Jail administrator: Escape preventable

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

ccalloway@pntonline.com

Roosevelt County Detention Center Administrator David Casanova said Friday’s inmate escape could have been prevented if additional security measures he’s asking for were put in place.

Casanova said all security processes that were in place were followed Friday in the jail’s second breakout in three months, where three inmates used an identical escape method as the one that took place in June. Robert Claudio, 31, remains at-large and the other two inmates were captured hours later.

Casanova said security heightened internally from the escape in June including increased walk-throughs and perimeter checks, but he said there’s only so much his staff can do on their end to prevent an escape. He added he and his staff will continue to review what happened to discuss how to strengthen their procedures but he wants a sound solution.

At a Roosevelt County Commission meeting in September Casanova proposed the installation of razor wire on the roof and the perimeter of the entire jail.

The commission tabled the item twice, citing cost concerns. The estimated price was $265,000.

“It wasn’t that we didn’t want to, it’s just that the money would come out of (the reserve fund),” said Commissioner Scott Burton. “We have to make sure we can afford it before we just jump out and spend that money because it was not in our budget. That’s the reason we put it off.”

Casanova said there are inmates in the jail who are facing long sentences and have nothing to lose and he’s afraid another escape is inevitable with the condition the jail is in now.

He feels what he’s proposed will deter inmates from escaping and plans to include additional requests including bunk beds that can be secured to the ground. Inmates in both escapes broke the leg off of a metal bunk bed to create a hole in the ceiling.

“If it prevents one more inmate from escaping, then it’s paid for itself,” said Casanova of the proposed security measures.

Roosevelt County Manager Charlene Webb said since the first breakout in June, the ceiling had been repaired in that cell and Casanova’s suggestions to improve security will remain as the county administration’s priority recommendation to end problems at the jail.

Commissioner Jake Lopez admitted the price of the proposal was a lot but that didn’t mean it wasn’t considered.

“The money is (more than) a quarter of $1 million, that’s a lot of money,” Lopez said. “You’ve got to take care of the people’s money.”

He and Burton agree that something has to be done to prevent another escape.

“There are people who are supposed to be working, taking care of people (in jail),” Lopez said. “We can debate if forever but we have to do something. We have to do something to prevent it from happening again.”

“We’re having some issues and we need to look at it,” Burton added. “I think we’ll do what’s right.”

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