Archive for October, 2008

‘Potato gun’ used to shoot contraband into prison

Posted in Articles on October 30, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

ANDERSON COUNTY, SC (WIS) – Corrections officials say a device commonly known as a potato gun has been used to launch illegal items into a state prison.



Prisons come with two guarantees: People will try to get out, and they will try to get in things they’re not supposed to have.

That’s where the device enters the picture.

Call it a potato gun, potato cannon or a spudzooka.

The device can now also be called evidence in what the corrections department says was a plan to shoot contraband into the McCormick Correctional Institution.

“And they were simply using it to launch contraband like you would a spud,” says prisons spokesman Josh Gelinas.

Police in Anderson County have questioned several people in connection with the plot.

It was designed, corrections says, to launch drugs and cell phones in particular into McCormick, a maximum security prison surrounded by a double fencing system and electronic surveillance.

Videos and step-by-step instructions for making potato guns are easy to find online.

The guns are made from PVC pipe, fueled with everything from hairspray to propane, and sparked by barbecue grill igniters.

Some of the bigger guns can shoot whatever’s crammed down their barrels hundreds of yards.

Corrections says this discovery is an indicator that inmates and their friends are trying to find new ways around tougher security at prison entrances.

“All of our medium and maximum security institutions have x-ray machines and metal detectors. We’ve simply made it harder to get contraband in the front door. So naturally they’ve turned to throwing it over fences, tossing it over fences in footballs. Basketballs, tennis balls, racquetballs. In this case, a pretty large potato gun,” says Gelinas.

The department says the arrests also point out the need for higher staffing levels and new equipment to jam cell phone signals.

Corrections Director Jon Ozmint might have the spudzooka with him next month to help argue his case at the Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville.

Ozmint will be there November 21 for a demonstration of a cell phone jamming system.

Cell phone jammers are illegal under us law, even in prisons.

Ozmint says the technology is needed to prevent inmates from using smuggled phones to escape or commit more crimes.

But he’ll have to convince the FCC and maybe Congress that jamming cell phone signals should be allowed in this instance, for the sake of public safety.


2 inmates attack guard at Anamosa prison

Posted in Prison assaults on October 29, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

ANAMOSA, Iowa – State prison officials said three staff members at the prison in Anamosa were injured after they were attacked by two inmates.

Iowa Department of Corrections spokesman Fred Scaletta said the injuries were not life-threatening, and the employees were treated at a hospital and released. Their names were not released.

The incident happened Tuesday afternoon. Scaletta said the two inmates were quickly restrained, and the prison was placed on temporary lockdown.

The inmates’ names were not released pending an investigation.


Sheriff: Deputy Fired After Internal Investigation

Posted in Articles on October 28, 2008 by cosgoingwrong


Deputy used department computer to research information about slain correctional officer

Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Chu Vue used a sheriff’s department computer to look up personal information about the correctional officer who was gunned down in his garage Oct. 15, according to a law enforcement source.The source also told The Bee that Vue was fired today following his arraignment on an unrelated weapons charge.Vue was fired for insubordination, according to the source, who indicated that accusation stemmed from Vue’s refusal to talk to internal affairs investigators after the slaying of Steve Lo.Vue has not been charged in the slaying and his arraignment today was for a charge of possession of an illegal firearm.Vue’s not guilty plea was entered by his attorney, Palai Lee.After the hearing, Lee stressed that Vue has not been charged with anything related to the slaying. Lo was shot to death before dawn in his garage in south Sacramento as he prepared to leave for his job in Vacaville.”There’s no evidence tying him to the murder or anybody’s murder,” Lee said. “They only charged him (with possession of an illegal weapon) and that’s it.”However, a source told The Bee today that Vue had accessed a sheriff’s department computer before Lo was killed and reviewed personal information about the 39-year-old officer, who worked at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville. Vue’s wife also works at that facility, where she is a medical technician.A spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department, which is investigating Lo’s slaying, said last week that Vue’s arrest on the weapons charge stemmed from a search of his home the day Lo was killed. During the search, officers found an unregistered, illegal assault rifle and later issued a warrant for Vue’s arrest, a police spokesman said.The spokesman said that the rifle confiscated from Vue’s home is not consistent with the type of weapon used to kill the correctional officer.Last week, a police investigator said in a court document that Vue’s behavior over recent months strongly indicates he was “involved in the planning and/or the execution” of Lo.In a request to seal the record of a search warrant for Vue’s home, police Detective Eric Schneider told the court he is confident the 13-year veteran is not the perpetrator of the homicide.He wrote, however, that Vue is a “principal” in the case, and a law-enforcement source told The Bee Friday that Vue’s two brothers — who are fugitives wanted on second-degree murder charges out of Minneapolis — are being sought for questioning in the case.Chu Vue, who is being investigated in connection with the slaying of a correctional officer, today pleaded not guilty to a charge of possession of an illegal firearm.


