A Prince George's County hearing board is investigating whether a report was falsified to hide jail officials' failures to prevent an August escape from the County Correctional Center, sources familiar with the investigation said yesterday.
The sources said that a Corrections Department captain was questioned about a report that made it appear that jail officials took steps to tighten security after an officer was tipped off in advance of the escape.
These latest revelations from the problem-plagued correctional center seem certain to heighten pressure on county leaders to take steps against mid- and upper-level management at the seven-month-old prison. County government sources said that likely actions will be transfers out of the Corrections Department to other county agencies and reassignments within the department.
The three-member board, appointed by Corrections Director Samuel F. Saxton, is expected to submit its report on the escape early next week to Saxton and County Executive Parris Glendening.
Hearing board members have sought in their investigation to determine whether the report, found in the files of Capt. John Selby, was falsified with the knowledge of the Corrections Department head of security, Lt. Col. Guy P. Smith. But Smith, who was relieved of his responsibilities last week, refused to answer questions from the panel, sources said.
Selby was on annual leave from the correctional center yesterday and could not be reached for comment, and Smith declined to discuss the case.
Saxton said through a spokeswoman that he has not been briefed by the hearing board about all of the testimony that the panel had heard.
The hearing board is investigating an Aug. 25 incident in which four prisoners scaled the recreation yard wall, went through fencing and headed for the center's two perimeter fences. Three of the inmates were captured before they got to outer fences. The fourth inmate was captured about two miles away within 24 hours.
On Sept. 3, news reports surfaced about an incident report written Aug. 2 by correctional Officer David Byname. In his report, Byname said that an inmate told him that he had overheard three other prisoners from housing unit H-8 saying that they had been working on a section of the fence in their unit's recreation yard for three to four weeks.
Byname noted in his incident report that an inmate in H-8 was found on the recreation yard fence on July 31, and he added in the report that he believed the two incidents were connected.
A copy of Byname's incident report that was shown to reporters on Sept. 3 showed that Selby and other officials took no action to investigate the tip that an escape was being planned.
Later that same day, corrections officials produced another copy of Byname's incident report, which they said was found in Selby's private files, that showed that some action had been taken to investigate the planned escape. But officials also said that it was against department procedures to make copies of incident reports, which they said Selby had done for his personal files.
A block labeled "Action Taken" on one copy of Byname's incident report is blank.
But the copy found later in Selby's files said that Selby and two other officers inspected the recreation yard fence in H-8 and found it to be secure.
Corrections officials said that department procedures call for incident reports written by correctional officers to go through a chain of command from the officer to his or her zone commander, to the shift commander and to the head of the Bureau of Security.
After the initial news stories about Officer Byname's report, corrections officials said that no action was taken because the report never reached the shift commander. In this case, the shift commander was Selby. That was among the things to be investigated by the hearing board.
The board has finished hearing testimony about the escape and seemingly contradictory incident reports, and has dictated its findings, which have not yet been typed. Members of the board are Capt. Alvin Martin of the Corrections Department, Maj. John Proels of the Fire Department and Capt. David Van Dyke of the county Police Department.
Selby, who has risen in the ranks from private to captain in five years at the Corrections Department, also is being investigated for a separate alleged violation of department procedure.
Last week, Selby allegedly caught an officer asleep at his post during the midnight shift at the county's DWI facility, officials said. Selby allegedly told the officer that he would keep the incident between the two of them and would not report it, which would be a violation of department policy.
The officer did report the incident to a lieutenant the next day, sources said, which led to the investigation of the incident.