Archive for November, 2008

Wireless Cell Blocking To Be Tested For State Prisons

Posted in Articles on November 27, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

 Officials plan to test cell phone jamming technology after discovering hundreds of illegal mobile devices on Texas death row and in other prison units around the state.

The Austin American-Statesman reports the test has been proposed for Dec. 18 at the Travis County state jail in Austin.

House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden said he requested the test and officials at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice are working to set up the demonstration.

Florida-based CellAntenna Corp. will perform the Texas demonstration.

It conducted a similar test at a South Carolina prison on Friday.

Prison officials from several states gathered to see how the equipment blocks wireless calls.

Regulators can grant permission to federal agencies to use the technology but federal law prevents state and local agencies from jamming cell phone signals.

Still, prison officials hope they will be granted permission to use the blocking technology.



Prison break: Guards ‘let inmate escape’

Posted in Articles on November 26, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

Unions say the escape of a prison inmate in Sydney yesterday proves the privatisation of jail security is not going to work.

Fifty-year-old Alex Mihail is on the run from Long Bay Jail, where he was serving time in low security.

The Public Service Association says the Government contracted out security work around the jail’s perimeter earlier this year.

Spokesman John Cahill says the new guards lack the experience needed to prevent prison break-outs.

“My information is he was able to just walk through the boom gates, past the private security people – who didn’t challenge him – and just let him escape onto the streets of Sydney where he’s still at large,” he said.


Prison Guards Quitting Year After Training

Posted in Articles on November 26, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Last year the state of Tennessee spent more than $1.25 million to train correction officers for prisons.




However, about half of those officers have already quit, wasting about $600,000 in taxpayer training money.


The maximum security section of a prison is not a place to make a mistake.


Robert Mosley was distracted by one inmate while another inmate slashed him, causing wounds that resulted in 59 stitches.


“I had a little too much trust at the time,” said Mosely. “A lot of people have no idea about the assaults, the verbal abuse. It takes a special person to come here and stay with the job.”


In the state of Tennessee, a prison guard’s starting salary is $12 an hour.


Last year, the state graduated more than 1,200 officers at a training rate of $10,000 person. As of Nov. 26, 49 percent had quit within the year.


Some have suggested making any correction officer who doesn’t stay a full year pay back the $10,000 training fee.


Deputy Commissioner Gayle Ray hopes the sagging economy will make some reconsider the positions. She cites that the pay may be low, but the benefits are outstanding and the job, albeit difficult, is important to the state.


The state is attempting to do a better job of training correction officers to help rehabilitate prisoners. The Department of Corrections continues to try to increase starting pay and raises for correction officers, but the current budget is making that very unlikely


Despite revenue slump, Corrections asks for more

Posted in Articles on November 25, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

DOVER — There isn’t much room to cut from the Department of Correction budget; rather, Commissioner Carl Danberg said, the department desperately needs an increase in funding to address critical needs such as medical care and construction to alleviate overcrowding

In presenting the department’s budget request to the Office of Management and Budget, Danberg said Monday that officials are considering reorganizing the agency to save money. That effort could include eliminating programs, but he declined to list specific programs that could be cut.

This year’s state budget-drafting process is particularly challenging because of the state’s declining revenues. Last week, revised revenue estimates prompted Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to ask department heads to cut 7 percent from their current operating budgets and 15 percent from their proposals for next year.

The Department of Correction requested a total of $217.8 million for next year, an increase of $12.7 million from the current operating budget.

Because the bulk of the corrections budget is personnel, Danberg said, it is difficult to cut enough costs to meet the requested budget reductions.

“We are drawing up a list of areas where we can save money,” Danberg said. “Significant savings can only come through restructuring.”

The type of restructuring, he said, the department is considering would require permission from the governor’s office and OMB.

Danberg said two requests are the top of his priority list: funding to expand the Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution and getting permanent funding for three medical positions that were added to the staff last year.

The Baylor women’s prison routinely houses about 400 inmates, though the facility is meant to hold only 200, Danberg said. The problem with the women’s facility is compounded because transferring inmates elsewhere isn’t an option to alleviate crowding, as it is with men’s prisons.

Danberg asked for $3.5 million to expand the facility.

Last year, the Legislature approved the creation of three medical positions, Danberg said, but because the positions weren’t added until mid-fiscal year, the department did not receive full funding for the jobs.

Danberg asked OMB to include complete funding to allow the positions to remain and have a full year’s salary. The cost is an increase of $114,900 next year. He said he anticipates receiving the funding for that expense.

Danberg also requested a $5 million “placeholder” in the budget if incoming Gov.-elect Jack Markell decides to search for a new contract for medical services in the prisons.

Correctional Medical Services currently holds the contract to provide medical services to inmates in state prisons. A report released in July by an independent monitor found “lack of stable and effective leadership” and cited other problems with the company.

Danberg said the $5 million would allow the incoming governor to open bids for another company to begin providing the medical services, but that if the funds were allocated, the state still has one year remaining on the current contract with CMS.

Another request made by Danberg was $449,100 for a program that would automatically calculate sentences served by inmates. Danberg said the majority of wrongful releases — inmates being let out of prison before their terms expire — could be avoided with an automated process.

He said most errors occur during the transferring of sentences, inmates moving from being held by one court to another or moving from one sentence to another. He said using an automated system would remove the errors that occur and significantly reduce the likelihood that an inmate could be released early.


Cook County inmates charged in $50K phone scam

Posted in Articles on November 25, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

CHICAGO (AP) — Twenty Cook County Jail inmates accused of letting their fingers do some illegal walking with the telephone are now in even more trouble.

An alleged scam in which inmates placed collect calls to random numbers all over the United States and Canada and pretended to be police officers resulted in about $50,000 in illegal phone calls over five months, the county sheriff’s department said Monday.

