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ELKTON Official opposes setting up escape siren at federal prison



Published: Tue, July 31, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A county official says he's pleased with steps prison authorities have taken to try to prevent further escapes.

By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

ELKTON -- Columbiana County Commissioner Sean Logan says he disagrees with suggestions from some area residents that the federal prison erect a siren to be sounded when inmates escape from the facility.

Logan, a member of the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution's community relations board, said Monday he's sympathetic to prison neighbors' desire to be notified quickly of break-outs.

But Logan added that he agrees with federal authorities' opposition to a siren.

"I do not support the siren system," Logan said.

Sounding a siren when an escape happens would alert other prisoners in the nearly 2,500-inmate facility on Scroggs Road and could lead to disruptions within the institution, Logan said.

That same reasoning was put forth by prison officials in 1997 when the lockup opened and residents at that time proposed a siren.

Concerns: Siren installation is among the suggestions and concerns being voiced by Elkton residents after a July 21 escape of two prison inmates from a satellite facility that's part of the correctional institution, Logan said.

Some residents also complained they either were not alerted about the escape or were told about it hours after it occurred.

No prison official was available Monday to comment.

Logan said he and commissioner Dave Cranmer recently toured the prison and inspected the area where the two prisoners used a gurney as a ladder to get over a nearly 12-foot-high fence surrounding the low-security satellite facility from which the escape occurred.

Prison officials assured the commissioners that steps would be taken to thwart future break-outs from the satellite facility, which typically holds about 600 inmates.

"I'm very confident in the measures they're taking to prevent further escapes," Logan said.

Those measures include installing more fencing in areas of the satellite facility, he added without elaborating.

When Rafael Herrera, 53, of Chicago, and Juan Gonzalez-Valencia, 30, of Fresno, Calif., escaped earlier this month, they were the first convicts to break out of the satellite facility since it was fenced last fall.

Before fencing, the facility was a minimum-security camp. During the time it was a camp, six inmates escaped.

The satellite facility holds inmates who normally would be eligible for placement in a minimum-security camp but have detainers against them, so they must be held in a low-security lockup.

A detainer is when an inmate is wanted by another law enforcement agency after completion of his federal prison sentence.

Aside from the satellite facility, the prison also consists of a larger low-security facility that generally houses about 1,900 inmates.




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