Improvements at jail seek to prevent more escapes

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The corrections commissioner in St. Louis called an April 22 escape by two inmates an “isolated incident.” Still, the city is trying to learn from the incident to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Authorities say the inmates escaped through a crawlspace, then shattered a large front window of the St. Louis Justice Center and shimmied down a bed sheet. They were captured within hours.

Commissioner Gene Stubblefield told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that new surveillance equipment has been installed since the escape, and more may be purchased, depending on results of an audit due in August. The audit is looking at the justice center’s design and security.

The escape was the first since the center opened in 2002. Authorities say Vernon Collins, 34, and David White, 33, crawled through an access panel in the jail infirmary to reach a space above the ceiling, then broke through a metal barrier and used a metal piece from a bunk bed to break the window.

A corrections officer, Mori Farrell, has been charge with permitting the escape and lying about it. Stubblefield blamed Farrell and a “design flaw” in the ceiling above the infirmary.

“Inmates will always show you your weaknesses,” Stubblefield said Thursday as reporters got a tour of the facility.

In addition to the other improvements, Stubblefield said supervisors also now conduct monthly checks on officers’ daily inspection reports to ensure they monitor areas closely.

Prosecutors say Farrell, 51, faked computer logs showing all inmates were in their cells. A week after the jailbreak, Farrell was charged with two felony counts of permitting escape, five felony counts of forgery, for falsifying records; and one misdemeanor count of making a false declaration for lying to his boss.

Farrell is out of jail on bail. He has been on unpaid leave since his arrest. A termination hearing is set for next week.

Farrell’s lawyer, Eric Barnhart, said there was no evidence Farrell helped in the escape. He added, “It seems with this case that everyone is trying to throw him under the bus.”

Collins and White are back at the jail, housed in solitary confinement as they await trial.

Each was being held on assault and other charges when they allegedly escaped. Collins is charged with stabbing a man multiple times in March and shooting a police officer. White is accused of stabbing his ex-girlfriend in January and using her child as a human shield to run away.

Now they also face felony counts of escaping from confinement and damage to jail property.

———

Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Please review our Policies and Procedures before registering or commenting

News Tribune - comments