HARRISBURG (WSKG) — A GOP-proposed bill currently sitting in the state House is raising questions about who should be responsible for keeping Pennsylvania students safe. It would give districts the option to let trained teachers carry firearms at school. Indiana County School District Superintendent Dale Kirsch said in his mind, the issue of whether it’s appropriate to arm teachers comes down to available resources. Currently, he said his district has one armed guard for its high school, but no security in its middle school or four elementary schools.
“I’d feel better if we had armed security in each building, versus having armed teachers,” he said. “But without the funding for armed security, at least arming teachers would give us an option.”
Kirsch plans to apply for a state security funding grant through the state’s existing Safe School Initiative, for which his district recently became eligible. He noted, however, it’s unlikely to cover all six of the district’s buildings. Governor Tom Wolf and other opponents of the plan argue school security is safer when it’s up to the state.
Wolf said while he’d veto the GOP bill, he supports allocating more money to the Safe School Initiative.
He’s at odds with at least the House on that point though. The chamber’s budget proposal slashes funding for the initiative–eliminating all of the approximately $8.5 million dollars it was allocated this year.
THE Philippines may be enjoying close relations with China, but the country must now advance its own fisheries-management policies in the disputed South China Sea (SCS), a research recommended. In a study by the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute, Maria Carmen A. Lagman said the Philippines must reinforce the ruling of the arbitral tribunal on the country s case against China. Lagman, who is also biology professor at the De La Salle University, said the Philippines must insist on a national and regional fisheries-management agenda in the SCS. The advocacy, which was aimed at addressing the challenges of food security, environment protection and climate change, would require the Philippines and other countries encircling the SCS to establish transboundary marine parks or areas of joint protection, Lagman wrote in the study, titled Converging on the Fisheries in the South China Sea . She added the Philippines and other countries should also bring into discussions other international policy instruments and develop regional-level policies targeted toward small-scale fisheries.
Lagman said these options are becoming more than ever urgent because failure to manage the fisheries in the SCS could lead to exploitation of marine life in the area.
Citing data from another research, Lagman reported fisheries landing in the SCS in 2015 amounted to 10 million tons (MT), which was 12 percent of the total global catch.
LAGMAN said this data is likely to be underestimated and it might even increase to 16.6 MT if catch from subsistence, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing are included. Fisheries-trade figures said the SCS contribute 11 MT to 17 MT in traded fisheries catch annually, with a landed value of no less than $12 billion. This translates to over 3 million jobs associated with fishing activities.
With so much at stake, Lagman said, it is no wonder that control of the fisheries [in the SCS] will definitely be a source of economic and political tension. However, she argued that other countries with claims over the SCS should also come up with a focused set of policy instruments on small-scale fisheries, which was seen to be the practical alternative to industrial fishing.
Lagman said small-scale fishers lose income when commercial vessels intrude their fishing areas, as these boats make use of abusive catching tools trawls, ring nets and purse seines that virtually harvest all organisms. The unregulated business of industrial fishing in the SCS led to the collapse in a number of large predatory fish, according to the study. The latter, which include tunas and groupers, are now slowly replaced by smaller fish highly reliant on zooplankton, like the tilapia and crawfish.
LAGMAN said overfished stocks would result to the phenomenon known as fishing down the food web , highlighted by a reduction in the quality and size of catch. Lagman surmised the reduction in catch quality and size were already factored in by countries surrounding the SCS, as they have seen a decrease in demersal and pelagic fish stocks over the past decades.
The maximum sustainable yield (MSY) of the Philippines, Vietnam, east Malaysia and southern China has long been exceeded since the late-1980s, the study said. The MSY is seen as the threshold, and hence, immediate and substantial action must be taken to secure the harvested stock. The study said exhaustion of the MSY is reason enough for countries contending over the SCS to discuss the convergence of the fisheries in the area.
The fish are a common resource for the countries in the SCS, Lagman said. Unless effort is taken to accommodate the transboundary nature of the resources, managing them would not be effective. She noted that fisheries policies in many of the disputing countries were almost, if not fully, spatially-explicit. Citing the Philippines, the country declared some of its key fishing grounds closed seasons for commercial fishing. These included the East Sulu Sea, Basilan Strait and Sibuguey Bay to sardine fishing, selected areas of the Visayan Sea to sardines, herring and mackerels and the West Philippine Sea to Northern Sulu Sea to round scad fishing.
