11 D.C. Dept. of Corrections Workers Fired

By Lori Montgomery and Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, July 27, 2006

Eleven employees of the D.C. Department of Corrections, including a high-level supervisor, were fired yesterday after an internal investigation found that negligence contributed to the recent escape of two jail inmates.

"It was not ineptitude, but all of us have a responsibility and our duties to perform. Negligence did contribute to this mishap," said Corrections Director Devon Brown.

Seven of the fired employees were corrections officers, and four were civilians. The supervisor, a "senior manager," was a civilian, said Wandra Ashley-Williams, corrections program specialist.

Brown would not identify the employees or say whether they are suspected of assisting the escapees.

He said a continuing criminal investigation, led by the U.S. attorney and D.C. police, is "looking very closely at whether there was any aiding and abetting."

The inmates -- Ricardo Jones, 25, and Joseph Leaks, 32 -- broke into the warden's unoccupied office the morning of June 3, smashed a window and slid down a canvas canopy to freedom. They were recaptured the next day.

The 11 workers were among 12 employees who had been placed on paid administrative leave after the escape. The 12th worker was exonerated by the internal investigation, the results of which were delivered late Tuesday to Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and City Administrator Robert C. Bobb. Officials declined to make the findings public, citing the ongoing criminal probe.

Bobb said the city decided to terminate 11 people he described as "involved in cooperating" with the inmates who escaped. He declined to comment further on the nature of the cooperation.

"Those individuals will have their right to appeal," Bobb said. "But the fact of the matter is they're no longer on the District payroll as of today."

Bobb and Brown said city personnel rules barred them from releasing the workers' names. Six are men and five are women, according to corrections officials.

The jail has 784 employees, including 670 in uniform and 114 nonuniformed and civilian workers, officials said. The civilians and nonuniformed workers have jobs such as case managers, medical workers and employees in the warden's office.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he has not seen the report on the internal investigation, but he said the firings would be appropriate if the employees were found to have contributed to the jailbreak. Still, he said, he wants more answers.

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