Officials at the Prince George's county detention center have added 18 guards and are routinely checking all cells for signs of escape attempts in the wake of last week's jailbreak by nine prisoners.
After questioning two of the escapees, who were recaptured on Tuesday, officials have absolved from blame the two officers who had been guarding the escape route. Seven men remain at large.
Patrols within the jail were increased this week with the addition of 18 new guards, according to jail spokesman Jim O'Neill. The new officers are part of a group of 35 guards hired this month under a consent decree ordered by a U.S. District Court judge.
A system of mirrors is being considered to overcome design flaws in the five-year-old section of the jail where the escape occurred, O'Neill said. Obstructed views have been cited as contributing to the undetected escape of the prisoners, he added.
Now, when prisoners are exercising, officers use this time to check all cell bars and windows for signs of tampering. Previously, this was done only on a random basis.
O'Neill said that other new security measures will be recommended by corrections chief Arnett Gaston. The escape has not caused major changes in prisoner treatment, O'Neill added.
"The old days of lock everything down and maximum security until we find out what happened has kind of proven worse than just continuing with normal activities," he said. "You could end up driving tension levels up higher than you bargained for."
O'Neill said that interviews with recaptured prisoners LaRocko K. Johnson and Robert Lee Rogers corroborated the reports of guards Robert Smith and Michael Sofidiya.
An investigation into whether a jail employe smuggled in the hacksaw the escapees used to saw the window bars continues, however.
O'Neill said that even at the time of the escape--4:30 in the morning--several prisoners were reading and talking on top bunks between the escape window and the guard booth, blocking Smith's view.
"We cut off the TV's at 12 a.m. during the week but that doesn't mean they go to sleep. And the more crowded you get, the more people you get staying up," O'Neill added.
He said it was "a safe assumption" that the guards' view intentionally was blocked that night.
The prisoners jumped down to a second-story window and waited for Sofidiya, who was patroling the building perimeter, to walk out of sight before they climbed down a homemade rope.
The jail, which was designed for 286 people, currently holds more than 440 prisoners. The county agreed last March to improve conditions in the jail, following a lawsuit brought by the inmates. The county also has agreed to build a new jail on a 120-acre site in a sparsely populated area a few miles north of the current jail, which is in the middle of Upper Marlboro.
"The problem is, the jail is located in the center of town, near major roadways," O'Neill said. "There is no buffer between the jail and the people."
O'Neill said that Gaston's report will focus on the problem of perimeter security.