Philly prison break review finds major security problems led to May escape

District Attorney Larry Krasner presented part of his extensive review into what led to the escape. He would not make it totally public due to security issues.

A sign for the prison on the outside of the building.

Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center. (6abc)

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A few months before convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante dominated headlines with his nearly two-week-long run after escaping from Chester County Prison in September, Philadelphia prison officials were scrambling to recapture a pair of men who escaped from Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center in May.

On Wednesday, a City Council committee heard more details about how that May escape happened and why it wasn’t noticed for nearly a full day.

Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney testified the two men were able to escape using a door with a new lock that wasn’t closed properly. She said the PICC escape is similar to a number of other incidents nationwide.

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“We had two, Chester had one, Macon, Georgia had four. This is happening around the country more than we would like,” she said.

Carney said a major issue is staffing at her facilities.

“We have been obliterated by the pandemic, and we are challenged with trying to maintain a population that is static at 4,700-plus with a limited workforce that are dedicated and committed to coming.”

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said his presentation on the city prison escape can’t be made completely public for security reasons. He said a full presentation of the review would take nearly three hours. He boiled his report to councilmembers down to a series of errors that led to the escape, including guards not monitoring the cameras used to keep tabs on the people being held at the prison.

“The correction officer that should have been in the booth had been held over for a second shift, left after four hours. There was no relief there, the escape occurs when the relief finally shows up and that relief goes to sleep,” Krasner said.

He added that a gap cut in the fence had been there for at least four days before it was used in the escape. Another area that was once used as a dog run was not guarded and some security sensors had been turned off because geese were constantly tripping the sensors causing false alarms.

“They were stuck in that dog run for at least 30 minutes with no dogs and no sensors, and they climbed the sensor pole to make their way out of that dog run,” Krasner said.

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Both men who escaped, including one accused of four murders, were re-captured and are back behind bars.

Prisons Commission Blanche Carney said the department is making improvements to help tighten security and prevent a similar escape.

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