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  1. #21
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    Oct 2010
    A Deadly Year At SD Prisons

    SIOUX FALLS, SD - The third death in seven months caused by corrections inmates points to a violent year so far in the South Dakota Corrections system.

    It all began at 11 a.m. on April 12, 2011, when the first crime shook the Sioux Falls State Penitentiary and neighbors who lived nearby.

    "It was about 30 minutes and then the ambulance started heading this way and turned its siren on. So then you know something's bad," said Deanna Willis shortly after the April incident.

    It was a double escape attempt by inmates Rodney Berget and Eric Robert. Both were caught, but not before one correctional officer was assaulted, and another, Ron Johnson, was brutally murdered. Robert has since pleaded guilty and been sentenced to death while Berget awaits his trial. Another man, 47-year-old Michael Nordman, is also charged with supplying the murder weapon.

    The escape attempt triggered changes at the prison. It meant more officers and more cameras. A national review said those were the appropriate steps.

    Then in July, another prisoner who had just been paroled from the same facility broke into the home of 75 year-old Maybelle Schein. Authorities say 41-year-old James McVay brutally murdered Schein, stole her car, and set off on what could have been a cross-country killing spree if police had not caught up with him in Madison, Wisconsin.

    "We are taking this very, very seriously of course. And that's why we're in the process of reviewing what we do. If we find things that need to change, believe me, we will change those," South Dakota Secretary of the Department of Corrections Denny Kaemingk said following Schein's death.

    That lead to changing parole procedures for inmates who'd been in mental health units and for those who had served part of their term outside South Dakota's prison system. Just this week, the Minnehaha County State's Attorney said he will ask a jury to consider executing McVay if he's found guilty.

    Tuesday morning's incident happened in the Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield. Dennis Lashley died. Authorities say no weapons were involved, but they do believe another inmate, Kendall Osteen, is to blame. Osteen was set to be released Tuesday.

    The Department of Corrections has not said what caused Lashley's death. The Division of Criminal Investigation is handling the case and will use security camera footage and autopsy results during its investigation.

  2. #22
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    Oct 2010
    N.C. prison warden steps down after scathing report

    The warden of Central Prison stepped down this month after a scathing internal review of conditions for inmates with mental illness at the facility.

    The Associated Press first reported Monday that a June review by the N.C. Department of Correction found that inmates with serious mental disorders were often isolated for weeks, sometimes nude, in cells puddled with human waste.

    Gov. Bev Perdue later called the conditions "unacceptable."

    In a written statement issued Thursday, outgoing Correction Secretary Alvin Keller emphasized that his staff has taken numerous steps to address issues of a "serious nature" at the maximum-security Raleigh prison, which includes the state's death row.

    However, Keller made no apology for conditions and criticized the AP's summary of the report for what he labeled "mischaracterizations and exaggerations."

    Keller said that on the day after the internal review was provided to his office, a "member of my executive team addressed the serious nature of the Central Prison operational issues and management deficiencies reflected in the report with the warden."

    After that meeting, Keller said, Warden Gerald J. Branker "made it known that he prepared his retirement paperwork and would be submitting it immediately."

    Keller's statement is the first public acknowledgement from DOC that Branker's Nov. 1 retirement was prompted by the review of the prison's mental-health unit.

    In an Oct. 21 interview with the AP, two of Keller's top subordinates, Chief Operating Officer Jennie Lancaster and Deputy Secretary James French, said no one inside the agency had been fired or demoted.

    After a request from the AP on Friday to provide specific dates on which the events described in Keller's statement occurred, DOC spokesman Keith Acree clarified that the meeting with Branker actually happened in July, a couple of weeks after the report was received by top administrators.

    Branker filed his retirement papers in early August to take effect nearly three months later, according to the DOC.

    "There was no intent to mislead," Acree said Friday. "We simply took a closer look today at the sequence of events."

    Branker was appointed Central Prison warden in July 2007. Keller said Branker will be replaced by Kenneth Lassiter, the warden at Charlotte Correctional Center.

    The correction secretary said the facility is now clean and staffing is appropriate. Conditions are also expected to improve when the system opens a $155 million medical complex and mental-health facility.

    The internal review was completed by two DOC nurses last June and obtained by the AP last month after a public records request.