Search Warrant Connects Chu Vue To Corrections Officer’s Shooting Death

Chu Vue

Sacramento Police Department

A Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy who has been connected to the shooting death of a corrections officer was fired Monday, Sheriff John McGinness said.Chu Vue, 43, was fired after being uncooperative during a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department internal investigation into the shooting of state corrections officer Steve Lo, McGinness told KCRA 3.McGinness said his department started an internal investigation after the Sacramento Police Department announced its own investigation.”I cannot specifically comment on the exact nature of his behavior because he is still protected under the Peace Officer’s Bill of Rights,” McGinness said. “We are not alleging any criminal misconduct.”Vue was taken into custody last week after a search at his home turned up a rifle later determined to be illegal and unregistered.A search warrant obtained by KCRA 3 connects Vue to the shooting death of corrections officer Steve Lo.The warrant said “Vue’s activities strongly indicate he was involved in the planning and/or execution of” the slaying of Steve Lo on Oct. 15. The documents also state that Vue is not believed to be the “perpetrator of this homicide, but he remains the principal in this case.”Sgt. Matt Young said that they have not made an arrest in the slaying of Lo and are asking for the help of the public in the case.Vue appeared in court Monday and pleaded not guilty to the weapons charge.Vue’s attorney, Palai Lee, said Monday that Vue “has nothing to do with” the killing of Steve Lo.Vue is still employed by the sheriff’s department but has been placed on leave with no badge and no gun, sources said.Lo worked with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He had been an officer for about three years.He is survived by his wife, three sons and two daughters.Lo’s family will hold a three-day Hmong funeral ritual starting Friday.Investigators have not revealed the motive for the fatal shooting.Vue will be back in court on Nov. 4 for a reduction of a bail motion.


related story

Prison Search Finds Cell Phones, Weapons

Posted in Articles on October 28, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

Death Row Inmate Caught Using Cell Phone

A shakedown of the huge Texas prison system is netting authorities more contraband than just illegal cell phones.Officers have turned up weapons, tobacco products and money. All of that is prohibited for the some 155,000 inmates in the state’s 111 prisons.That’s on top of the 120 phones and components like chargers found as the first full week of the inspections ended Monday.A statewide lockdown of the system began after death row inmate Richard Tabler was caught making a phone call from his cell.Authorities said Tabler also shared the device with other death-row inmates.Tabler’s mother and sister both have been charged with introducing contraband into the prison system, for allegedly buying minutes to keep the phone active.


NSW prison officers walk off the job

Posted in Articles on October 28, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

ails across NSW are in lockdown after prison officers walked off the job in protest at the government’s privatisation plans.

Officers across NSW stopped work at 10pm (AEDT) for 24 hours ahead of a protest rally outside NSW parliament at 11am (AEDT) on Wednesday.

They say the industrial action is the start of a series of strikes to protest against the selloff plans which they fear will threaten the safety of inmates, workers and the community.

In August, the NSW government flagged wide-ranging reform of NSW’s prison system, after overtime payments hit $43 million a year – more than double the budgeted $20 million.

NSW Public Service Association (PSA) general secretary John Cahill said the union was concerned prisons would be privatised in the November 11 mini-budget.

Jails at Parklea in Sydney’s west and Cessnock in the Hunter region were tagged for privatisation, as well as aspects of court security and prisoner transport, he said.

“We don’t think prisons should be (privatised) as a profit-making institution,” Mr Cahill told reporters.

“This also has serious health and safety concerns for the people who work in probably one of the most dangerous jobs in Australia.”

Inmates will be confined to cells during the strike, which is expected to include 24 of NSW’s 32 prisons.

“The prisoners are in lockdown from 10 o’clock tonight until 10 o’clock tomorrow night,” Mr Cahill told AAP.

“Executive officers are there to make sure that they’re properly looked after – anyone who needs medical treatment will be given medical treatment, they’re all being fed and they’re all being looked after as they have to be.”

Officers Vocational Branch chair Matt Bindley, who works as a prison guard at Parklea, described the potential selloff as a “massive threat to all of us”.

