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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Monte McCoin

Mississippi DOC Announces Phone Rate Cuts

by Monte McCoin

The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) announced on March 17, 2018 that phone calls from state prisons would be less expensive for prisoners and their families, effective immediately.

“The reduced rate will make services even more accessible and affordable for inmates’ families and loved ones,” Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall declared. “Family members will be able to stay in touch with their loved ones without worrying about the cost. We realize that family contact is very important for rehabilitation.”

The cost for calls made by prisoners dropped from $.22 per minute to $.11 per minute, and associated fees were eliminated or reduced. The rate change applies to all state-run facilities and will soon be the same at the state’s privately-operated prisons. The MDOC’s new agreement with Global Tel*Link (GTL) established rates that align with the per-minute cap the Federal Communications Commission set last year for debit and prepaid prison phone calls – even though those rates never went into effect, as they were successfully challenged in court by GTL and other phone service providers and corrections agencies. [See: PLN, July 2017, p.52].

The MDOC uses “commission” kickbacks from phone revenues and prisoners’ commissary purchases ...

Pennsylvania DOC Bans Timberland Boots; Prisoner Files Suit Seeking Injunction

by Monte McCoin

On April 30, 2018, Pennsylvania prisoner Jamal Washington filed a lawsuit to prevent a ban on leather Timberland boots at all state prisons. His suit seeks an injunction because, he contends, the boots are needed for warmth during the winter months.

“Most of the DOC’s facilities are situated in mountainous regions, which calls for proper footwear to combat the harsh winter elements,” he stated in his complaint.

Pennsylvania prison officials announced the ban in February 2018 in response to the death of SCI-Somerset Sgt. Mark J. Baserman, 60. Baserman died 11 days after he was attacked by prisoner Paul Jawon Kendrick, 23, who was wearing heavy boots when he kicked the guard multiple times in the head.

According to news reports, Kendrick lashed out at Baserman after the guard confiscated a towel that Kendrick had used to block the view of his bunk. After Baserman fell to the ground following eight to 10 punches to the head, Kendrick began kicking him. Another guard who tried to assist Baserman also was injured during the incident.

Pennsylvania DOC officials said Baserman was the first state prison guard to be killed by a prisoner in nearly 40 years. The ...

Wrongful Death Suit Against Tennessee Town Settles for $6,000

by Monte McCoin

A $1 million lawsuit filed by the widow of a man who died at the city jail in Kingsport, Tennessee following a 2015 DUI arrest settled on February 28, 2017 for just $6,000.

Judy Honaker alleged that the City of Kingsport and two jailers, Monica Safis ...

North Carolina Woman Attempts Bail Bond Scheme from Inside Jail

by Monte McCoin

On December 1, 2017, police in Gastonia, North Carolina filed charges against Crystal Dawn Massey, who was already incarcerated at the Gaston County jail, for her role in a fake bail bond scam she attempted to carry out while locked up.

Massey told other prisoners she could help them be released by calling her “uncle” at “Byrd Dog Bail Bonding.” Instead of a referral to local licensed bondsman Carl Byrd’s legitimate bonding business, however, Massey gave fellow prisoners a number that actually belonged to Hoyt Edward Woody, Jr., who had no affiliation with Byrd or his company.

Rodney Jeter’s jailed girlfriend took the bait.

Jeter called the number he’d been given, and agreed to meet with a man who said he would accept $750 to post the unnamed girlfriend’s $25,000 bond. The pair met at an ATM near the jail, but the machine did not work and money did not change hands.

When Jeter’s disappointed girlfriend reached out to the real Carl Byrd and told him about the incident, he contacted the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office.

“I’m very, very upset,” Byrd told the Gaston Gazette. “I don’t know how to express in words how ...

Oklahoma Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Lift Prison Smoking Ban

by Monte McCoin

The Enid News & Eagle reported on February 23, 2018 that Oklahoma State Representative Rick West had introduced a bill to dismantle a six-year ban on cigarette sales and smoking inside state prisons. The measure, which passed a House committee with a vote of 5-4, moved forward to the full House.

“It’s caused more problems and didn’t solve anything,” West said of the Department of Corrections’ smoking ban. “If the intent was that no smoking be allowed amongst the prisoners, that certainly didn’t happen. They’re smoking in there right now as we speak. What it did was create numerous, numerous problems within the system, and the biggest one is the black market that was created.”

“As a whole, most officers would be OK with allowing tobacco sales back into prisons,” added Jackie Switzer, executive director of Oklahoma Corrections Professionals. “When it was removed, all it did was create another black market item. It created a lot more work for officers having to search out and write up infractions for tobacco. [And] it created a lot more opportunity for, I guess, debts to be accrued inside the prisons between inmates.”

A state budget analysis ...

Prison Chaplain Wins Standoff with BOP Over Carrying Pepper Spray

by Monte McCoin

Rev. Ronald Apollo, head chaplain at FCI Bennettsville, a medium-security federal prison in South Carolina, prevailed against the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in his challenge to a 2015 order that effectively prevented him from carrying out his ministerial duties. Apollo, who is a member of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith and eschews “the weapons of human strife,” was assigned to a desk job and prohibited from face-to-face contact with prisoners when he refused to arm himself with oleoresin capsicum – pepper spray – while meeting with and counseling prisoners.