    The AP reported that Levon Wilson, a Winston-Salem man with bipolar disorder arrested on misdemeanor charges on Aug. 31, 2010, died after being sent to Central Prison for safekeeping while awaiting trial.

    Lithium is often prescribed to treat manic symptoms common with bipolar disorder. However, taking too much lithium can be deadly. Those taking the drug must be carefully monitored with routine blood tests because of a long list of known side effects, including impaired kidney function and obstructed bowels.

    An autopsy report shows Wilson died Oct. 9 of "complications of lithium therapy," which led to kidney and bowel problems.

    DOC officials have refused to release a separate internal review of Wilson's death, citing federal medical privacy laws.

    On Thursday, Keller said the deaths mentioned in the report "was in no way intended to attribute the deaths to 'negligence.' "

    "The intent in mentioning inmate deaths in the report was to make the point that the inpatients in a mental-health setting routinely have a medical issue, and a sick call request is not necessary," Keller said.

    Vicki Smith, executive director of the advocacy group Disability Rights North Carolina, said Keller's statement suggested he is more concerned with defending his legacy than taking responsibility for longstanding problems.

    Smith said her staff had long complained to Keller's staff about poor sanitary conditions for mental-health patients at Central.

    An April letter sent to DOC Mental Health Director John Carbone specifically mentions blood and feces smeared on the walls and inmates who reported waking in the night to discover roaches crawling in their mouths and ears.

    "He allowed this to happen and now he's trying to pretend it wasn't really his fault and wasn't really that bad," Smith said of Keller. "Being stripped naked, tied to a bed and left there is, by almost any definition, torture. People expect inmates to be punished for their crimes, but not tortured. It is what it is, and it happened under his watch."

  3. #23
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    Oct 2010
    Hunting for haunts inside historic Philadelphia prison

    A nighttime shot of Eastern State Penitentiary is shown.

    Do you believe in ghosts?

    Well, as a fan of the paranormal — I love watching the TV shows “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Hunters International” — I wanted to know if they actually do exist.

    Paranormal investigator Kris Williams, who got her start with TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) in 2003 and has appeared on both ghost-hunting shows, was invited to investigate Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia — once home to some of the most notorious criminals, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone — and I got to join her on her haunted hunt.

    Kris, along with Aaron Sagas of and Tony Bruno of 97.5 the Fanatic sports radio, was a guest at the historic prison for the 20th anniversary Terror Behind the Walls encore event and paranormal investigation held in early November.

    When I arrived at the prison, I was taken to where Kris, Aaron, Tony and some others were greeting guests, signing autographs and snapping pictures with fans.

    They were all equally excited to have me there (representing a local newspaper) and I, of course, was ecstatic — this was a dream come true for me.

    After chatting for a while and closing up the 2011 haunt for another year, Kris, Aaron, Tony and I, as well as a group of guests who purchased tickets for the investigation, made our way to the central rotunda in the heart of the prison.

    For the first part of the investigation, I went with Kris and a group of about six guests plus our tour guide into Cellblock 10. This cellblock is one of the cleanest in the penitentiary and has several artist installations in the cells.

    For the most part it was quiet in there.

    I had my K-2 meter (a gadget which measures electromagnetic fields) and Kris set it up in the middle of the block. However, it didn’t get any hits.

    Upon listening to my digital voice recorder the next day, I didn’t hear anything strange there either.

    Next, I joined Aaron in Cellblock 4. This was an entirely different and disturbing experience.

    I’ve never been scared at Eastern State (well except for those scary guys — actors — during Terror Behind the Walls) but, in Cellblock 4, I was scared. I didn’t like it at all. It felt very heavy — not pleasant.

    An inmate beat a guard to death in this cellblock because he thought the guard was putting something in his food. They were actually putting vitamins in his food to keep him healthy.

    After we were settled, Aaron asked us to choose a cell and sit down on the step in front of it. As soon as I sat down, I felt something touch my back just above my waist.

    Thinking it was my jacket falling, I reached back to fix it.

    My jacket was in place.

    I am a skeptic looking for proof — a symptom of watching “Ghost Hunters” — but I was freaked out. I didn’t want to sit there anymore. So I stood up for the rest of that portion of the investigation.

    About an hour into the investigation, I heard what sounded like someone make an agreement sound, “mmm. hmm.”