JUDGING by the oceanographic features of the SCS, Lagman pinpointed the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal as the sources of the area s propagules and, therefore, should be the focus of management strategies. Lagman also raised concern over the effects of pollution, siltation, destructive fishing and eutrophication resulting from human activities on the coastline, as this would contaminate the mangroves, sea grass meadows and coral reefs in the SCS. Already threatened by coastal activities that deposit sediments, nutrients and effluents, the SCS is further jeopardized by destructive fishing practices that make use of trawls, push nets, dynamite and poison. In addition, about $5.3 trillion of trade courses through the SCS every year, with the aspiration that no accident will occur, such as the Guimaras oil spill in 2006, when a tanker carrying 2 million liters of bunker fuel sank at the Guimaras Strait, damaging biodiversity-rich areas in the Philippines.
This is why the aggression of China on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands is a cause of concern for biologists, as Beijing was seen building seven new islands in the area by moving sediment from the seafloor to the reef.
Reefs have been destroyed outright to serve as foundations for these new islands, causing long-term extensive damage to the environment, Lagman added.
Birmingham News reporter Mike Oliver sits down to write after spending hours inside St. Clair Correctional Facility during a riot April 15, 1985. Inmates asked for Oliver to cover the negotiations because they knew his byline on stories about Alabama prisons and inmates. AL.com file
Fixing Alabama’s crowded, violent prisons is a top priority again this year. St. Clair County Correctional Facility in Springville stands out as one of the most violent prisons in one of the harshest prison systems in the country. The violence at St. Clair has deep roots. Thirty-two years ago, inmates took over the then-new prison. During the 11-hour riot, inmates asked for Birmingham News reporter Mike Oliver to come inside and cover the negotiations for the release of 22 hostages. Here’s that story updated with information and photos never before published.
It was April 15, 1985, and I was sitting on the couch in my Birmingham home watching “Days of Our Lives.”
My wife, Catherine, and I were waiting to go to an afternoon movie. I was a Tuesday-Saturday shifter at that time. My wife was a UAB nursing student with no Monday afternoon classes, so Monday matinees were our ritual. Then the phone rang. It was about 2 p.m. It was my editor Randy Henderson at The Birmingham News.
“Did you hear about the prison riot?” Henderson asked.
“Uh, no,” I said. “Where?”
“St. Clair,” he said.
Big story I thought, envisioning an all-hands-on-deck scenario for news coverage.
“I guess you want me to come in,” I said.
“Well, not exactly,” Henderson said. “The inmates want you to come in.
“They’ve asked for you by name”
On the highway to prison
Next thing I knew I was headed in my little Toyota toward Springville to meet Department of Public Safety Lt. Roy Smith. We met on the side of the road at our designated spot, somewhere not far from St. Clair Correctional Facility. Going to meet with a state trooper, I’m sure I drove over the speed limit. Questions filled my head. Why did the inmates ask for me?
A year earlier I had toured St. Clair at the invitation of the prison’s warden, Larry Spears. Now Spears was being held hostage and had been beaten badly.
My mind was in hyper-drive, if not my little car. Will I be allowed to talk to officers, inmates? How do I cover this as a reporter? In these pre-cell phone days, I was planning on taking pictures with a camera and taking handwritten notes. Would I get a chance to call in information to Henderson from a prison phone? What if they take me hostage? Loaded down with these thoughts, I climbed into Smith’s car and left mine on the side of the road. We got to the prison at 3:30 p.m. about seven hours into the siege.
Dozens of reporters, TV trucks and photographers waited outside the gate. All were there to cover the story — a story for which I’d soon have a ringside seat.
Ringside at riot
Smith told me to get on the floorboard of the car and cover myself with a coat so the throng of reporters couldn’t see me. I think I said something about sparking a second riot if the reporters saw me going into the prison, a small joke that didn’t elicit laughter. Inside, we would find out later, dozens of inmate “snitches” and guards had been beaten. In addition to the warden, who had his jaw broken, 21 others were being held hostage. A woman on the prison staff in social services had been raped. One officer lost an eye. We sat in the car, my head down, in the parking lot for more than an hour. About 5:45 p.m., Department of Corrections spokesman John Hale ran over and said, “We need you quick.”
I grabbed my camera and notebook and entered the prison.
Inmates James White, two unidentified inmates, Kenneth “Satch” Henley, and (far right) Sidney Byrd wait to begin negotiations on the release of 23 hostages held nearby in the prisoner-held portion of St. Clair Correctional Facillity. Mike Oliver | [email protected]
Entering another world
We went down a gray tunnel-like hallway which was dripping wet because fires set by inmates had triggered the sprinklers. In that hallway, which seemed to be a main conduit from inside the prison to the outside, there were inmates on stretchers, some beaten, some having overdosed on drugs taken from the pharmacy. Injectible Demerol, a narcotic, and phenobarbital, a barbiturate, were apparently the drugs of choice.