“Privatisation is a massive threat … not just to the people inside the jail, but the community at large as well,” he told reporters.

“The jobs we do have the potential to get ugly very quickly and we’d like to know that we work on a philosophy of safety not profit.”

Privatising prisons would likely mean more “bashings” and “assaults” among inmates, he said.

“The inmates are concerned about privatisation as well because they know that we look after them and we keep them safe while they’re in jail,” Mr Bindley said.

“(The strike) is going to be the start of a series of actions to the state government to show them that we don’t accept what they’re doing to the system and if they sit down and work with us we can make it better.”

A prisoner support group has backed the officers’ strike action, saying privatising jails would not help inmates.

“Prisoners generally agree that adding the profit motive to the horror of prisons is wrong,” Justice Action spokesperson Brett Collins said in a statement.

“Only a morally corrupt government would invite overseas private corporations to make profit from our misery, to control citizens like slaves in cages.”

Premier Nathan Rees refused on comment on the issue, saying the government had not ruled anything out, while a Department of Corrective Services spokeswoman said it “was absolutely not true” that security or officer safety would be compromised.

Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell said he thought prison privatisation needed to be “explored”.

He said a public accounts committee report had shown private sector involvement in the prison system could reduce costs by 50 per cent.

“It’s an issue that shouldn’t be rejected out of hand, but it’s an issue for 13 years this Labor government has ignored,” he said.


Buckeye police investigating correction officer’s murder

Posted in Passings on October 27, 2008 by cosgoingwrong


UPDATE – BUCKEYE – Two Buckeye teens have been charged with the murder of a local department of corrections officer.

Sixteen-year old Benjamine Cannon and 15-year old year old Felix Vasquez allegedly lured Officer Bradley Gerrard out of his car, shot and killed him and then took off in his car last weekend.

It happened in the Tartesso neighborhood near Tartesso Boulvard and Bruner Road.

The car was found several miles from the scene and it was partially burned.

Police say both Cannon and Vasquez admitted to the crime, however, each says the other pulled the trigger.

Officer Gerrard left behind a pregnant wife and another  child.


Original story

Police found Bradley Gerrard, 28, dead near Tartesso Boulevard and Bruner Road in Buckeye shortly before midnight on Saturday.Police said he had suffered a gunshot wound.

The victim is a resident of the Tartesso Residential Community and was discovered in the street near his home.

He leaves behind a pregnant wife and child.

Buckeye Police Lt Phil Harris said the victim had a family member coming to stay at his home from out of town. He went to Walmart at about 11:00 p.m. Saturday night to buy an air matress for them to sleep on.

Buckeye Police and Fire recieved a call of a car fire two miles from the victim’s home. As fire and police were responding, a second call came to them by a person reporting a body in the roadway and an air mattress.

They found Gerrad’s partially burned car around 4 a.m. several miles from his dead body.

Gerrad was a corrections officer with the Arizona Department of Corrections since 2004 assigned to the Lewis Prison Complex.

At this time police said it does not appear the murder has anything to do with his career.

Harris said they have investigative leads and are not speculating on motive.

If you have any information that could help police you are asked to contact the Buckeye Police Department at 623-349-6400.

The Department of Corrections is assisting the Buckeye Police Department with this case.


Layoffs of 80 jail deputies blocked

Posted in Articles on October 26, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans obtained a temporary restraining order Friday blocking the layoffs of about 80 county jail deputies

Evans said he requested the order because the layoffs would have forced the Sheriff’s Office to release hundreds of people charged with felonies who are awaiting trials.

Such a move would place the office in violation of a 2005 Wayne County Circuit Court order that mandates staffing levels at the jail.

The layoffs were scheduled to go into effect at midnight Sunday. Wayne County Circuit Judge Isidore Torres issued the temporary restraining order.

“I cannot, in clear conscience, compromise the safety of the public and violate a court order,” Evans said in a written statement. “Wayne County already has fewer jail beds than every comparably sized county in the country.”

Last month, the Wayne County Commission adopted a budget that cut 10% from the sheriff’s budget.

A hearing to discuss the layoffs is scheduled for Tuesday before Wayne County Circuit Judge Michael Sapala at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, 2 Woodward, Detroit


California’s prison healthcare mess

Posted in Articles on October 26, 2008 by cosgoingwrong
Judicial action might be quietly welcomed by some officials under political and economic pressure.
By Franklin E. Zimring
October 25, 2008
The continuing saga of federal court efforts to reform medical care in California’s prisons is a textbook example both of why constitutional courts are unpopular in this country and why we need them. At a hearing Monday, a panel of three federal judges will consider whether the governor and comptroller should be held in contempt of court for failing to provide a cash down payment of $250 million on an $8-billion court-ordered plan to build seven medical facilities for prisoners.