    I asked if it had been anyone living, and it wasn’t.

    Later, when I listened to my digital recorder, the voice was there, but is still unexplained.

    During our time in Cellblock 4, a few brave investigators walked to the end of the cellblock alone, where they said they felt a real heaviness, an overall creepy feeling.

    Several people in our group reported seeing “shadow figures” moving at the end of the cellblock, but again, being a skeptic, I blamed it on my eyes playing tricks on me in the dark.

    While listening to my digital recorder, I heard several things that I’ve yet to figure out and I believe to be EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon).

    One hour and 20 minutes into the investigation, my recorder picked up a strange yell that sounded like it was off in the distance. I know for a fact, no one in our party yelled at any point during the evening and no other groups in the prison were close enough. So we couldn’t possibly have heard any of their yells.

    Then, approximately four minutes later, a voice very close to my microphone clearly whispers, “thank you.”

    I was alone with no one near enough to whisper into my recorder.

    Finally, Aaron asked us to again choose a cell, stand in front of it, and stare into it.

    This few minutes of quiet felt like an hour because of the tense feeling that surrounded me. Toward the end of our time in Cellblock 4, I took a picture into the mostly pitch-black cell.

    When I turned the camera around and looked at the screen, there was a strange, white blob in the center of the frame. Curious, I took another picture. Then another. This blob did not appear in the two, other photos.

    I showed Aaron the pictures on my digital camera, and he came over with his flashlight to check out the cell, to see if there was anything reflective in the shot, a bug flying around or dust that could create this kind of anomaly in a photograph.

    There was nothing. And Aaron was unsure of what caused the orb.

    I’m not a big fan of orbs, and most paranormal investigators aren’t either, but this one is pretty weird.

    My final investigative spot was Cellblock 15 — Death Row — which is located outside between blocks 2 and 14.

    According to those who had investigated the night before — this was a two-night investigation — Death Row is an active spot in the penitentiary.

    On the first night of the investigation, two EVPS were caught — “Leave” and “Get out.”

    So, upon entering the cellblock, I placed my K-2 meter and digital voice recorder on the floor and another guest placed two twist-on flashlights next to them.

    These kinds of flashlights are sometimes used to communicate during paranormal investigations.

    It was all quiet for a while until finally, Kris asked someone to turn on the flashlight and one of them lit up. From then on, it was a back and forth all night, with both flashlights going on and off, intelligently responding to our questions, and the K-2 meter reacting simultaneously.

    While the flashlight action was interesting, my voice recorder caught even more evidence in Death Row than in Cellblock 4.

    Kris and the other investigators were asking many questions that were being answered by using the flashlights, but also their voices.

    Some of the responses I heard weren’t clear, but were definitely there, such as a four-syllable sentence, a quiet “yeah,” a creepy and breathy moan, both which caused my hair to stand on end.

    Then, (whoever was with us) started to respond even more intelligently.

    One investigator stated, “I don’t think you can turn on both flashlights at the same time.”

    The response, “Can’t,” is heard loud and clear on my recorder.

    Approximately five minutes later, while discussing trigger objects — familiar objects that sometimes spur activity — “Help me,” can be plainly heard.

    Above, the prison mug shot of bank robber Muddy "Slick Willie" Sutton, one of Eastern State Penitentiary's most notorious prisoners, is shown.

    Kris explained that our group was not there to judge anyone, but we were just trying to figure out what happens after death.

    The response was two, loud hissing, heavy-breathing noises that coincided with both flashlights being lit. The group responded to the flashlights, but not the sounds, which were apparently only audible to my digital recorder.

    A minute or so later, someone said, “You know you don’t have to stay here, right?”

    The clear response, “I know,” was captured, at the same time a flashlight turned on in response.

    Seeing the reaction via flashlight, Kris asked, “If you know you’re able to leave, why do you keep coming back? Is it a matter of feeling guilty?”

    It was then that the responses got a bit erratic. The flashlights were going off and on quickly and non-stop.

    “Are you mad right now?” I asked, and the recorder picked up the scariest sound of the evening.

    The sound can only be described as an anguished yell.

    My recorder turned itself off two minutes later.

    As my first, real paranormal investigation, Eastern State was the perfect place. I love the site — day or night — and its deep history.