I was led into the visitors’ area in Building B through a sliding bulletproof glass door protected by armed guards. More than 25 inmates could be seen outdoors in the courtyard. In all, officials estimated about 200 inmates in the 900-man facility participated in the riot. Water was about an inch deep on the floor of the area where inmates usually met with their families and friends. FBI negotiators and prison officials were talking in small groups while armed guards stood in various parts of the large cafeteria-like room. This room was the site of negotiations.
Outside, some 500 to 600 law enforcement officers surrounded the prison.
Armed correctional officers and state police watch closely the inmate negotiators as riot continues to rage nearby.Mike Oliver | [email protected]
Negotiations get heated
Three inmates were quickly ushered into the visitor’s section, frisked and sat at a table. Kenneth ‘Satch’ Henley did the talking.
“The food is slop,” Henley said. The prison is trying to “lower the cost of each inmate by denying food.” A video camera was recording the event. I took notes and pictures. The inmates had a long list of grievances and demands, from the negotiable, such as being allowed to grow longer hair to the highly unlikely: firing all the parole board members. Inmate James White said he was speaking for black inmates. He said he had been in prison 28 years and “28 years ago they were way better than it is now.”
Sidney Byrd, a young slender man with a swastika tattoo on his hand, said hostages will not be released until the public has seen us. In and out of juvenile and adult lock-ups since age 14, Byrd told prison officials more than 100 prisoners took active roles in the Monday rebellion.
Byrd told me, “This is the first standup the county unit has ever seen. And ain’t nobody ratted it off.
“It’s been coming. Everybody in this prison has been wanting this to happen,” Byrd said. “You don’t see blacks and whites fighting out there. We’re all in together.”
Months later I would interview Byrd while he was in isolation at Fountain Correctional Facility. He was isolated because he became, in his own parlance, “a snitch.” He opened up to investigators and told them everything he knew, about the drug use, how a pistol had been smuggled in and the involvement of others.
“The riot is the most talked-about thing in the system,” Byrd said. “And all they [other inmates) say is ‘That’s the dude that ratted it off.”
Things get heated during hostage negotiations with inmate Kenneth “Satch” Henley and Deputy Commissioner Charles D. Bryan, during riot at St. Clair Correctional Facility. Mike Oliver | [email protected]
‘Come on in’
When the inmates left to go back into the unsecured side of the prison – through the sliding door — negotiators seemed more optimistic. At that door, I heard my name being called.
“Mike. Mike.” It was Cecil Dwight Watts beckoning me over. About a year or so earlier I had written about Watts as one of the kings of prescription drug rings in the Birmingham area. “He once got on the phone and had drugs delivered to his county jail cell,” one detective recalled for that story.
He knew the language of both cops and doctors, which helped him in his quest to obtain prescription drugs.
“He could talk you out of your shoes,” the detective said. He was serving more than a dozen years as a habitual drug offender. Watts said some of the inmates knew my news stories about prisons and prisoners and that’s how my name came up.
Watts was standing in the unsecured side of the facility, an open but dark courtyard where I could see several small fires set by inmates. There were no troopers with rifles on this side; the only guards were hostages. I was standing on the other side of the doorway, about 2 feet away. He waved me in. “Come on back here and I’ll show you around.”
He held the door open for me.
Now Cecil was a persuasive guy, promising me unlimited access, interviews and photos. My journalistic instincts were piqued. But I froze. In the space of a few seconds, I had a raging battle with myself. My head said ‘no.’ But my body screamed ‘go.’
My head won out.
To this day I wonder what would have happened if I chose to follow him in. I’d be entering an arena where inmates still held sway with a smuggled-in gun, baseball bats, broken broom handles, and sharpened kitchen utensils, among other things later confiscated by troopers. The gun, an inmate told me later, was a .38-caliber over-and-under (two barreled derringer) and had been in the prison for several weeks before the riot.
It had been buried in the prison yard for safekeeping. Rumors of a second gun were not confirmed.
“No, man, I have to cover the negotiations,” I told Watts. The negotiations were ongoing. It was about 7 p.m., nine hours into the siege.
“Look, we’ve danced around this all day and we finally struck a bargain and now you’re backing out,” an FBI agent said to the inmate negotiators in a rising voice.
Satch Henley was still the chief negotiator for the inmates.