The political timing for this shootout couldn’t be worse if Stephen King had written the script. The U.S. is in the middle of a financial meltdown in which short-term cash for even creditworthy states is endangered. Meanwhile, California’s finances are imploding. The state just passed a budget that cuts spending programs for the poor and the elderly and engineers accounting strategies last seen at Enron.

So now three federal judges demand that California pay out $8 billion to serve rapists and drug pushers ahead of the fiscal and service needs of innocent citizens. How can such an outrage be justified?

The start of this story is the extraordinary growth of prisons in the Golden State — just under a 700% expansion in less than a generation. The 172,000 prisoners in this system would be the state’s 28th largest city if they were in a central location instead of spread over 33 isolated locations, usually far from medical centers. The cost of this penal explosion has not been modest — a $10.3-billion operating budget this year alone — but building and staffing prisons has been the dominant public priority in California since the early 1980s.

The medical problems of California prisoners have been growing even faster than the inmate population. AIDS has provided one set of dangerous complications. Longer prison terms also guarantee an aging and less healthy population.

While filling prisons has been a political priority in California, the care and feeding of convicted criminals hasn’t. The result is dozens of dungeons without any programs of improvement or work for prisoners, and they have been stuffed more than full. The state has just passed a $7.1-billion prison expansion package, but it made no investment in the long-deferred medical facilities. That was democracy at work: Only the control and punishment of criminals carries any priority with the average citizen.

In this court case, two matters are beyond controversy. There is and must be a constitutional duty imposed on states to provide the inmates they lock up with decent medical care. Imprisonment forces the inmate into a total dependency on the state, and once the state chooses to impose this dependence — as California has on more individuals than any other state — it cannot abuse its absolute power.

It is equally clear that the current dysfunctional mess of medical services in the California system is dangerously below any civilized minimum standard. The court found that medical neglect in the prisons was not infrequently the cause of unnecessary deaths. The irony here is that inadequate medical care is responsible for far more deaths in 33 prisons than the underemployed executioner at San Quentin. You will read excuses for inaction in this newspaper from the people in charge of the prison system — but no credible assertion that the state is doing its duty.

But do we really need a federal court to come in and demand that the state fix this mess now? The test question here is how long would it take for the state’s political process to make reform of prison health services a multibillion-dollar priority? One millennium or two? When discrete and unpopular minorities are at risk of exploitation in the political system, it often will be necessary for the legal system to save the minorities (and our standard of civilized government) from the consequences of punitive populism. As long as California continues to build and fill prisons, its government must be compelled to pay the full cost of those prisons before any discretionary spending.

Prison medical care is yet another problem on which government leaders know better than they do. The Legislature may not be able to pass a budget to do the right thing, but a substantial number of well-informed people in Sacramento know that the system must be repaired. When the state is in fiscal crisis, however, they lack the power or the will to push it through.

So perhaps there is less of an angry struggle between the governor and the judges than seems apparent. When governmental actions are necessary but unpopular, external pressure like a court order can provide political cover to do the right thing by giving politicians a federal court to blame for it.

And that is one reason why I suspect a settlement may be closer than the current posturing suggests. There are plenty of decent people in the executive and legislative branches of California’s government who are silently grateful that federal courts have the authority and the courage to rescue this state from its populist excesses.

Franklin E. Zimring is a professor of law at UC Berkeley.


Check out the new Sound off page under blogroll.

Posted in Uncategorized on October 25, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

After some searching I found a nice blog for discussion. Use it for questions,rants, meeting other correctional professionals or whatever else comes to mind. You can post anonymously in this blog.

Private prison company indicted for Texas murder

Posted in Articles on October 25, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

McALLEN, Texas (AP) — A private prison company based in Florida has been indicted in the death of a Texas prisoner just days before his release.

The indictment released Thursday alleges The GEO Group let other inmates fatally beat Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. with padlocks stuffed into socks.

He died four days before his scheduled release from a facility in Raymondville on the southern tip of Texas.

A jury ordered the company to pay de la Rosa’s family $47.5 million in a 2006 civil judgment. He died in 2001.

Calls to The GEO Group and the Willacy County District Attorney’s Office were not immediately returned Friday. The GEO Group was formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp.