    And to share that experience with Kris Williams — one of my favorite paranormal investigators — and, apparently, some unseen residents — made this the assignment of a lifetime.

  4. #24
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    Oct 2010
    Security remains high at Salem prison after breakout of violence

    Oregon State Penitentiary employees spent more than a year gearing up for a rare execution, only to see it canceled by a death penalty moratorium declared by Gov. John Kitzhaber.

    On Tuesday, formerly designated as Gary Haugen's execution date, prison employees spent the day dealing with an ongoing lockdown triggered by inmate violence.

    Heightened security remained in effect at the 2,032-inmate Salem prison Tuesday, one day after warning shots were fired to quell a spate of inmate fights.

    Inmates stayed confined to their cells Tuesday, with prison visits and activities suspended in the wake of a spate of brawls that broke out Monday afternoon in the prison's outdoor recreation yard.

    Staffers fired four warning shots and administered chemical spray to quell the violence.

    As of Tuesday afternoon, investigators had not determined what touched off the inmate fights, said Jennifer Black, a spokeswoman for the state Corrections Department.

    It remains to be seen when the lockdown will be lifted, returning the prison to normal operations.

    "As always, a lockdown is certainly not ideal for staff or inmates," Black said. "I'm sure they're trying to get off lockdown status as soon as possible."

    The penitentiary's last lockdown, in April, was linked to a string of racially motivated fights between white and Hispanic inmates. In that episode, 75 inmates tangled in the recreation yard and six more fought in the recreation building.

    Tuesday's continuing lockdown at the state's sole maximum-security prison came on a day that formerly had been pegged for Oregon's first execution in 14 years.

    Haugen, a 49-year-old twice-convicted murderer, was scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

    Kitzhaber stepped in late last month, issuing what he called a temporary reprieve for the death row inmate and imposing a moratorium on capital punishment while he remains in office.

    Prison officials have said they spent more than a year preparing for Haugen's execution. They launched the intensive planning process after Haugen first indicated he wanted to waive his legal appeals and move forward with the execution.

    Penitentiary Superintendent Jeff Premo traveled to Texas and Oklahoma to consult with prison officials about execution procedures in those states. He witnessed an execution in Texas.

    Premo declined to be interviewed Tuesday.

    Last month, prison officials said they had spent "countless hours" and $42,000 preparing for Haugen's execution, including $18,000 spent on lethal drugs.

    A complete tally of execution-preparation costs is expected to be released soon by the Corrections Department.

  5. #25
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    Oct 2010
    Texas Prisoner Burials Are a Gentle Touch in a Punitive System

    Kenneth Wayne Davis died at 54 as not so much a man but a number: Inmate No. 327320.

    Mr. Davis was charged, convicted, sentenced and incarcerated for capital murder by the State of Texas after taking someone’s life on Nov. 19, 1977. But when he died in November 2011, Texas seemed his only friend. His family failed to claim his body, so the state paid for his burial.

    On a cold morning in this East Texas town, a group of inmates bowed their heads as a prison chaplain led a prayer for Mr. Davis, his silver-handled black metal coffin resting on wooden planks above the grave the prisoners had dug for him. Wearing sunglasses, work boots and dirt-smeared white uniforms, they might have resembled painters were they not so solemn, holding their caps and gloves in their folded hands.

    They were Mr. Davis’s gravediggers but also his mourners. No one who knew Mr. Davis bothered to attend his funeral, so it was left up to Damon Gibson, serving 14 years for theft, and the rest of the prison crew to stand in silence over the grave of a man they had never met. Then Mr. Gibson and the others put their gloves on and lowered the coffin into the ground using long straps, providing him eternal rest in the one place in Texas where murderers and other convicts whose bodies are unclaimed can be interred, remembered and, if but for a few moments, honored.

    On this day, Mr. Davis’s funeral was one of seven at the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery, the largest prison graveyard in the country, 22 acres where thousands of inmates who were executed or died while incarcerated are buried. All of them went unclaimed by their relatives after they died, but the cemetery is not a ramshackle potter’s field. It is a quiet green oasis on a wide hill near the campus of Sam Houston State University, with rows of small crosses and headstones, at the center of which stand a decorative brick well and a white-painted altar bearing a cross. The last years of these inmates’ lives were spent under armed guard behind bars and barbed wire, but there is no fence along Bowers Boulevard here, and no one keeps watch.

