Archive for September, 2008

Sniper kills prisoner inside French jail

Posted in Articles on September 29, 2008 by cosgoingwrong
The prison at Varces-Grenoble, in the southeast of France
Like a scene from a crime thriller film, a prisoner who faced interrogation over a murder was shot dead inside his French jail by a sniper positioned on a nearby hill.

The suspected gunman, his rifle still warm from the shooting, was arrested shortly afterwards as he tried to flee on a motorbike.

Another inmate, a friend of the dead man, was injured in the attack during which five shots were fired into the exercise yard of the jail at Varces-Grenoble, in the southeast of France.

French Justice Minister Rachida Dati said it was the first time in France that someone in prison had been killed from outside

The murdered prisoner was identified by a French newspaper as Sghair Lamiri, who was born in 1979 and had links to organised crime.

Lamiri was serving an eight-year sentence for robberies committed in 2001 and 2002 and was about to be questioned about a murder case, said Ms Dati.

Ms Dati did not name the suspected gunman, but said he was aged 58 and had been remanded in custody.

“He denies the facts,” she added, “but he was arrested when he was getting to his motorbike which had a false licence plate and his rifle with telescopic sight was still warm.”

Scores of police and firefighters were sent to the jail after the incident.

Prison security official Martin Parkouda said several prisoners refused to return to their cells after the shooting, and others threw flammable material onto a workshop causing a fire which was later put out.



Debate rages on inmates’ right to vote

Posted in Articles on September 29, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

Many prisoners in Alabama jails have the right to vote, but a Democratic activist’s efforts to register them and supply them with absentee ballots halted when the chair of the state Republican Party complained

The Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, an advocate for inmate and felon voting rights and executive director of The Ordinary People Society, was going into state prisons and registering inmates, particularly those convicted of drug possession. Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, wrote a letter of complaint to Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen, who stopped the effort in its tracks.

Allen, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Bob Riley, declined to be interviewed.

He responded to Hubbard in a letter that referred to a 2005 opinion issued by Attorney General Troy King regarding registering felons to vote. He said Glasgow’s program did not violate the attorney general’s opinion regarding lawful visitation of inmates. But he shut the registration down based on another law that “makes it unlawful to use any state-owned property … to promote or advance candidates for election.”

Allen wrote that while it wasn’t clear if the act of assisting voters to register was a violation of those provisions, “I cannot expose departmental employees to that possibility.”

Glasgow, a Democrat from Dothan who served time for robbery and drug convictions, was surprised at the decision.

“It’s our ministry,” said Glasgow, who is a pastor. “I don’t know why anyone would try to politicize this, we’ve been doing it for seven years. It’s also the law. Why would anybody who is supposed to be upholding the law go against the law?”

But King backed the commissioner’s decision, saying it won’t keep inmates from voting, it will only keep outsiders from coming into the jail to make it easier for them to vote. Prisoners can register and apply for an absentee ballot just like any other Alabamian, he said.

“I don’t think the law requires special privileges for people who have broken our laws, or convicted felons, which is what this is really about,” King said. “They have the same opportunity as people who are homebound.”

King said it’s poor public policy to make it easier for people who are incarcerated to vote.

“Should we feel some special obligation to somebody who flaunts the law to vote than we do for homebound senior citizens to vote, or for the single mom who has to work?” he said. “We should not.”

Alabama law is muddy on the issue of which prisoners can vote and which are disenfranchised as part of their punishment.

Alabama felons convicted of “crimes of moral turpitude” cannot vote unless their voting rights have been restored — but there’s no definition of which specific crimes take away a convict’s voting rights.

Marc Mauer, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project, says there’s not much legal obligation to help eligible inmates vote, but the trend in the United States is to make it easier for all people to vote.

“The tradition has been to enact policies and practices that do encourage people to vote,” he said. “In many high schools across the country, election officials come in and meet with graduating seniors who are, or are about to be 18. The same thing is true of the Motor Voter law, which makes it very simple for people to register to vote when they get their driver’s license.”

But prisoners are left out, said Glasgow, and he believes getting them engaged in civic activities like voting is the first step toward making them productive citizens.

The Department of Corrections isn’t legally obligated to allow voter registration drives. But D’Linnell Finley, an Auburn Montgomery political scientist, believes there’s no good reason to disallow them.

“Certainly you would need the permission of the prison officials, because you do have to be concerned about safety and security,” Finley said. “But as long as they are not doing anything wrong, there is no reason to stop them.”

Denying those drives ignores the fact that many inmates don’t know whether they’ve lost their voting rights or not, or have any knowledge of the electoral process, he said. Voter drives help educate would-be voters.

