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.

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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