Maori inmate dies while being restrained by guards

Posted in Articles on October 25, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

A police investigation is being held into the death of a Maori prison inmate in central Queensland last weekend.

Josen Tofia Mataia, 32, on remand at the jail 20km north of Rockhampton, reportedly died while being restrained by guards at the Capricornia Correctional Centre.

The Prisoners Legal Service (PLS) is calling for an immediate Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) investigation into the death.

Mataia was originally arrested in Cairns on breaking-and-entering charges, but allegedly assaulted an officer at a police station.

PLS spokeswoman Matilda Alexander told the ABC his death was seen by other inmates.

They “saw the prisoner being dragged along by between four and six officers in an inappropriate restraint position”.

The death raised questions of inappropriate use of force.

“There were witnesses to it and I certainly don’t think that there’s any doubt about the fact that he died while being restrained,” she said.

Sources told the Courier-Mail newspaper in Brisbane that Mataia had earlier assaulted two of the officers, and that at least one of the guards had clothing soaked in urine.

Prison guards at Capricornia walked off the job on Wednesday — leaving management and police to operate the high-security jail in lockdown — to protest about the officer being required to stay in wet clothes until police arrived to take custody of the clothing.

A local newspaper, the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, reported it was initially claimed Mataia died after a heart attack.


Source: Guards Should Have Anticipated Jail Death

Posted in Articles on October 25, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

PHOENIX — Deputies at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s Fourth Avenue Jail should have noticed something was up in the moments leading up to a 15-minute beating that left one inmate dead, a former member of the Aryan Brotherhood said.


“They should have seen what was going on,” the 5 Investigates source said. “They should have looked at that video and said, ‘Hmm … something’s not right.'”


On May 1, jail inmate Pete Van Winkle, an accused member of the Aryan Brotherhood, assaulted fellow inmate Robert Cotton for 15 minutes. It took five minutes for guards to arrive at the scene, and Cotton died from his injuries.


Surveillance cameras taped the entire episode; however, the guard watching the monitors was talking on the phone at the time of the assault, and he did not have the view from this camera on any of the television screens

After preparing a 569-page report, deputies concluded that there was nothing the guard could have done.


“After reviewing this incident we are certain that this homicide could not have been prevented,” said MCSO Chief of Custody Jerry Sheriden.


After watching the tape, 5 Investigates‘ source disagreed based on his insider knowledge of the Aryan Brotherhood.


The man joined the gang when he was an inmate in California; he has no direct knowledge of the incident.


Because the source has renounced his membership in the Aryan Brotherhood, he is danger; 5 Investigates has declined to identify him for his safety.


He said the beating looked like something that orchestrated by the Aryan Brotherhood, and it looked like Van Winkle told Cotton he was going to take a beating because he refused to beat up another inmate.


In the video, Cotton appears to voluntarily walk into Van Winkle’s cell.


“That guy went into his cell thinking he was just going to get beat up — by checking,” the source said. “That’s what they call it. You know, ‘Hey, you’re just going to get a checking brother. We’re just going to lump you up a couple of times. We’re good; you’ll come back to the yard.’ That kind of thing.”


The source told 5 Investigates that the prison guards should have paid closer attention to the surveillance tapes.


The crux of his argument lies in footage from right before the beating occurred — five inmates standing in a circle and having a heated argument.


“It was basically a court,” the source said.


In a press conference, Sheridan said the inmates were not holding court; he pointed to the races of the three other inmates as proof of this. One inmate was Hispanic, and the other two were African-American.


“(The Aryan Brotherhood) is a white supremacist gang,” Sheridan said. “There is no way on God’s earth that these Aryan Brotherhood members — white supremacists — would involve these inmates in any fashion.”


5 Investigates‘ source disagreed.


When he was a member of the gang, it was common for other ethnic groups in a cell block to be notified and told to stay away when something was about to happen, he said.


This may explain why one of the men in the circle walked right by the cell during the assault, yet did not alert the guards.


Still, the source said the guards should have known that something was going to happen.


“If there was someone there watching that video in the rec yard with all of those shot-callers there, that should have been a sign — something’s going down,” he said


Three Men in Custody in Prison Employee Murder

Posted in Articles on October 23, 2008 by cosgoingwrong
STOCKTON, CA – Police have taken three individuals into custody in connection with the slaying of a women’s

more about “correctional articles and stories › E…“, posted with vodpod


prison employee in north Stockton Wednesday morning.

