Inmates Recaptured: What Were the Security Lapses?

Inmates Recaptured: What Were the Security Lapses?

Now that three violent inmates who escaped from a California jail are back in custody, the focus will turn to how they were able to saw, crawl and climb their way out of a maximum security facility.

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said she was elated to announce the arrests of the inmates, eight days after they had successfully escaped from the facility. The tough work was only getting started, as the investigation will now focus on how the inmates were given the opportunity to achieve success in their escape plot.

Early on Jan. 22, the trio sawed through a metal grate covering a plumbing tunnel, and then crawled through piping to reach the jail’s roof. There, they pushed aside barbed wire and used a rope made of bed sheets to rappel four stories to the ground.

Authorities are now interviewing the inmates, hoping to fill the many holes about the escape and their week on the run. How did they procure the sharp cutting tools to hack their way through the jail walls? What did they do outside the walls? Where did they stay? How did they get money for food and gas?

The three did not know each other before being assigned to the Orange County jail. They were all there awaiting trial on charges including murder, attempted murder, torture and kidnapping. While behind bars, the three were housed together in a large jail module that also housed about 65 other men, about half of whom are also in custody for violent felonies.

Employees of the facility did not realize that the inmates were missing for up to 16 hours, an embarrassment for Hutchens that has prompted changes in jail operations, but no firings.

In a letter sent to Hutchens on Jan. 29, the head of deputies union said his members complained nearly a year ago that department policy on inmate counts was not being followed. It is noted that the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs received “push-back from jail management with the justification that ‘This is the way we have always done it,’”

Tom Dominguez, the president of the association, calls from the dismissal of Capt. Chris Wilson, who runs the jail. Others have declined to comment until the investigation is complete.

The investigation so far has uncovered that Nooshafarin Ravaghi, a 44-year-old children’s book author and close friend of suspected mastermind of the jail break, Hossein Nayeri, gave Nayeri a paper copy of a Google Earth map that showed an aerial view of the entire jail compound. She was booked on suspicion of being an accessory to a felony and was being held pending a court appearance set for Feb. 1.

While the investigation continues the three will now return to the jail from which they escaped. "I can tell you they won't be together," Hutchens said.

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the Executive Editor of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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