Ryan Haygood, co-director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Political Participation Group, said Alabama’s laws on voting rights for prisoners are just too confusing. Haygood won a 2006 lawsuit that saw a Jefferson County judge order the state to let all convicted felons vote because of the law’s failure to define offenses of moral turpitude. But the Alabama Supreme Court overturned the decision.

“Many of eligible voters don’t know they’re eligible,” he said. “What we lose sight of with this issue is that under the constitution of Alabama and the law, eligible people are being denied the right to vote. The health of our democracy requires that eligible citizens are afforded the opportunity to participate. We don’t lose where there is participation.”


Oshkosh Inmate Protests 6-Year Sentence, Gets 8 Years

Posted in Articles on September 28, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. — One Oshkosh inmate probably regrets asking for a new sentencing hearing, after his six-year sentence became an eight-year sentence.

A jury convicted 62-year-old Donald Newell last year of second-degree sexual assault of a mentally handicapped woman.

He was sentenced to six years, a penalty that fell within the sentencing guidelines. But Newell alleged that Judge Roderick Cameron didn’t take those guidelines into account.

So Cameron granted his motion for re-sentencing. Prosecutors said the defendant still lacked remorse so Cameron extended the sentence to eight years, also within the guidelines.

A message left for Newell’s defense attorney Saturday afternoon wasn’t immediately returned.


Suit: Jail neglected inmate who died

Posted in Articles on September 28, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

An inmate at the Craighead County jail died after medical officers ignored his urgent requests for attention to a painful blood clot in his left leg, a federal lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit, filed this week in federal court in Pine Bluff, says that Kevin Lakes, 24, of Jonesboro died on Sept. 27, 2006, of what an autopsy later determined was a pulmonary embolism caused by a deep-vein thrombosis, or a blood clot, in his left leg.

“The doctor could have put him on drugs, or easily done something that would have saved his life, but instead he fell through the cracks,” said Little Rock attorney John M. Hardy, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lakes ’ younger sister Dominique King, 23, of Jacksonville.

Lakes was taken to the Craighead County jail on Aug. 7, 2006, to await transfer to the Correction Department to serve time for a cocaine-possession conviction, Hardy said.

On Aug. 12, Lakes submitted a medical request form.

“I have acquired a blot clot in my left calf area and it’s unbearable,” he wrote. “It’s constant pain whether I’m lying down, sitting, or standing. And it’s swelling up very badly. I need immediate medical attention.” A medical officer didn’t respond for two days, at which point Lakes thought he was improving, and no tests or examination were performed, the lawsuit states. But two days later, on Aug. 16, Lakes submitted another medical request saying the leg was still swollen and was causing “extreme pain.” Two days later, a “medical officer” without any formal medical training saw Lakes, the suit states.

“Even though a blood clot in the leg is a potentially deadly condition and should be treated as an emergency, [the medical officer ] treated the blood clot with an ankle wrap and Naproxen and failed to inform a physician of Kevin’s condition or to transport Kevin to a physician or hospital,” the suit states.

The defendants in the lawsuit are the medical officer, Benny Ford, and the jail’s medical administrator, Steve Metcalf, who, according to the lawsuit, is a licensed paramedic but not a doctor.

The lawsuit also names Craighead County officials and Correctional Medical Services Inc., which contracted with the state to provide medical services in the prison system, including the Diagnostic Unit in Pine Bluff where Lakes was taken on Sept. 22, 2006.

A day earlier, Lakes had fainted while playing basketball in a jail yard and reported that his heart rate was abnormal, his chest burned and that he was dizzy, the suit says. Jail personnel refused to take him to a hospital or allow him to see a doctor, the suit says.

At the Diagnostic Unit, Lakes didn’t receive a required initial health-care screening, the suit alleges. Although Lakes informed medical personnel that he had a serious health problem and needed to see a doctor, he “was told he would have to wait until his scheduled ‘health assessment, ’” the suit says.

But he never made it. On Sept. 27, Lakes suddenly collapsed, and he went by ambulance to Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff, where he was pronounced dead.

The lawsuit alleges that inmate medical personnel were deliberately indifferent to Lakes’ constitutional rights. It alleges various “constitutional deficiencies” at the jail, including: a lack of medicalintake screening; a requirement that inmates pay for all medical services or go without; absence of staff nurses; no contract with a doctor; and an inadequately trained medical administrator.


State smoking ban has inmates climbing walls

Posted in Articles on September 28, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

RAYBURN — Their first taste of freedom — and fresh air — will include a long inhalation of smoke from their first cigarette in months.

A number of inmates at the Armstrong County Jail are counting the days to their release, not only so they can be free, but so they can resume smoking. Since a statewide smoking ban went into effect Sept. 11, many jail inmates have switched to smokeless tobacco. For some, it was a first.

