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Warden wants added security at Pa. prison

May 04, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In light of the escape of two inmates last month, Franklin County Prison Warden Ray Rosenberry recommended Thursday that more razor wire be installed on the fences and roof of the building.

Steven L. Silverman, 30, of Hagerstown, and Scott Caldwell Taylor, 24, of Sharpsburg, remained at large Thursday following an April 19 escape. Authorities said they used hacksaw blades to cut through the bars of a cell.

Rosenberry said the two men are believed to have climbed onto the roof and jumped from the front of the jail, where there is no fence.

Rosenberry told the Franklin County Prison Board he wants to place coiled razor wire between the top of the cell windows and the roof, add a second course of wire around the exercise yard and a single course to a fenced area off A-Block.

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"Our internal investigation really did not point out any glaring weaknesses" in security procedures, Rosenberry said. There was, however, a lapse in the frequency of cell checks, he said.

Cells are supposed to be checked every 20 to 30 minutes, but the period between checks on D-Block, where Silverman and Taylor were housed, may have been 40 minutes or longer.

Rosenberry attributed that to overcrowding and the additional time corrections officers need to count heads.

Rosenberry said the hacksaw blades used by the men may have been thrown over the section of the fence facing Interstate 81. Silverman and Caldwell then apparently hid them in their shoes.

"We're getting information from different sources. ... None of it has been confirmed," Rosenberry said. Much of the information has come from inmates, he said.

The fence perimeter is checked daily to make sure it has not been breached. He said two officers are assigned to check the fence and yard.

The Pennsylvania State Police barracks next to the prison was notified as soon as officers discovered the cell bars had been cut, Rosenberry said.

Silverman and Taylor stole a pickup truck from a nearby farm, and the truck was recovered in Westminster, Md., according to state police.

Rosenberry said it may have taken the men three or four hours to cut through the bars.

The warden said additional wire would cost about $13,000. Other measures discussed by the board included installing additional lighting and video cameras outside the building.

Staffing the prison watch tower 24 hours a day was considered too expensive by some board members and the idea of a warning siren was rejected.

"It puts all the inmates on the alert that there is a problem and the staff is spread thin," board member and Franklin County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said. Others at the meeting said the siren might panic nearby residents and attract curious bystanders.

"When was the last time anyone around this table can remember a prisoner escaped and remained at large?" Elliott said.

In recent years, three inmates escaped the compound, two by sawing through bars and one by going over the fence, but all were quickly recaptured.

Silverman and Caldwell had been serving Maryland state prison sentences when they were transferred to the prison to face charges in Franklin County.

Silverman was wanted in a break-in at a sporting goods store in which 30 handguns were taken last year. Caldwell was awaiting trial on vehicle theft charges.

Rosenberry said a fence with motion detectors completely surrounding the prison would be the best solution, but said most inmates are not flight risks. He said there was a third man in the cell with Silverman and Taylor "and he didn't go anywhere."

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