Police have identified the victim as Michael Rutledge, 35. He was a supervisor of food services at the Federal Correctional Institution women’s prison in Dublin. His employment started there in 2000.
Wednesday afternoon, investigators stopped a green Jeep Cherokee in south Stockton and apprehended its occupants. A third man was also put in custody, at a home, a few blocks away. Their names have not been released.
Police have not confirmed the cause of death or indicated a motive for the attack. Neighbors say they heard what sounded like a gunshot. According to police, Rutledge had left his home in north Stockton before 5 a.m. and his family assumed he’d made it to work. It was waste management workers doing morning garbage pickup who discovered Rutledge in his front yard at about 6 a.m.
Police said Rutledge’s job at a prison will be considered as the investigation continues.
“The detectives will go back and talk to employees, supervisors, and people he supervised, to see if there was any animosity, or any reason that someone coming out of that system would want to hurt him”, said Stockton spokesman Pete Smith.
Exactly one week ago in south Sacramento, a state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation correctional officer was gunned down in front of his home as he prepared to leave for work. According to law enforcement sources, a Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy is under investigation in the murder of Steve Lo.
There is no word if the two killings are in any way connected.

Prison Guard Stabbed By Inmate

Posted in Prison assaults on October 23, 2008 by cosgoingwrong


MILTON, FL (AP) — Officers say a Santa Rosa County prison inmate stabbed a corrections officer.

A Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman says 46-year-old inmate John Souter stabbed 31-year-old guard Andrew Parrott Wednesday morning. Parrott was taken to a hospital to be treated for a half-inch-deep wound to the chest.

The spokeswoman says Parrot was injured when he and other officers went into a cell to break up a fight between Souter and another inmate.

Souter is serving time on charges that include robbery, burglary, escape, aggravated battery and motor vehicle theft.

No charges have been filed in the stabbing, but the Department of Corrections will forward the results of its investigation to the State Attorney’s Office.


Prison guards left covered in urine

Posted in Articles on October 23, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

QUEENSLAND prison guards walked off the job because colleagues were forced to keep urine-soaked uniforms on until police arrived to investigate an inmate’s death, Corrective Services Minister Judy Spence says.

Prison officers at the Capricornia Correctional Centre, near Rockhampton, returned at 8am (AEST) today after walking off the job yesterday afternoon.

Ms Spence said today the action was sparked by an incident at the weekend after which a remand prisoner died.

“I understand the reason for this strike is the prison officers (who) had to subdue a prisoner last Saturday, who subsequently died, were required to stay in their clothing until the police came to the prison for their investigation,” Ms Spence said.

“The prison officers’ clothing was urine-affected, so the prison officers were upset about having to stay in that clothing until the police arrived at that prison.”

She said it was unfortunate the prison officers did not express their concerns to management before going on strike.

“It was some time before we understood the reasons for strike action,” she said.

The police investigation into the prisoner’s death was continuing.

“There has been some initial results from the autopsy but we are waiting for further results from the coroner,” Ms Spence said.

The prison officers also ignored a directive from the Industrial Relations Commission to return to work, forcing the prison into lockdown with about 500 high-security inmates being guarded by police.


Southern Illinois prison staff concerned about next round of Pontiac transfers

Posted in Articles on October 23, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

SPRINGFIELD — Fallout from Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s push to close Pontiac Correctional Center is now raining on Pinckneyville.

Workers at the medium-security lockup are up in arms over a plan to transfer up to 160 inmates to the southern Illinois facility next week.

They worry whether the prison is equipped to deal with the influx.

“We don’t have procedures in place. We don’t have the staffing. We don’t have the equipment,” said Randy Hellmann, a supply superintendent at the 2,000-inmate prison.

The additional prisoners are being sent from the medium-security Lawrence Correctional Center, which then would have extra space to accept inmates being moved out of Pontiac.

The department wouldn’t confirm the connection between closing Pontiac and the inmates heading to Pinckneyville, but it comes just a week after the agency transferred 100 inmates out of Pontiac and into prisons in East Moline and Taylorville.

State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said there is little doubt about what’s happening.

“Is this part of closing Pontiac? I think it is,” said Luechtefeld, who visited the prison in Pinckneyville on Wednesday.

“We are seeing the domino effect of the department’s plan to close Pontiac,” added Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

The Blagojevich administration estimates closing Pontiac will save taxpayers $4 million a year, even though local officials say it will devastate the Livingston County economy, which has relied on the prison for 137 years.

AFSCME, which represents prison workers, is raising concerns about the effects of the move on Pinckneyville, which will require some inmates to share cells. Hellmann, president of AFSCME Local 943, said workers haven’t been trained to handle inmates housed two to a cell.