    Walking along the hill beneath the pine trees, stepping between the rows of hundreds of identical white crosses and tablet headstones, you think of Arlington National Cemetery. But if Arlington is for heroes, the Byrd cemetery is for villains.

    The concrete cross marking the grave of Duane Howk lists his name, inmate number and date of death in June 2010 but says nothing of the offense for which he was serving a life sentence, aggravated sexual assault of a child. The serial killer Kenneth Allen McDuff, executed in 1998 for strangling a 22-year-old pregnant mother of two with a rope, had gained notoriety for being the only inmate in United States history who was freed from death row and returned years later after killing again, but he lies beneath a nameless cross reading 999055.

    The state’s prison agency, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, has been the steward of the cemetery since the first inmates were buried there in the mid-1800s, maintaining and operating it in recent decades as carefully and respectfully as any religious institution might.

    An inmate crew from the nearby Walls Unit prison cleans the grounds, mows the grass and trims trees four days per week. The inmates dig the graves with a backhoe and shovels, serve as pallbearers and chisel the names on the headstones by hand using metal stencils and black paint. The cemetery was named for an assistant warden at the Walls Unit who helped clean and restore the graveyard in the 1960s, and even today, the warden or one of his deputies attends every burial.

    “It’s important, because they’re people still,” said the warden, James Jones. “Of course they committed a crime and they have to do their time, and unfortunately they end up dying while they’re in prison, but they’re still human beings.”

    In a state known for being tough on criminals, where officials recently eliminated last-meal requests on death row, the Byrd cemetery has been a little-known counterpoint to the mythology of the Texas penal system. One mile from the Walls Unit, which houses the state’s execution chamber, about 100 inmates are buried each year in ceremonies for which the state spends considerable time and money. Each burial costs Texas about $2,000. Often, as in Mr. Davis’s case, none of the deceased’s relatives attend, and the only people present are prison officials and the inmate workers.

    Though all of those buried here were unclaimed by relatives, many family members fail to claim the bodies because they cannot afford burial expenses and want the prison agency to pay the costs instead. The same relatives who declined to claim the body will then travel to Huntsville to attend the state-paid services at the cemetery.

    “I think everyone assumes if you’re in a prison cemetery you’re somehow the worst of the worst,” said Franklin T. Wilson, an assistant professor of criminology at Indiana State University who is writing a book about the cemetery. “But it’s more of a reflection of your socioeconomic status. This is more of a case of if you’re buried there, you’re poor.”

    Prison officials have verified 2,100 inmates who are buried at the cemetery, but they say there may be additional graves. Professor Wilson recently photographed every headstone and estimated that there were more than 3,000 graves.

    In some ways, the cemetery and the funerals held there lack precision and formality. Coffins are transported from the altar at the center of the cemetery to the gravesite on a trailer hitched to the back of a green John Deere tractor. Names and words are misspelled on a few headstones and markers. Relatives have brought portable stereos to play music during the funerals, blaring rap songs and AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells.” Most days, after the inmate crew has returned to the prison, the cemetery is a deserted, lonesome place. Of the thousands of graves, only a handful have flowers on them.

    “You’ve got guys here who died in prison and were buried out here, and they could have made a difference someplace, even if it was only in a small community somewhere,” said Jim Willett, director of the nearby Texas Prison Museum and a retired Walls Unit warden who attended nearly 200 graveside services. “These guys didn’t just mess up their lives. There’s their family and other families that got messed up because of some screwup that they did, and then they wind up like this.”

    On the day of Mr. Davis’s interment, three burials had family members present, and four did not. Vandals had entered the cemetery and set a large brush pile on fire, filling the morning air with smoke. Neither Mr. Gibson nor the inmate workers knew any of the men they were burying. “It has made me a better person,” said Mr. Gibson, 38, a father of two from Houston. “It has made me reflect on the things I’ve done. I don’t want this to be me.”

    Two of the seven inmates who were buried, including Mr. Davis, were serving life sentences for murder, and the others had been imprisoned for drunken driving, theft, assault, sexual assault of a child or burglary when they died. Mr. Davis spent nearly 34 of his 54 years behind bars. In the ground in Huntsville, he was finally free of his prison uniform. The funeral home that handles inmates’ burials put him in dark pants, a white shirt and a tie.

