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Articles by Joe Watson

Washington Psychologist Suspended After Prostitute Steals Laptop with Clients’ Information

Washington Psychologist Suspended After Prostitute Steals Laptop with Clients’ Information

by Joe Watson

A psychologist who was contracted to evaluate Washington state prisoners was first placed on probation by the state's Department of Health for unprofessional conduct and then had his credentials suspended in October 2013 after having his laptop stolen by a prostitute, jeopardizing his clients' confidentiality.

Sunil Kakar, a 46-year-old Gig Harbor, Washington, psychologist, was allegedly impaired by alcohol and drugs when he exhibited "unusual behaviors" at a state prison where he worked in April 2011. According to health department documents, Kakar would not leave an area where a prisoner was being strip-searched, and he threatened to assault another prisoner's boyfriend.

Just three months later, after being ordered to get treatment for alcohol and marijuana dependency, Kakar was arrested for driving under the influence and marijuana possession, charges that were later reduced to second-degree negligent driving.

As a result, Kakar's license to practice was placed on probation for five years, by the health department's Examining Board of Psychology in July 2013, and he was ordered to submit to drug testing and treatment for up to seven years.

By the time Kakar had agreed to ...

Sex Assault Charges against Wiccan Ex-Prison Chaplain Dismissed

Sex Assault Charges against Wiccan Ex-Prison Chaplain Dismissed

by Joe Watson

A Wiccan former prison chaplain at the Oshkosh Correctional Institution in Wisconsin pledged to sue the Wisconsin Department of Corrections after she was cleared of criminal charges in a bizarre faux hostage scheme that involved allegations of sex with a prisoner behind a barricaded office door. Reverend Jamyi Witch was fired in March 2012 after the charges were filed; she also claimed she was the target of anti-religious rhetoric from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, when Walker was still a state Assemblyman.

The criminal charges against Witch, a 54-year-old Wiccan who changed her last name from Welch to reflect her religion, were dismissed in August 2013 because the prisoner involved in the incident changed his story and prosecutors were not confident they could convict her, according to Winnebago County Deputy District Attorney Scott Ceman.

Witch was hired in 2001 as the state’s first Wiccan prison chaplain. [See: PLN, March 2002, p.32]. She was accused of hatching a plan in which the unidentified prisoner came into her office, barricaded the door with a bookshelf and Witch’s wheelchair, then sexually role-played as if Witch was his mother. The hostage plan, she ...

Former West Virginia Judge Pleads Guilty, Sentenced

Former West Virginia Judge Pleads Guilty, Sentenced

by Joe Watson

A former Mingo County, West Virginia circuit judge was sentenced to 50 months in federal prison and fined $6,000 after pleading guilty to federal conspiracy charges which grew out of a plot to silence an FBI informant who planned to provide federal investigators with information damaging to a political crony – Mingo County’s Sheriff. Former Judge Michael Thornsbury, 59, could have received up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“Mr. Thornsbury’s conduct was shocking and appalling,” said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin following the sentencing on June 9, 2014. “It was worthy of a stiff sentence.”

Even so, Goodwin recommended that Thornsbury’s sentence be reduced by 10 months because he had cooperated with authorities, providing information that led to the arrests of former Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden and former Mingo County prosecutor Michael Sparks.

Investigators said Thornsbury told them the three men had hatched a scheme to protect their political ally – then-Sheriff Eugene Crum – from a federal investigation into alleged drug and campaign finance law violations by pressuring Mingo County businessman George White to fire the attorney who was helping ...

Chicago City Council Approves Reparations for Police Torture Victims

Chicago City Council Approves Reparations for Police Torture Victims

by Joe Watson

The Chicago City Council has voted to approve a $5.5 million package that will pay reparations and fund other benefits to victims of torture at the hands of notorious former police commander Jon Burge and his cadre of officers. The May 6, 2015 approval of the package culminates a decade-long effort to compensate the more than 100 victims – mostly African-American men – who suffered physical and psychological abuse at the hands of police during almost two decades under Burge’s reign. [See: PLN, Dec. 2011, p.14; Oct. 2004, p.1].

The reparations package includes maximum payments of $100,000 to torture victims, plus free city college tuition and job training to victims and their families, as well as city-funded psychological, family and substance abuse counseling. No payments will be made to family members of torture victims who have since died, though they can receive other benefits.

Authorities alleged that from 1972 to 1991, Burge was in charge of a group of white Chicago police detectives who forced confessions from suspects by routinely using electric shocks, mock executions, and suffocation with plastic bags and typewriter covers, and ...

Former Illinois Drug Court Judge Gets Prison Time Following Fellow Judge’s Fatal Overdose

Former Illinois Drug Court Judge Gets Prison Time Following Fellow Judge’s Fatal Overdose

by Joe Watson

A former judge over an Illinois drug court is serving a federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to drug and weapons charges in connection with the 2013 death of a fellow judge from a ...

Illinois University Faculty Member and PLN Contributor Fights for His Job after Opposing New County Jail

Illinois University Faculty Member and PLN Contributor Fights for His Job after Opposing New County Jail

by Joe Watson

In 2013, James Kilgore’s activism against a proposed new jail in Champaign, Illinois saved his community millions of dollars in construction costs and educated local residents on the profit motives of ...

Investigation Forces Arizona Clemency Board Chairman to Resign

Investigation Forces Arizona Clemency Board Chairman to Resign

by Joe Watson

A Republican political consultant who was appointed by Governor Jan Brewer to head Arizona’s Board of Executive Clemency (Board) said he was “forced out” of the position after a discrimination complaint filed against him resulted in a state investigation ...

Does Political Spending by Private Prison Firms in Oklahoma Influence Prison Reform?

Does Political Spending by Private Prison Firms in Oklahoma Influence Prison Reform?

by Joe Watson

Three private prison corporations, including the nation’s two largest, have contributed more than a combined $400,000 to political candidates in Oklahoma since 2004, prompting at least one prominent state legislator to question the correlation ...

Report Finds Two-Thirds of Private Prison Contracts Include “Lockup Quotas”

Report Finds Two-Thirds of Private Prison Contracts Include “Lockup Quotas”

by Joe Watson

An analysis of private prison contracts from across the United States reveals that state and local governments commonly enter into agreements that require them to keep prisons filled or pay for unused, empty beds.

In the Public ...

Brits Alarmed to Learn Prisoners Work as Insurance Telemarketers

Brits Alarmed to Learn Prisoners Work as Insurance Telemarketers

by Joe Watson

Some knickers are in a bunch over revelations that prisoners in Great Britain are working as telemarketers for an insurance company.

Prisoners at two facilities – HMP Oakwood and the Drake Hall women’s jail in Staffordshire – were ...