’s connection to anyone imprisoned in the lockup wasn’t specified.

South Africa: Officials are rushing to register 100,000 prisoners to vote ahead of national elections that could happen as soon as May 2024, AP News reported. Unlike U.S. prisoners, those held in South Africa’s 240 lockups are not disenfranchised. About 15,000 voted in the most recent national elections in 2019.

Tennessee: WKRN in Nashville reported that Metro-­Davidson County Detention Facility guard Bryson Hayes, 31, was placed on administrative leave and arrested on January 30, 2024, for allegedly strangling a detainee the previous month. Hayes was helping remove Franklin Caceres-­Ortega from a cell when the detainee spat on Hayes and called him a racial slur. Hayes, who is Black, “violently shoved” other guards aside to punch Caceres-­Ortega, taking him to the ground in a chokehold. The detainee was cleared by medical personnel and charged with misdemeanor assault. Hayes was charged with felony aggravated assault and released on a $3,000 bond, but county prosecutors dropped the charge on February 22, 2024. Before Hayes’ April 2022 hiring, he was charged with assault while on active duty with the U.S. Army in 2015. Why Sheriff Daron Hall apparently decided to overlook that was unclear.

Tennessee: On February 6, 2024, Shelby County Jail guard Akira Jones, 20, was arrested for allegedly having sex with an unnamed detainee. After jail officials received a complaint about the two on December 20, 2023, WREG in Memphis reported, they placed her on leave and began investigating. She was fired two days after her arrest.

Tennessee: WMC in Memphis reported that former state prison guard Sebron Hollands, 33, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison and two years of supervised release on February 13, 2024, for attempting to cover up a fellow guard’s assault on a prisoner at Northwest Correctional Complex in June 2020. He pleaded guilty on October 2, 2023, to writing a false report about the incident, in which former fellow guard Javian Griffin, 38, beat a prisoner identified as “K.W.” and broke his jaw. Griffin pleaded guilty to use of excessive force on October 11, 2023.

Ukraine: Russia said that it exchanged 195 prisoners with Ukraine on January 31, 2024. But Reuters News reported that Ukrainian Pres. Volodomyr Zelensky claimed his country actually repatriated 207 soldiers. The United Arab Emirates brokered what was the 50th large prisoner exchange of the nearly two-­year-­old war, after it was delayed a week when a Russian transport plane was shot down, killing 74 aboard. Russia claimed the victims were Ukrainian prisoners bound for another exchange but provided no proof in response to demands from Ukraine.

Virginia: On February 9, 2024, New River Valley Regional Jail detainee Shawn M. Tolbert, 43, picked up a fourth sentence from leading cops on a vehicle chase down I-­81 in August 2022 until his car crashed and he fled on foot. He was found three weeks later hiding in a school bus parked in a Dublin yard, the Roanoke Times reported. A Pulaski County judge sentenced Tolbert to a year in prison after a jury found him guilty of obstructing justice with the chase. Because it ran through Montgomery County, a judge there earlier sentenced Tolbert to a year in prison for his guilty plea to felony eluding. He got another year from a Craig County judge for assaulting a sheriff’s deputy when the chase headed there, plus one year more in Roanoke County court after pleading no contest to another felony eluding charge there.

Virginia: Former Coffeewood Correctional Center guard Davey Jonathan Sisk, 29, was arrested on child pornography charges on February 15, 2024, DOJ announced. Using the CashApp handle JAKESMOOT2021, Sisk allegedly paid $465 in 2021 and 2022 to a now-­15-­year-­old in Texas—identified as “MV1”—for homemade videos of the teen having sex with another minor. The young couple promoted and sold the clips on social media apps, including Snapchat, according to KEYE in Austin, Texas. It was unclear when Sisk’s employment ended with the Virginia DOC.

Washington: The Bellingham Herald reported that a fire was started in the Watcom County Jail on February 1, 2024, by detainee Benjamin Morgan, 20. An unnamed guard was hospitalized for smoke inhalation, treated and released. When Morgan was evacuated from his smoke-­filled cell, he admitted using a paper clip to strike the pried-­open battery of a borrowed tablet, sparking the blaze. He was on tablet restriction at the time. County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deb Slater said criminal mischief charges will be added to burglary and theft counts Morgan was facing.

Washington: Former state DOC guard Danielle A. Lucas, 32, was charged on February 7, 2024, with first-­degree custodial sexual misconduct for allegedly carrying on an affair with an unnamed prisoner at Washington Corrections Center for Women. The Chehalis-­Centralia Chronicle reported that when the affair began in August 2022, Lucas was in a relationship with an unnamed fellow guard, who caught her chatting “giddily” on the phone with the prisoner—just hours after the two had been caught engaging in appropriate behavior in a prison bathroom in September 2022 and Lucas had been walked off the job. A fight with her former partner over that led to a domestic violence arrest for Lucas, who then resigned from DOC in October 2022. State cops completed their investigation about a year later and requested the charges against her.

Wisconsin: WBAY in Green Bay reported that now-­fired DOC guard Shane Nolan, 31, was convicted of felony battery and disorderly conduct by a jury in state court on February 1, 2024, for hurling homophobic slurs at a woman and tossing her into her own fire pit after he got “blind drunk” at a July 2021 party at her home. As PLN reported, a judge earlier rejected a plea agreement Nolan tried to enter to drop a hate-­crime enhancement for assaulting the victim, Dessiray Koss, who is lesbian. [See: PLN, Sep. 2022, p.64.] The jury acquitted Nolan of that charge, though. For his conviction on the other charges, he faces up to 42 months in prison and fines up to $11,000.

Wisconsin: “Everybody messes up,” Milwaukee County Jail guard Devin McGee told investigators who charged him on February 8, 2024, with taking bribes to smuggle drugs to detainees. The 32-­year-­old allegedly took $1,000 via CashApp from friends and family of at least six detainees to pass them cigarettes, THC pens and a cellphone, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. McGee, who was hired in January 2023, said he felt pressured to continue the smuggling operation when detainees threatened to report him if he tried to pull out.  

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