  6. #26
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    Oct 2010
    The end of an era: Final inmates leave Nevada State Prison

    The final half-dozen inmates loaded up their possessions Monday and moved out of the old Nevada State Prison in Carson City, with at least one of them making it clear he would rather stay.

    “I'm going back to a regular prison,” said William Tungate, 45. “Freedom is a lot better here.”

    Warden Greg Smith said a lot of the inmates like it at NSP because they feel as if they have more space and freedom to move around.

    Tungate, a trusty scheduled for parole in July, said “it was nice” where he was in the prison. The space once occupied by 11 inmates, he said, got down to just six by the end.

    The prison, which opened in 1862, was one of the oldest operating in the U.S. The only older Western prison that Smith knows of is San Quentin in California.

    Those last NSP inmates didn't have far to go, however. They were moved to Warm Springs Prison, just a double row of chain-link fence away from the upper yard of NSP.

    Smith is warden not only of NSP, but also Warm Springs and the Reno Restitution Center.

    Although NSP no longer houses inmates, its license plate plant still is operating. In addition, Smith said, crews will maintain the execution chamber in case another execution is ordered. So inmate crews will be at the prison nearly every day for some time to come.

    “We've got lots to do here,” he said. “It's kind of like cleaning out your garage after 150 years.”

    There's a lot of history at the old prison, where 43 prisoners were put to death.

    “Right now, we've got third-generation correctional officers here,” Smith said.

    NSP predates Nevada's statehood, having been established in 1862 when territorial officials purchased the Warm Springs Hotel and 20 acres on the east side of town.

    When Nevada legalized gambling in 1932, inmates got to run their own casino, the “NSP Bull Pen,” which operated until 1967.

    But despite its colorful history, the prison's structural problems are many. During a Board of Prisons meeting last March, public works officials said five buildings were out of service because the housing units were either too small or utilities no longer worked.

    Plumbing in some units required guards to leave cell doors open so inmates could use toilets down the hall. Leaking and corroded pipes were common, and tunnels had to be hand-dug beneath some units to access underground utilities.

    “Obviously, digging tunnels in a prison is not something you want to do,” Department of Corrections Director Greg Cox said at the time.

    And while Nevada's only execution chamber is located at NSP, even that is not up to snuff, failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act because of the rickety metal stairs used to access the chamber.

    Officials said a judge could bar executions from being carried out if witnesses were unable to attend.

    NSP was the site of the nation's first execution in a gas chamber, when Gee Jon was put to death in 1924 for killing a man in Mina. In 1979, Jesse Bishop was the last person executed by gas before laws were changed requiring death sentences by lethal injection.

    In all, 32 men were executed in the gas chamber, and 11 more have since been killed by lethal injection, the last one in 2006.

    No executions are pending, and the death chamber will remain at NSP for now.

    Smith said that although skiers and water utilities may not like this winter's unusually warm, dry weather, he's thankful for it.

    “Moving everybody out in two feet of snow would have been horrible,” Smith said.

    And as for having to shut down the old steam boilers in freezing weather, “the pipes would have frozen before we could drain them.”

    The shutdown process at NSP was already under way Monday. For the first time in probably 100 years, there was no steam coming out of the stack atop the prison.

    When the closure process started a year ago, NSP was home to more than 750 inmates. Corrections chief Cox and Smith have been moving them to other prisons as space became available, while also reassigning correctional staff to vacancies in other institutions.

    As of last week, there had been no layoffs and none of the corrections staff had been forced to move to another part of the state to keep their jobs.

    Deputy Director for Operations Steve Suwe said, however, that there will probably be a few officers who retire and a few layoffs now. He expects some staffers to choose to be laid off rather than move; when positions open up in the Carson City area, they will be at the top of the list to be rehired.

    Prison officials say closing the prison will save the state about $15 million in the current two-year budget cycle because it costs less to feed and manage inmates at newer prisons.

    Officials estimated bringing the prison up to code would cost $30 million.

    The Department of Corrections says a “decommissioning” ceremony is being planned for March.

    Smith said he hopes it can be preserved as part of Nevada's history. He'd like to restore the home on the prison grounds where he warden lived until the middle of the last century.

