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United States Penitentiary, Atwater

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Title: United States Penitentiary, Atwater  
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Subject: Merced County, California, Atwater, Supermax prison, Castle Air Force Base, James Marcello, Federal Express Flight 705, Castle Airport
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United States Penitentiary, Atwater

US Penitentiary, Atwater
Location Merced County, California
Status Operational
Security class High-security (with minimum-security satellite camp)
Population 1,492 (139 in prison camp)
Opened 2001
Managed by Federal Bureau of Prisons

The United States Penitentiary, Atwater (USP Atwater) is a high-security United States federal prison for male inmates in California. The institution also includes a minimum-security satellite camp. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice.

USP Atwater is located on land formerly part of Castle Air Force Base. It is near the city of Atwater in Merced County, California, 130 miles from San Francisco.[1]

Notable incidents

Murder of Correction Officer Jose Rivera

On June 20, 2008, 22-year-old Correction Officer Jose Rivera was attempting to place inmates Joseph Cabrera-Sablan and James Leon Guerrero, both convicted murderers serving life sentences, back into their cells on the second tier of a housing unit when the inmates suddenly attacked him. Outnumbered, Officer Rivera attempted to flee to the first floor, but tripped on the stairs, at which point Cabrera-Sablan and Guerrero stabbed him with homemade prison knives known as shanks. Despite his injuries, Rivera was able to restrain both inmates until additional officers arrived. Rivera was transported to a local hospital, but died shortly afterward.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was called in to investigate. Cabrera-Sablan and Guerrero were indicted for Officer Rivera's murder on August 14, 2008.[2][3][4][5] A trial date for Cabrera-Sablan and Guerrero has been scheduled for July 2014. Federal prosecutors have announced that they intend to seek the death penalty.[6]

Inmate murder

On August 2, 2006, Juwan Ferguson and the victim, Domosanies Slaughter, were cellmates in the Special Housing Unit at USP Atwater. Ferguson, a repeat felon with a lengthy criminal history, told several correctional officers at different times during that day that he wanted Slaughter removed from his cell. After he repeated this request to another officer, Slaughter hit Ferguson in the face. Ferguson responded by beating Slaughter into unconsciousness and then continuing to beat him even after he was unconscious. Correctional officers observed Ferguson drag Slaughter out from underneath one of the beds in the cell. Ignoring orders to stop, Ferguson continued to strike Slaughter's head against the concrete floor and kick the back of his head until he was restrained. Slaughter was transported to an area hospital, where he died on August 8, 2006.

In July 2009, Ferguson was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.[7][8] Ferguson's sentence was overturned on appeal and he was resentenced to 96 months in prison in 2011.[9] Ferguson is currently being held at Florence ADX, the federal supermax prison in Colorado, and is scheduled for release in 2018.[10]

John Balazs, the attorney who defended Ferguson, argued that the Federal Bureau of Prisons was partially at fault for Slaughter's death, mainly because Slaughter had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and USP Atwater was not properly equipped to address Slaughter's condition. In addition, Ferguson had asked corrections officials to move Slaughter out of his cell and Ferguson did not start the fight.[11]

Notable inmates (current and former)