The BOP’s policy required Rev. Apollo, and “any officer or employee of Bureau of Prisons who is employed in a prison that is not a minimum or low security prison,” to carry OC spray while interacting with prisoners. Apollo and two subordinate chaplains at FCI Bennettsville appealed to the facility’s warden and BOP officials, but were told they had to comply with the directive.

Both Rev. Apollo and the Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance in cases where it believes Christian values and religious freedoms are being violated, opined that the policy “created a barrier of trust ...

British Prison Guard Sentenced for Contraband Smuggling Conspiracy

by Monte McCoin

More than 60 handwritten, sexually graphic letters contained all the proof that prosecutors needed to convict a female guard for her role in a conspiracy to smuggle phones, spice, Subutex, steroids, cannabis, porn and vodka into HMP Full Sutton in East Yorkshire, to give to prisoner Falak Alam.

Prosecutor Mark McKone said the guard, Anita Allenby, 57, “fell in love with [] Alam, despite being 29 years older than him.” He added, “Falak Alam might or might not have been in love with her, but they had a sexual relationship, as evidenced by the letters.”

The conspiracy, which took place in December 2014 and for several months prior, was led by Alam, who “used his profoundly intellectually disabled” brother, Arif Alam, to deliver the contraband to Allenby. The guard then smuggled the items into the prison. According to court records, Alam offered to pay £1,500 for three memory sticks loaded with pornography and £500 per phone.

On June 24, 2017, Hull Crown Court Judge David Tremberg sentenced Allenby to 5 years and 10 months in prison after she admitted to charges of conspiracy to supply MDMA (ecstasy), conspiracy to supply cannabis and conveying cell phones ...

Governor Vetoes Nevada’s Anti-Private Prison Bill

by Monte McCoin

Assembly Bill 303, introduced by Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, a former prison guard, would have granted the Nevada Department of Corrections a five-year period to renovate existing prison facilities before eliminating the state’s relationship with for-profit prison firms. The bill progressed through the Nevada legislature with a 38-3 vote in the Assembly on May 24, 2017 before being sent to the state Senate Judiciary Committee, then the full Senate.

According to news reports, the bill was struck down on June 8, 2017 when Governor Brian Sandoval issued a veto. Sandoval explained his reasoning in a statement, saying: “Where AB 303 goes too far, however, is by limiting the discretion of the Director of the Department of Corrections by prohibiting the use of private prisons, starting in 2022. Between now and 2022, much can happen, and there is no way to predict whether private prisons may need to play a critical part in Nevada’s future prison needs.”

Some lawmakers don’t like the idea of for-profit incarceration on principle, while civil rights advocates have raised concerns that private prison companies are not subject to public records laws on the federal level and in some states.

“There’s really no oversight ...

Twenty-six Indicted After Gang Investigation, Including Two Prison Guards

by Monte McCoin

A Maryland prison guard was indicted on 35 charges, including first-degree attempted murder, after a lengthy investigation revealed he was a high-ranking member of the 8-Trey Crips street gang. Antoine Fordham was the initial target of a nearly year-long probe into organized crime in Maryland’s prison system. On November 30, 2017, state officials announced that Fordham was among 26 people who had been indicted the previous month for their roles in widespread gang activity both within and outside Maryland prisons. Guard Phillipe Jordan was indicted for a lesser role.

According to the indictment, Fordham ran a large-scale contraband delivery operation at the Jessup Correctional Institution and Maryland Correctional Institution, as well as in other facilities. He allegedly ordered a near-fatal attack on an incarcerated former Crips member who was stabbed more than 30 times but survived.

“It’s a disgrace that gangs are operating in our prisons. It’s even worse where they’re abetted by folks who have taken an oath to uphold the law,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh. “Gangs are a blight on any community in which they operate,” he added. “As members of the 8-Trey Crips gang, Fordham and Jordan betrayed their ...

New York: Former Rikers Guard Gets 30 Years for Civil Rights Violations, Conspiracy

by Monte McCoin

PLN has previously reported on the December 2016 conviction of former Rikers Island jail complex guard Brian Coll, 47, for his role in the 2012 death of detainee Ronald Spear. In 2014, New York City paid $2.75 million to settle the Spear family’s wrongful death suit. [See: PLN, July 2015, p.1; May 2017, p.63].

Newly-released court testimony revealed that Coll kicked Spear in the side of the head several times “like he was kicking a field goal,” then told the wounded, mentally ill man, “This is what you get. Remember I did this.” In court documents, prosecutors revealed disturbing details about the case, including that Coll had bragged that he should get a teardrop tattoo to represent Spear’s murder and had kept a framed newspaper clipping in his bedroom as a trophy of the incident.

Coll’s attorneys had argued for a sentence of between four and six years, and told the federal court that Coll himself did not orchestrate the subsequent cover-up of the attack, calling it “a function of the culture firmly in place at Rikers Island.”

On September 13, 2017, Manhattan U.S. District Court Judge Loretta A. Preska ...


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