One of three inmates who escaped from the Montgomery County Detention Center last week turned himself in yesterday after phoning the jail, the county police and The Washington Post to say he wanted to return.

Michael Overat, 21, of Hyattsville, showed up at the detention center at 4:45 p.m. in torn and faded blue jeans, a T-shirt with a beer emblem on it, and dustly cowboy boots, accompanied by a counselor from the D.C. Hotline service. A Washington Post reporter was also present at Overzat's request.

Overzat, who was serving a 30-day sentence for shoplifting, turned up 45 minutes later than he said he would, keeping two Montgomery County police detectives, the jail deputy director, and chief of security, waiting in suspense.

The two other inmates who allegedly escaped with Overzat, Vincent Lawson. 23, of Laurel, and Ricky Thompson, 20, of Washington, remain at large. Police said the prisoners left the facility between 9:30 and 10:45 p.m. Aug. 22 after removing a window by cutting out its metal frame with a hacksaw. The men then jumped 15 feet to the ground, scaled a 15-foot barbed wire fence and escaped, police said.

In an interview yesterday at the jail, Overzat said he left because "I should never have been there in the first place." He wanted a reporter present, he said, "for protection."

"The people ain't friendly in there," he said.

Overzat said he was charged with shoplifting after buying $174 worth of clothes from a Montgomery Ward in Wheaton on a stolen credit card. He has an assault charge pending in Anne Arundel County and is charged with breaking and entering in Prince George's County, officials said.

Yesterday Overzat, who once escaped for 14 months from a prison work camp in Jessup, was charged again with escape.