†The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 eliminated parole for federal inmates. However, inmates sentenced for offenses committed prior to 1987 are eligible for parole consideration.[12]
Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Perry Roark 53975-037 Serving a life sentence. Founder of Dead Man Incorporated, a prison gang active in four states; pleaded guilty in 2012 to leading a racketeering enterprise which engaged in murder and threats to commit murder, armed robbery, drug trafficking and extortion.[13][14]
Auburn Calloway 14601-076 Serving a life sentence. Former Flight Engineer for Federal Express; convicted in 1995 of attempted air piracy for attacking the crew of Federal Express Flight 705 in mid-flight in 1994; Calloway was under investigation for falsifying his employment application and flight records.[15]
Jerry Whitworth 78095-011 Serving a 365-year sentence; eligible for parole in 2048.† Former Senior Chief Petty Officer for the US Navy; convicted in 1986 of espionage for selling highly classified US Navy documents to the Soviet Union for $332,000; co-conspirator and former US Navy Chief Warrant Officer John Anthony Walker testified against him.[16]
Bobby Banks 20110-009 Serving a 55-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2055. Leader of the Crips street gang in Little Rock, Arkansas; convicted in 2006 of conspiracy and drug trafficking for directing a large-scale crack-cocaine distribution operation; appeared in the 1993 HBO documentary Gang War: Bangin' In Little Rock.[17]
Robert Faulcon 74122-279 Serving a 65-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2067. Former New Orleans police officer; convicted of civil rights violations in 2011 in connection with the 2005 Danziger Bridge shootings, during which police opened fire on a group of unarmed civilians, killing two; several other officers were also sentenced to prison.[18][19]
Justin Strom 80012-083 Serving a 40-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2047. Leader of the Crips gang in Fairfax County, Virginia; pleaded guilty in 2012 to sex trafficking of minors for recruiting and forcing juvenile to engage in prostitution; directed the largest underage prostitution ring in the region’s history.[20][21][22]

See also


  1. ^ "BOP: USP Atwater". Retrieved September 26, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Jose V. Rivera". Federal Bureau of Prisons. 
  3. ^ Maldonado, Jr., G. "Board of Inquiry Report: June 20, 2008 Homicide of Correctional Officer Jose Rivera - United States Penitentiary, Atwater, California". Federal Bureau of Prisons. 
  4. ^ "UPDATE: FBI enters investigation of fatal stabbing of correctional officer". June 24, 2008. 
  5. ^ Patton, Victor A. (June 21, 2008). "Correctional officer killed in stabbing at Atwater prison". Merced Sun-Star. 
  6. ^ Doyle, Michael (March 15, 2013). "Trial date set for pair accused in slaying of USP Atwater correctional officer". Merced Sun-Times. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  7. ^ Jason, Scott (October 12, 2009). "Atwater inmate gets life sentence for killing his cellmate". Merced Sun-Star (CA). Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  8. ^ "Federal Prisoner Sentenced to Life for Killing Cell Mate". Federal Bureau of Investigation. October 9, 2009. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  9. ^ "Juwan Tonay Ferguson, Docket Number: 1:08CR00116-001 LJO, Recommended Conditions of Supervised Release/Order of Approval". US District Court - Eastern District of California. June 30, 2011. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  10. ^ "Inmate Locator: Register # 97034-011". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  11. ^ Patton, Victor (July 11, 2011). "Safety concerns remain an issue at U.S. Penitentiary Atwater". Merced Sun-Star (CA). Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  12. ^ "History of The Federal Parole System". US Department of Justice. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Fedex 705". April 7, 1994. 
  16. ^ Morain, Dan (December 10, 1988). "Whitworth Given 365-Year Sentence : Castigated by Judge, Spy Also Is Fined $410,000; Penalty Harshest Since '53 - Los Angeles Times". 
  17. ^ "Local Gang Leader Sentenced to 55 Years in Prison". Retrieved 2013-10-30. 
  18. ^ "USDOJ: New Orleans Police Officers Convicted of Civil Rights Violations in Danziger Bridge Case". 2011-08-05. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  19. ^ Robertson, Campbell (4 April 2012). "Ex-New Orleans Officers Sentenced in Post-Katrina Shootings". The New York Times. 
  20. ^ Frieden, Terry (29 March 2012). "5 arrested, accused of forcing high school girls to be prostitutes". CNN. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  21. ^ "Leader of Crips Gang Pleads Guilty in Virginia to Prostituting Eight Juveniles". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  22. ^ Jouvenal, Justin (September 14, 2012). "Underage prostitution ring’s leader sentenced to 40 years in prison". Washington Post. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 

External links

  • USP Atwater
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