    Inmate labor will be used to keep the property tidy.

    “I think it's our responsibility to maintain it,” he said.

  7. #27
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    Oct 2010
    History of violence: State to give tours of prison known for deadly 1980 riot

    Vincent Vigil, emergency coordinator for the state penitentiary, leads a tour Wednesday of the “Old Main.” The state Corrections Department is giving tours once a month of the prison building where 33 prisoners died in a riot 32 years ago.

    The Old Main prison south of Santa Fe is cold and dark, with rusty metal, broken glass and fire-stained walls where a bloody prison riot left 33 prisoners dead 32 years ago this week.

    Just outside what once was the protective-custody unit, where most of the violence took place, are chop marks in the concrete floor where an inmate was beheaded.

    Upstairs, you can see on the floor a dark fetal shape from a burned body.

    Downstairs, in the basement, you'll find an array of execution devices no longer used by the state of New Mexico, which abolished the death penalty a few years ago.

    During this centennial year of New Mexico's statehood, at the request of Gov. Susana Martinez, the state Department of Corrections will give free public tours of Old Main once a month.

    The first scheduled tour, on Thursday, already is booked at maximum capacity of 100 people. But the tours will continue on the second Friday of each month, March through December. To reserve a place, contact department spokeswoman Rosie Saiz at [email protected].

    During a news media tour Wednesday, Saiz said the goal of the public tours isn't to focus on the 1980 riot, but to look at the history of prisons in New Mexico and progress that has been made.

    "Back before the riot, there was overcrowding in the prison," she said. "The officers were not properly trained. There was no programming for inmates. ... We've now got [educational programs]. There's an academy set up for cadets to go to before they start work."

    The tours begin in the lobby with a memorial to the five corrections officers killed in various state prisons before and after the riot. No officers were killed during the 1980 riot.

    Nearby are displays of corrections officers' equipment, homemade weapons confiscated from prisoners, prison gang symbols and prisoner crafts, plus an exhibit of newspaper clips concerning the riot and its aftermath assembled by students at Moriarty High School.

    A.B. Sena, 66, a retired corrections officer who was on duty in 1980, was among those answering reporters' questions on Wednesday. He said he doesn't spend a lot of time pondering the riot, but he sees nothing macabre about public tours of the old prison, since "it's part of our history."

    Another retired corrections officer, Bob White, 61, recalled how he was living on the grounds of the Penitentiary of New Mexico on Feb. 2, 1980, when a neighbor woke him up at 2 a.m. to tell him inmates had control of the prison.

    As a classification officer, White was familiar with the inmates in the protective-custody unit -- "snitches" who had testified against others, those with mental illnesses, and pedophiles and homosexuals who would be at risk with the general prison population.

    At the time of the riot, the 90-cell unit held up to 200 prisoners, meaning some of the 9- by 6-foot cells held three prisoners at a time.

    "When I came down here, I came with some trepidation," White recalled. "I was concerned about what I was going to find. When I walked in, here was smoke, water. The cell bars had been cut open. You could see where people had been beaten to death against the walls."

    Lt. Vincent Vigil, who began his career as a corrections officer long after the 1980 riot, said the Old Main was state of the art when it opened off N.M. 14 in the late 1950s, replacing a prison that had been located on Pen Road, near Cordova Road, in Santa Fe.

    It was built in a "telephone pole" style, with prisoner areas on cross structures connected by a long hallway that could be blocked by metal gates to isolate any disturbance. For unknown reasons, the gates were unlocked on the evening the riot began among prisoners drinking homemade alcohol.

    The rioting prisoners took over the east end of the prison and quickly moved down the hallway to the control room, where they broke out glass panes and chased away guards. Then they moved to the west side, where they began killing inmates in the protective-custody unit. Not until two days later did the New Mexico National Guard put an end to one of the most violent episodes in U.S. prison history.

    Most prisoners were moved to the state's other 10 prisons after the riot, although some inmates continued to be housed there until 1997. Since then, it has been used for storage and for movie sets.

    Perhaps the eeriest part of the tour is a visit to the basement, where the gas chamber -- used only once in 1960 to execute murderer David Cooper Nelson -- is located. During the 1980 riot, two corrections officers hid inside the chamber and in a nearby storage cabinet.