Luechtefeld and Hellmann said Wednesday they were rebuffed in their request to slow down the transfers.

AFSCME and a host of state lawmakers contend the state should open Thomson and keep Pontiac operating as a way to ease overcrowded conditions throughout the prison system.

Corrections spokesman Derek Schnapp said, “It still is our plan to close Pontiac and open Thomson.”


S.C. prisons take on feds over jamming cell phone phone signals

Posted in Articles on October 22, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

UPDATED 7 a.m. COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina might already have started jamming cell phone signals in prisons to prevent convicts from committing further crimes, if it weren’t for one significant problem with the plan: It’s against the law.

The struggle to stop cell phone use in prisons – where some experts say the devices have become a new form of cash – has states trying old-fashioned cell searches, sophisticated body scanners, even dogs trained to sniff out batteries and memory chips. South Carolina’s state prison chief, Jon Ozmint, wants to add to those tactics with existing technology that blocks cell signals.

Standing in his way is the federal Communications Act, which prevents states from using jammers or otherwise interfering with federal airwaves. The Federal Communications Commission can give federal agencies the authority to use such jammers. But there’s no such provision for state and local law enforcement.

“This is a classic example of a rule that has not kept up with technology,” said Ozmint, who has managed South Carolina’s 28 prisons for the past five years. “It’s just hypocrisy beyond the pale of reason that the big bad federal government goes, ‘Oh, well, we can use this technology, but you poor little states can’t use the same technology to protect your citizens.'”

Experts say the consequences of not using jammers can be dire. Perhaps the most glaring example took place in Maryland last summer, when Baltimore resident Carl Lackl identified a shooting suspect. Authorities say the 38-year-old father was gunned down outside his home after the suspect used a cell phone to order the hit from behind bars.

In South Carolina, Ozmint blames illegal cell phones for most of the state’s prison escapes. In one 2005 case, cell phones were found on two inmates who escaped a maximum security prison in Columbia by hiding in a trash truck.

In some places, inmates found with cell phones can have years tacked onto their sentences or have credit for good behavior taken away. And in several states, it’s illegal for prison officials and visitors to give phones to inmates.

Such deterrence measures might become moot if officials could use the jammers to prevent unmonitored calls from ever happening within prison walls, as Ozmint hopes to do in spite of everything it would take to give him that power.

“We have no authority to even grant it if we thought it was worthwhile or something that was warranted,” said Robert Kenny, a spokesman for the FCC. “It’s likely going to take some level of action by Congress.”

Ozmint has invited federal officials and the state’s congressional delegation to come to South Carolina’s maximum-security Lieber Correctional Institution in a few months, where CellAntenna Corp., which manufactures jamming devices, will demonstrate that technology.

The devices prevent cell tower signals from ever reaching a phone, effectively blocking all calls. Jammers wouldn’t block calls made from satellite phones, but those would be exponentially more expensive and cumbersome to smuggle into prison.

It’s not clear how much it would cost to outfit South Carolina’s prisons with the jammers, though officials say they’d focus first on installing the technology in maximum-security prisons.

Critics say it’s impossible to contain the jamming technology to one or two buildings, and that using it runs the risk of affecting people using phones nearby.

“You can prevent emergency calls if these jammers are allowed,” said Joe Farren, spokesman for CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group for the wireless industry. “You put signal jammers in, you interfere with critical communications, life and death.”

That worry is shared by Zack Kendall, a security specialist for North Carolina’s prison system who said he doesn’t know whether his prisons would take advantage of signal blocking because it could interfere with internal radio communications.

Howard Melamed, the chief executive and president of Coral Springs, Fla.-based CellAntenna, said signal jammers can be angled so that cell phones won’t function inside prison walls, but someone standing just outside would have no problem making a call.

“It’s no different than turning on a light and making sure the light doesn’t spread outside of a certain area,” Melamed said.

Ozmint said his officers are stretched thin by a rising prison population and tightening budget constraints. He believes the technology would help him run a safer, more efficient prison system.

“As long as you have human beings in prisons as inmates and employees, and as long as there are human beings on the outside of those prisons, you’re going to have contraband in prison,” Ozmint said. “This is a threat that can be absolutely eliminated.”


Heavy’ Inmate Hid Pot In Fat Folds Of Stomach

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

Police have filed additional charges against an inmate who they say tried to hide illegal drugs inside a Northside prison in the folds of his stomach.