Eighteen inmates were charged with felony impersonating a police officer, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Two face a misdemeanor count of the same charge, officials said.

The scam is the largest of its kind the jail has ever uncovered, but the illegal use of jail phones is a problem around the country, said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

According to the sheriff’s department, the alleged scam worked like this: Inmates placed collect calls, identified themselves as police officers and told people who answered that a loved one had been in a traffic accident.

The “police officers” who were actually inmates instructed people to telephone a “supervisor” at the scene of the accident. The contact numbers began either with 72 or 1172, followed by a telephone number that actually belonged to acquaintances of an inmate outside the jail.

Once victims did that, their phone numbers were effectively “hijacked,” meaning the inmates could make calls without paying.

“They’re then calling other people, usually friends, family and fellow gang members,” Dart said.

Victims would not know something was wrong until they tried to use their phones again, at which time they heard clicking sounds and beeping, Dart said.

The inmates – who were in jail on a host of crimes, including first-degree murder, kidnapping and armed robbery – could make calls charged to the victims’ phones until the victims alerted the phone company, “and then the phone company could undo the call forwarding,” said department spokeswoman Penny Mateck.

Inmates allegedly made thousands of calls, with 4,700 calls placed to the Las Vegas area in one 3-day period alone, Mateck said.

Most people did not do as the inmates had instructed them, officials said. But some people did as they were told, including an 11-year-old boy in Las Vegas and an 85-year-old woman in Texas with a heart condition who tearfully begged the “officer” to tell her that her loved one had not been killed.

Dart said the investigation continued and may result in charges filed against inmates’ acquaintances if authorities could show they knowingly took part in the scam.

It may be tougher get away with telephone scams in the future, at least in Cook County, where a new system was installed.

Among other things, it includes a recorded message stating: “This is a collect call from an inmate at the Cook County Department of Corrections in Chicago, Illinois. Be aware of unlawful solicitation or deceptive practices.”


Jail bed shortage forcing Lane County to release violent offenders

Posted in Articles on November 25, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) – A shortage of jail beds in Lane County has put more violent offenders back on the streets in the four months since the sheriff’s budget was slashed.

The Register-Guard newspaper reports that since July, the number of inmates released from prison in Lane County has increased by nearly 60 percent.

According to court and jail officials, more than 400 inmates arrested on violent charges are among the roughly 1,700 inmates who have been released.

If the pace continues, the county will release more than 4,250 inmates in 2008-09 fiscal year because the jail lacks the staff to hold them.

The county’s budget committee is expected to discuss funding in meetings next month.

“We’ve had countless assaults, personal injuries to innocent victims, burglaries and car thefts by people who were released against the law,” Lane County Circuit Judge Mary Ann Bearden said.

Oregon law requires defendants be jailed until trial if charged with assault, robbery, sex abuse, murder or other serious felonies.

But the 2008-09 budget included only enough money to operate 127 beds for inmates awaiting Lane County Circuit Court trial or serving “local time” sentences because of Lane County’s funding crisis.

With federal funds, officials have hired staff to restore an additional 33 jail beds this month, but Bearden said that not enough to fix the problem.

The jail’s current average of 0.3 beds per 1,000 residents is the lowest in the state, according to Sheriff Russ Burger, and the additional 33 beds will still leave Lane County far below the state average of 2.4 jail beds per 1,000 residents.

The situation is complicated by a rising violent crime rate in Lane County. District Attorney-elect Alex Gardner said a recent study shows violent crime in Eugene increased by 15 percent between 2005 and 2007. He said 2008 statistics have yet to be compiled.

Bearden said she now factors jail bed availability into every decision she makes. The practice would have been “unthinkable” two years ago, she said.

“How do you look people in the eye when we let (these) people out every day?” she asked commissioners in a meeting last month. “It’s a credibility issue with the community.”


Guards: Crowded Calif. prisons neglect ill inmates

Posted in Articles on November 22, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Inmates with open, bleeding wounds routinely use communal showers and suicidal prisoners are sometimes kept for hours inside small cages, witnesses testified in a lawsuit over state prison crowding.

The four guards who testified before a three-judge panel Thursday supported earlier evidence suggesting that substandard medical and mental health care is a result of jam-packed prisons.

The state, which argues that prison conditions are improving, was scheduled to begin its defense Friday.

California’s 33 adult prisons are designed to hold about 100,000 inmates, but currently have more than 156,000.

Federal judges considering the class-action lawsuits already have ruled that medical and mental health care is so poor in California prisons that it violates constitutional standards, sometimes contributing to inmates’ deaths.

If the panel determines that overcrowding is the cause, it could order the early release of thousands of inmates, a move opposed by the Schwarzenegger administration. The three-judge panel began hearing the case this week and hopes to complete the entire process before Christmas.

Among those testifying Thursday was guard Gary Benson, who works in a medical triage unit at Folsom State Prison outside Sacramento. He said as many as 50 inmates at a time typically wait two to five hours inside a 12-foot by 20-foot holding area for medical or mental health treatment.

He said he also routinely sees inmates in communal showers with “bleeding, oozing” staph infections. Benson said he contracted an antibiotic-resistant staph infection in July 2006. Inmates with the infections are not segregated and such diseases often spread inside the prisons, he said.

Brenda Gibbons, a guard in a 128-bed mental health unit at Salinas Valley State Prison, said suicidal inmates were kept overnight in cages the size of telephone booths until crisis cells became available.

She also said some severely mentally ill inmates wait more than a year to be transferred to mental health facilities.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which represents more than 30,000 guards, joined with the inmates’ rights attorneys. Union attorney Gregg Adam said the crowding creates “a dehumanizing effect on correctional staff.”

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