Skip navigation

Articles by Chuck Sharman

BOP Guard, Nurse in Virginia Indicted in Prisoner’s Death

by Chuck Sharman

On June 6, 2023, a federal grand jury indicted two employees of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in Virginia for allegedly showing deliberate indifference to a prisoner suffering a cardiac emergency that killed him in 2021.

Guard Lt. Shronda Covington, 47, and Registered Nurse Tonya Farley, ...

Shocking Video Footage Reveals Rampant Violence and Neglect in Los Angeles County Jails

by Chuck Sharman


A collection of graphic videos reported by the Los Angeles Times on June 24, 2023, pulled back the curtain on rampant violence and chaos inside Los Angeles County jails. The footage, saved on a discarded thumb drive, portrays a shocking lack of supervision from jailers, as ...

As ICE Data Errors Persist, GEO Group Cashes In

by Chuck Sharman

Data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University reveal that federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to struggle with accurate reporting of the number of migrants it tracks through its Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program. In just one week in late May ...

Life Sentence for Alabama Jail Escapee After Suicide of Guard Lover Who Helped Him

On June 8, 2023, a judge in Alabama’s Lauderdale County handed a life sentence without parole to a state prisoner for escaping the county lockup with his jail-guard lover, who then committed suicide as pursuing police closed in. Casey White, 39, pleaded guilty to felony escape in a deal with prosecutors, who dropped a capital murder charge that might have sent him to death row.

White was serving a 75-year prison sentence for attempted murder with the state Department of Corrections (DOC) when he was transferred to the Lauderdale County Detention Center in 2020 to face trial for a 2015 murder in the county. Not quite two years later, jail Assistant Director Vicky White, 56 – who was no relation – hurriedly arranged her own retirement and sold her home at a steep discount for cash to finance the prisoner’s escape on April 29, 2022. Their getaway triggered a nearly two-week manhunt before cops caught up with the couple near Evansville, Indiana, running their car off the road on May 9, 2022. Vicky White then fatally shot herself.

“You think you know someone,” county Sheriff Rick Singleton said of his dead jailer, whose 17-year career was spotless. “And it turns ...

Alabama Guards Still Harming Prisoners, Overcrowding Set to Increase as Governor Slashes “Good Time”

by Jo Ellen Nott and Chuck Sharman

Long notorious for harsh prison conditions, Alabama’s Department of Corrections (DOC) shows no signs of remediating them despite not one but two suits by the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) for violating the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of state prisoners.

In the most recent news out of Alabama lockups, a guard was convicted on April 19, 2023, of beating three compliant prisoners with a wooden riot baton at the now-closed Draper Correctional Facility (CF). Former DOC Sgt. Lorenzo Mills, 55, also lied about the incident afterwards. In October 2020, Mills left the three unnamed prisoners with injuries including a broken arm, pain, and bruising. He then falsified his official report, saying he had not used force against the men. [See: PLN, Oct. 2022, p.22.]  He was convicted of three civil rights charges and another for writing the false report. According to the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, Mills will “face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each of the civil rights charges and 20 years in prison for the obstruction of justice offense.”

Less than a week before Mills was convicted, Republican Gov. Kay ...

Atlanta Federal Prison Gets Another Reboot

by Chuck Sharman

Thirty years since its last reboot, the troubled U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta has gotten another one, after violence and corruption led the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to transfer most prisoners elsewhere in late 2021. [See: PLN, Jan. 2022, p.22.]

The lockup is still designated a federal “penitentiary,” though it hasn’t held any high-security federal prisoners in over 30 years. Until 2021, the crumbling main facility – it dates to 1902 – held medium-security prisoners, with an adjacent work camp for low-security prisoners to come and go more easily to work assignments.

The main building now holds only low-security prisoners. But that didn’t stop U.S. Senators on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee from grilling outgoing BOP Director Michael Carvajal in July 2022 about a litany of problems at the lockup, including multiple escapes, as well as lawsuits resulting in payouts for prisoners who were sexually abused by guards or with restraints. [See: PLN, Dec. 2017, p.17; Aug. 2014, p.42; and Dec. 28, 2017, online.]

Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) accused Carvajal of “continuing to drive responsibility down the chain of command” for “gross misconduct” that had ...