    Next to the gas chamber, in a room designed for use by witnesses to executions, state officials have arranged a display of other execution devices:

    • A miniature gallows and hangman's noose, like those used to execute prisoners in the counties where they committed the crimes in territorial days, and for the first decade of statehood at the old prison.

    • An electric chair used for executions from the early 1920s until 1960. The chair is the property of the Old Colfax County Courthouse Museum in Springer, which has loaned it to the Department of Corrections through 2012.

    • A padded table with straps and intravenous equipment for lethal injections, used once on Nov. 5, 2001, on child murderer Terry Clark, the last person executed by the state of New Mexico.

    New Mexico abolished capital punishment in 2009, although Gov. Martinez is seeking to reinstate it. Prison officials say if the lethal-injection table is needed again, it will be moved back to the nearby maximum-security prison complex.

  8. #28
    Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    4 San Quentin prison inmates hurt badly in riot

    At least four San Quentin State Prison inmates were seriously injured Thursday during a riot in an exercise yard that serves the institution's newest arrivals, a prison spokesman said.

    Between 150 and 200 prisoners were involved in the morning riot. Dozens were slashed and stabbed by fellow inmates armed with homemade weapons before guards used chemicals such as pepper spray, projectiles and live ammunition to restore order, Sgt. Gabe Walters said.

    Most of the injured inmates were treated at the prison. The four who were most seriously injured were taken to hospitals with injuries that were not considered life-threatening, Walters said. It was unknown if they were hurt by other inmates or by guards.

    One correctional officer fired about three rounds from a semiautomatic rifle as warning shots, and the bullets did not hit or injure anyone, Walters said.

    "When the inmates hear those live rounds going off, it brings them around," he said.

    No guards or other San Quentin staff members were injured, he said.

    All 4,113 inmates at San Quentin, a maximum-security prison that house's California's Death Row, have been confined to cells while officials investigate what led to the disturbance, Walters said.

    The exercise yard where the disturbance broke out serves inmates who have been at the prison for less than three months and whose security status still is under review.

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  9. #29
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    Oct 2010
    Quote Originally Posted by Heidi View Post
    No guards or other San Quentin staff members were injured, he said.
    That´s the most important thing.

  10. #30
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    Oct 2010
    State investigating inmate's hanging

    Investigation into the hanging death of a Marion man serving a life sentence for aggravated murder in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility continues.

    Corrections officers Matthew Robbins, Jeramy Osborne and Edwin Koch are on paid administrative leave following the discovery of Bobby Joe Clark, 48, hanged over the weekend in his cell, said JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

    Clark was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 20 years on May 14, 1999, after pleading guilty May 12, 1999, in Marion County Common Pleas Court to the murder of Harold "Sleepy" Griffin of Detroit. The crime allegedly occurred at a party in Meeker in 1995. Authorities have not found Griffin's body. Clark began serving his time May 19, 1999.

    Clark was pronounced dead at 9:44 a.m. Saturday, Smith said, declining to disclose details of the investigation, such as whether Clark was dead when he was found or what was used in the hanging. He was in a single-occupant cell.

    "There is an administrative investigation that is looking to determine if all appropriate policies and procedures were followed," she said.

    The investigation, which is being conducted by the staff of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, would be completed within the next few weeks, she estimated.

    The last suicide in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville occurred in April 2010 when José Ortez, serving a prison term out of Lorain County for felonious assault, tampering with evidence, having weapons under disability and carrying concealed weapons, was found dead, she said.

    Clark admitted to shooting Griffin twice in the head, said Jim Slagle, Marion County prosecutor at the time of the sentencing.

    During a taped confession in December 1998, Clark told authorities he killed Griffin for several reasons including that he was on drugs, that he was paid by people with whom he attended the Meeker party, and that Griffin, a black man, was kissing a white woman. Clark, who is white, said he didn't believe in mixing of races.

    In the tape, he said he confessed because he had remorse about the murder. He said he didn't want to receive the death penalty and asked he not be sent to the Lucasville prison because he was afraid he might face retribution for his racist tattoos.

    Slagle said others were suspected to have been involved in the killing.

    Chief Deputy Al Hayden on Thursday said the investigation remains open and encouraged anyone who has information about the incident to call 740-375-8477 tips line or the sheriff's office at 740-382-8244

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