Prison News in Brief: Michigan through Texas

Prison News in Brief: Michigan through Texas

Michigan Prison News

On August 6, 2013, a jury returned a not-guilty verdict in the trial of Lansing jail guard David Gladstone, who was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery of a prisoner.  Although Gladstone was found not guilty, an internal investigation is pending to determine whether he violated any department policies or procedures.  Jail guard Gladstone had been suspended from the Lansing jail pending the outcome of the criminal charges.

New York Prison News

A violent, bloody brawl broke out among rival gangs — the Trinitarians and the Crips — at Rikers Island on August 22, 2013.  As many as 50 prisoners were involved in the melee, which was reportedly triggered over the use of a hot plate to cook a grilled cheese sandwich.  The fight lasted nearly an hour, and eleven Rikers Island prisoners and a guard were injured.  In a surveillance video, prisoners were seen attacking each other with mop handles and hurling chairs; one prisoner also threw hot water, and several suffered serious stab wounds.

Rhode Island Prison News

On July 18, 2013, Gaulter Botas, a former prison guard at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute, received an 18-month prison sentence.  Botas had assaulted prisoners by hitting one with a telephone book and another with a plastic clipboard, a package of paper, a bag of food, and his closed fist.  Four Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute prisoners said they were assaulted by Botas and another guard, Kenneth Viveiros.  Botas’ conviction was upheld in April 2013 by the Rhode Island Supreme Court, and a superior court judge rejected his motion for a reduced sentence.  In 2006, Botas and Viveiros were among a number of prison guards named in a lawsuit alleging that they had made a prisoner eat his own feces; that suit settled for $120,000.

Romania Prison News

On July 30, 2013, a committee requested that the general prosecutor file charges against 87-year-old former prison commander Alexandru Visinescu for the deaths of six Romanian prisoners.  Romania had communist governments from 1945 until 1989, and from 1956 to 1963, Visinescu ran the Ramnicu Sarat prison, notorious for its incarceration of Romania’s pre-communist political leaders and intellectuals.  The committee alleged that six Romanian prisoners had died from beatings, hunger, lack of medical treatment, and exposure to cold.  Visinescu rejected the accusations and entered a plea of innocent at a closed hearing in January 2014.

Switzerland Prison News

The consumption of cannabis is strictly prohibited in Switzerland but is treated as less of a criminal priority than in the United States.  According to a study published on June 17, 2013, by the International Journal of Drug Policy, as many as 80 percent of Swiss prisoners use cannabis with the full awareness of prison staff.  Prisoners and staff reported that it has a positive effect and named several benefits of cannabis consumption.  Swiss prison officials believe that cracking down on marijuana use would lead to an increase in violence and said it is a relatively safe and peaceful drug.

Tennessee Prison News

According to officials at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary, transport guard Lonnie B. Rogers was arrested for bringing in 40 cell phones and chargers, 22 ounces of marijuana, and tobacco into the prison facility.  Rogers reportedly received $700 from a woman to smuggle marijuana to Tennessee state prisoner Ronnie Henry.  In an August 1, 2013 statement, Texas Department of Corrections Commissioner Derrick Schofield said, “This case demonstrates our commitment to zero tolerance of illegal contraband that threatens the security of our prisons.”

Texas Prison News

Two former Texas state prison guards at the Giles W. Dalby Unit face bribery charges, according to court documents filed in federal court in Lubbock.  In separate incidents, Philip Andrew Tyler was accused of providing cocaine to a Texas state prisoner in exchange for money, while Cesar Ceja was charged with giving tobacco to a prisoner in exchange for a candy bar.  Prison guards Tyler and Ceja were charged on July 2, 2013.

Texas Prison News

In August 2013, a Texas billionaire under house arrest in his South Florida mansion awaiting retrial on a drunk driving manslaughter charge was allowed to fly by private jet to visit his dying mother at a Texas hospital.  John Goodman’s original conviction was overturned because a juror had not revealed that his wife had once been arrested on a DUI charge.  Goodman was initially approved to make the trip to Texas on a commercial flight escorted by four deputies but was later allowed to travel via chartered plane.  County officials said Goodman was responsible for all travel costs, meals, and lodging related to the trip.

(Reprinted with permission from Prison Legal News)