Officers said Cedric Webb, 25, was at the Montgomery Correctional Center on the Northside when officers searching for contraband told him to lift his shirt.

According to the police report, when Webb raised his shirt, the officer saw two bags of marijuana and tobacco tucked into his stomach fat.

Investigators said the drugs then fell to the ground, WJXT reported.

The report said Webb would not explain how he got the banned substances into the facility.

The arrest report describes Webb as 6 feet 2 inches tall and 290 pounds and his build as “heavy.”

Webb, who had been in jail since May on charges of possession of cocaine and forgery, is now charged with introduction of contraband into a detention facility and possession of marijuana.


Lawmakers grill Texas prison officials after 3 cellphones are found on death row

Posted in Articles on October 21, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

AUSTIN – Poor surveillance, inadequate staffing and under-paid, easily-corrupted corrections guards have allowed Texas prison inmates to easily obtain phones and other contraband, criminal justice officials acknowledged Tuesday, the day after three cell phones were recovered from death row.

One of these phones logged 2,800 calls over the last month, and was used by a convicted murderer to make threatening calls to Sen. John Whitmire, who said he was “disgusted” with top prison officials at an emergency hearing on Tuesday.

“We’re talking about life and death, about a death row inmate calling me and talking about my daughters,” Mr. Whitmire said. “I’m really disgusted with our prison officials because this is not a secret. Contraband is rampant… It is more secure at the Harris County Courthouse, in Houston traffic court, than it is” on death row.

Texas’ 156,000 inmates remained on lockdown on Tuesday, following Monday’s revelation that a guard had accepted a bribe to get death row murderer Richard Tabler a cell phone. Mr. Tabler and at least nine other death row inmates, most of them affiliated with violent gangs, made more than 2,800 calls over 30 days. The calls to Mr. Whitmire referenced the names of his daughters, their ages, and where they live in Houston.

At a Tuesday criminal justice hearing, criminal justice officials and wardens from Texas’ death row testified that their metal detectors were inadequate – only 22 of the state’s 112 units have them. They said they were understaffed. And they said their guards are so poorly compensated that they can be bought with bribes to bring in contraband – everything from cell phones to tobacco and narcotics. Mr. Tabler allegedly paid more than $2,000 to get his cell phone.

“We do everything we’re empowered to do,” said Billy Hirsch, death row’s assistant warden. “The same staff bringing the phone in might be allowing offenders to take it back and forth. If we paid them enough money, they might not be liable to take that bribe.”

But they said they think the best solution would be to utilize cell signal blocking technology, which requires federal approval.

Mr. Whitmire promised immediate action, from pat downs to drug dogs to rewards and better surveillance. Long term, he said, staffing improvements are a necessity.

But he expressed outrage on Tuesday that prison officials, who were aware of the problem, didn’t act before the problem got out of hand. And he demanded answers for why they hadn’t yet asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to use cell signal blockers – or why they didn’t just do it and face the consequences later.

“No person should have to go through the experience I have over the last two weeks, repeatedly talking to a death row inmate,” said Mr. Whitmire, D-Houston. “The impact goes on and on. This kind of activity is a danger to crime victims, to prosecutors, to judges. It’s just intolerable.”


Teen charged with mugging off-duty correction officer in White Plains

Posted in Articles on October 21, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

WHITE PLAINS – A 16-year-old Yonkers boy was arrested Friday night after he and two or three other young men mugged an off-duty state correction officer who fought them off before pulling his gun and chasing them away, police said.

Devante Rainey of 1 Glenwood St. was picked up a few moments later, police said, and was identified by the 31-year-old officer, who lives in Auburn, N.Y. Rainey was charged with second-degree robbery, a felony; and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor.

The incident occurred shortly before 10 p.m., when the officer and his girlfriend were walking to their car after a movie. The officer told police that Rainey and two or three other young men were blocking the sidewalk near Mamaroneck and Martine avenues.

“Excuse me,” Rainey said to the couple, according to the police report. “I’m not moving. You gotta go around me.”

The officer told police that as he and his girlfriend got to their car, Rainey threw a cup at him and punched him in the face. When the officer fought back, the other men joined in, he said, punching him and going through his pockets.

At that point, the officer said, he pulled his gun from his waistband and identified himself as a correction officer. The muggers ran off in different directions, he said.

The officer reported the incident to members of the police mounted unit. Police said Rainey was seen a short time later near where the incident took place and was arrested.

Bail and court information were not available.

No one else was arrested.



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