BOP Closes Deadliest Unit

by Chuck Sharman

On February 14, 2023, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced it was closing Special Management Unit (SMU) at the U.S. Penitentiary (USP) in Thomson, Illinois, where seven deaths have been recorded since it opened in 2019, the highest death toll in any BOP facility.

Some 350 prisoners housed there were slated for transfer to other lockups, after they were gathered from prisons around the country to be punished with lengthy periods of isolation for disciplinary infractions.

The unit replaced an earlier one at Pennsylvania’s USP-Lewisburg that ironically closed for similar reasons. Staff was accused of violating prisoners’ civil rights almost since it opened in 2008. Lawsuits alleged that mentally ill prisoners were denied mental health care and punished with restraints. At least four prisoners were murdered by cellmates between 2010 and 2017. The Office of the Inspector General for BOP’s parent agency, the federal Department of Justice, criticized the mental health treatment, and the D.C. Corrections Information Council found in 2017 that the use of restraints resulted in prisoner injuries.

Much of the problem was blamed on double-celling violent prisoners, which continued at USP-Thomson’s SMU. Prisoners there have also been kept for long periods in isolation ...

Ohio Governor Reprieves Three Condemned Prisoners

by Chuck Sharman

Ohio prisoners James O’Neal, Jerome Henderson and Melvin Bonnell were all scheduled to die by lethal injection between August and October 2023. However, on April 14, 2023, Gov. Mike Dewine (R) delayed each execution over two years.

DeWine was the state Attorney General when big pharmaceutical firm Pfizer announced in May 2016 that it was imposing “strict distribution controls to block states from obtaining and using its medicines in executions.” Then in January 2017, the federal court for the Southern District of Ohio declared the state’s three-drug execution protocol carried an unconstitutional “risk of serious harm.” However, that decision was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in an en banc ruling issued in April 2017. See: Fears v. Morgan (In re Ohio Execution Protocol), 860 F.3d 881 (6th Cir. 2017).

After that, former Gov. John Kasich (R) forged ahead with three executions that went off fairly smoothly: Ronald Phillips, 43, in July 2017; Gary Otte in September 2017; and Robert Van Hook in July 2018. But a fourth execution was called off for Alva Campbell, 69, in November 2017, when executioners failed to locate a suitable vein for the lethal injection. Campbell ...

Alabama Prisoner’s Family Sues Over Allegedly Botched Execution

by Chuck Sharman

On May 3, 2023, the family of Joe Nathan James Jr., an Alabama prisoner executed in July 2022, sued Gov. Kay Ivey (R) and other state officials, claiming he suffered excessive pain and was unconscious too long before his death, thwarting his intent to apologize to his family, the victim’s family, and recite the Muslim profession of faith, the shahada, as his final words.

“Alabama must own up to its wrongs,” said Hakim James, who is representing his brother’s estate.

During the 18-minute execution, James, 50, did not open his eyes or respond to standard consciousness checks by guards. The suit alleges that was likely because he had already been given midazolam a heavy sedative that is part of the state’s three-drug execution protocol, during an extended attempt to set up intravenous (IV) lines in his arms that was not completed more than three hours past the scheduled execution time.

An autopsy report released by the state Department of Forensic Sciences found no evidence of a “cutdown procedure” to insert the IV lines, though it did not count the puncture wounds on James’ arms. The lawsuit notes that a privately arranged autopsy performed after the execution found ...

Vermont Sheriff Locked Out of National Crime Database, Facing Impeachment

by Chuck Sharman

Troubles mounted for Sheriff John Grismore of Vermont’s Franklin County on May 11, 2023, when state lawmakers took a significant step toward his impeachment. The same day, Grismore lost access to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), a crucial criminal records database used in policing.

Because his NCIC access was revoked, Grismore was also locked out of the Vermont Crime Information Center and its records system, Valcour. Although other authorized users at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department can continue using the national database and Valcour, they are prohibited from sharing information with Grismore.

His problems predate his November 2022 election, when then-Cpt. Grismore was accused by two fellow deputies of kicking a detainee and charged with assault on August 7, 2022. He pleaded not guilty and then won election. But his prosecution is ongoing.

The impact of Grismore’s restricted access to these critical systems on his day-to-day work as a law enforcement official and the extent to which members of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department are aware of these restrictions remains unclear. The databases contain valuable information such as wanted and missing persons, stolen property records, and domestic violence protection orders.

In December 2022, while Grismore was ...