“All we are doing is trying to resolve this thing and bring the rest of them in,” Henley said in an uncharacteristically tired voice. “We are trying to unwind. There are some people with limited intelligence and limited schooling back there who want an agreement in writing even though I know it ain’t worth a s—-.”
Things get heated during hostage negotiations with inmate Kenneth “Satch” Henley and Deputy Commissioner Charles D. Bryan, during riot at St. Clair Correctional Facility. Mike Oliver | [email protected]
It was getting dark out
State Prison Commissioner Freddie Smith had arrived on the scene from Montgomery.
“As we started approaching darkness, I made the decision we would not go all night – as other states have – and go into days and days of negotiations,” Smith said. At this point the main demand Henley was trying to get was a promise that no physical harm would come to any of the prisoners. Smith signed a statement making that promise. About 7:10 p.m. two female hostages were released. They appeared shaken. By 8 p.m. all the hostages had been released.
The warden strolled through the door calmly shaking hands along the way. His swollen jaw prevented conversation. He suffered from a broken jaw, which later would have to be wired shut; a broken palate; and missing teeth.
“We’ve litigated these prison conditions for almost 10 years in the federal courts and the state officials have resisted the feds for 10 years,” said Henley. “Here they have built a good prison but they made it into a hell-hole.”
But was it a good prison? In the aftermath, a lot of attention was directed at the design of the St. Clair prison and how it was so easy for inmates to overtake. Byrd said taking the prison was easy, calling the prison a “glass house.”
“You can go anywhere inside it by just busting glass,” Byrd said.
False ceilings also allowed inmates to reach other areas such as the pharmacy and access to drugs. The inmates did an estimated $1.5 million in damage and the rebuilding addressed these and other design flaws. In a letter dated May 31, 1985, inmate Ronald “Monk” Kennedy lamented the lack of attention to the inmate grievances.
A long list of demands was handed by the inmate group to prison officials. The Birmingham News later obtained the list. Looking back at it now and it appears to be a laundry list ranging from the trivial and absurd mixed in with honest, legitimate gripes. The Department of Corrections didn’t release the inmates demands, and its officials expressed their displeasure when I obtained it and printed it. Demands included: ‘shoes of choice,’ ‘allow Polaroid camera and film,’ ‘Coke and sandwich machines in breezeway,’ ‘allowed personal typewriters,’ one unit all black and one unit all white and the others mixed,’ limit cave-lock segregations to 14 days total,’ ‘complete law library, with typewriters and free legal assistance,’ and so on.
It probably didn’t help the inmates’ cause that a demand for long hair and beards topped the 30-item list.
An unidentified inmate is frisked before being brought in to the secure side of the St. Clair Correctional Facility. Mike Oliver | [email protected]
Deputy Warden James DeLoach said shortly after the riot: “A friend of mine (correction officer Mike Shavers) lost an eye and for what? Longer hair and beards?”
But Kennedy said the “long hair and beards” demand was blown out of proportion and used as a smokescreen to dismiss inmate demands as trivial. The one thing that is certain, inmates and prison officials agree, is that the St. Clair riot did little to change the day-to-day quality of life for inmates in Alabama prisons. They didn’t get any better. Their hair didn’t grow any longer. Security was tighter. About 20 inmates were indicted on charges including attempted murder, kidnapping and assault.
“It seems like nothing was accomplished,” Henley wrote in a letter to me after the riot. “Except a lot of inmates are going to get a lot of time.”
Over the years, violence has continued at a high clip at St. Clair and other Alabama prisons. On April 17, 2015, 12 inmates were treated by correctional medical staff following a riot at St. Clair, and three others were treated in offsite medical facilities. Stabbings have been frequent. In the last two years, an inmate was stabbed to death and two guards were stabbed in separate incidents at St.Clair.
A guard was stabbed to death last year at Holman Correctional Facility. Last year the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into violence, rape, overcrowding and other problems within Alabama’s men’s prisons. That night 32 years ago, I prepared to leave. I had a story to write.
Bill King, one of the inmate negotiators grabbed my arm. “Hey check on us, will you?”
I told him I’d probably be following up on the situation.
“Not the situation man. I mean us, personally.”
The information used in this account is drawn from the recollection of Mike Oliver and the extensive coverage of the riot and its aftermath by Oliver and Birmingham News staffers, including Stan Bailey, Mike Bolton, Rick Bragg, William Bunch, Dean Burgess, Tom Gordon, Cindi Lash, John Mangels, Lou Ann Ray, Kathy Roe, Shawn Ryan, Peggy Sanford and Frank Sikora.