10 youths flee D.C. prison in Anne Arundel Nine are caught, but area is alarmed by spate of escapes

April 04, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

A group of teen-agers serving time for murder, rape and kidnapping escaped from a D.C.-run maximum security detention center near Laurel yesterday morning, prompting Washington's mayor to send city police officers to help guard its facilities in Anne Arundel County.

That nine of the 10 escapees were caught within two hours of the 8:45 a.m. escape did little to satisfy local officials and residents, who have complained for years about the maximum- and minimum-security prison complexes located at Route 32 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

"It is pathetic," said Ray Smallwood, president of the Maryland City Civic Association, one of two communities closest to the facilities. "I can understand one squeezing out, or two. But that's a party running out of there."

Police were still searching last night for the last youth, a 15-year-old jailed on rape charges. Police said the boy had been spotted several times near the facility yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday's breakout was the first escape from the Oak Hill Youth Detention Center in more than two years, said Larry Brown, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Human Services.

Oak Hill houses more than 150 inmates between the ages of 14 and 21, and includes the district's most violent juvenile offenders. One youth who escaped yesterday was serving time for murder; the others were in for offenses that included drug possession and kidnapping.

A rash of recent escapes has plagued the district's Cedar Knoll facility, a minimum-security detention center located across the Baltimore-Washington Parkway that has no fences. Since January 1990, 43 youths have escaped, 49 have fled while on outside job or school assignment and 85 more have failed to return from unsupervised home visits or special leave.

A 16-year-old who went AWOL from a school assignment in Washington in September was charged in February with the robbery and killing of a Capitol Heights store clerk.

On Monday six more juveniles escaped from Cedar Knoll, bringing complaints from Anne Arundel County police that the District had failed to notify them in a timely manner. Police said they were notified within 20 minutes of yesterday's breakout.

U.S. Reps. Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, and Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th, said yesterday that they would introduce legislation Monday to close Cedar Knoll for good.

Washington Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly, who replaced the top two administrators at Cedar Knoll in February because of repeated escapes, ordered a criminal investigation yesterday into how the youths got out of Oak Hill.

"I have simply run out of patience on this issue," the mayor said, adding that the probe would look into whether facility personnel had helped the youths escape.

District police officers arrived at Cedar Knoll and Oak Hill yesterday at 3 p.m.

Officials could not say how many officers were deployed or if the move was permanent.

Mr. Brown said the 10 young men escaped by cutting a fence with a wire cutter, then climbing over a second, 12-foot fence.

He said they had been traveling from breakfast to a vocational school in the complex. They broke away from a larger group and congregated in a secluded area.

A guard later saw the youths running toward state Route 32.

Maj. Robert R. Hines, a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police, said at least 30 officers from the state, the district and Anne Arundel County used dogs, horses and helicopters to trap the youths in woods bordered by Routes 197 and 198 and the Patuxent River.

One youth was caught in the river, while another was apprehended near a convenience store on Route 198.

One youth broke his leg during the escape. The nine were captured without further incident.

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