One such inmate is Mary McDonald who said she is one of four women on her block to begin using smokeless or chewing tobacco.

“I never used it (smokeless tobacco) before,” McDonald said. “It was gross at first, but I got used to it. I guess it’s working, it satisfies my nicotine cravings.”

This is McDonald’s second week of using smokeless tobacco. Being without a smoke for that long, however, isn’t an incentive for her to quit the habit.

“The first thing I’m going to do when I get out is get a pack of smokes,” she said, “and light up, and ditch the smokeless (tobacco). I have 87 days left on my sentence.”

McDonald said she used to smoke a name brand cigarette, but while in jail — before the smoking ban — she learned to use cigarette papers and loose tobacco to roll her own because the roll-your-own cigarette supplies were considerably less expensive than the $6 a pack her name brand cigarettes cost. However, McDonald finds the cost of smokeless tobacco, which ranges from $2.75 to $5.75 a can, depending on the brand, is not much cheaper than name brand cigarettes.

McDonald said she uses a regular flavor smokeless tobacco, but three of her fellow female inmates have opted for a menthol flavored brand.

While smokeless tobacco eliminates the need for ashtrays, inmates now carry small plastic or paper cups in which to spit. Earlier, warden David Hogue cautioned prisoners that if spitting on the floors or walls becomes a problem, he would take away the smokeless tobacco privilege as well. So far the warden has no complaints.

A male inmate, Sean Shetler, said he has used smokeless tobacco before and is pretty used to the habit, although he’d rather smoke.

“It’s no fun,” Shetler said, “but we can’t do anything about it. I only have two weeks left on my sentence anyhow. The first thing I’m going to do when I get out is light up. Smokeless helps suppress the urge for nicotine, but it’s not the same.”

Shetler said he does maintenance work for the prison and sometimes goes outside the walls. Even there, however, he can’t smoke.

“You can’t buy cigarettes in the commissary, so even if you’re out on a work detail you can’t smoke,” he said. “That’s not fair because the guys who are on work release get to smoke while they are out, but I guess that’s the way it is. It bums a lot of people out.

Shetler added that many of the inmates he knows share his sentiments.

“They’re not going to quit smoking just because they can’t have any in here,” he said.

Hogue said that reaction to the smoking ban went surprisingly well.

“The day the ban went into effect, we had a situation here where an inmate escaped and ultimately ended up dead,” he said. “That threw everyone here off balance, so I guess the smoking ban wasn’t a major issue. I know some prisoners don’t like it but really, we’ve had few complaints and the ban is going surprisingly well. We stopped selling smoking tobacco in the commissary about two weeks prior to the ban, so some of the inmates were already out before the ban started.


maximum-security prison in Agassiz, B.C. is locked down

Posted in Distubances on September 28, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

AGASSIZ, B.C. – A maximum-security prison in Agassiz, B.C. is locked down today after a prisoner protest that began Friday morning.

Kent Institution spokeswoman Whitney Mullin says prisoners refused to return to their cells to protest a prison program.

Mullin says negotiators were brought in with prisoners eventually returning to cells early today.

An emergency response team was called to the prison and remains on-scene.

Mullin says the lockdown will continue until management determines the situation is safe.

No one was injured in the incident at the institution that houses 247 inmates at the facility 120 kilometres east of Vancouver.


Adams County jail facing overcrowding

Posted in Articles on September 28, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

NATCHEZ, Miss. – The Adams County jail is so crowded that inmates soon may be sleeping in tents, says Sheriff Ronny Brown.

He said he had five open beds on Friday, and a deputy said they remained open Saturday. When they fill up, Brown plans to begin assigning new inmates to 30 mattresses on the floor. If those fill, he’ll put up tents behind the jail, he said.

“We haven’t seen it like this before,” Brown said.

Brown said 10 rooms with double beds are used for storage because they cannot be locked and don’t have toilets, and another two rooms are designed for mentally ill patients.

Increased drug arrests, clogged courts and inmates who cannot make bond all contribute to the crowding, Brown said.

He said about 80 inmates cannot make bond – and about a dozen await transfers from the city jail to the county jail.

“If you’re selling drugs or stealing you belong in jail,” he said.

Justice Court Judge Charles Vess said in August that court also needed to expand, because its schedule was so packed. He said Friday that he hadn’t known about the jail crowding.

“It’s a cumulative effect,” he said.

The only alternative to tents would be sending inmates to other county jails, but that is expensive. Brown’s office recently billed Amite County $32,000 for housing three inmates for a bit over a year.

Besides, other county jails are as full as his, he said.

“It’s not a good situation,” he said.