Oh, brother! Prison has been seeing double

November 20, 1997|By MICHAEL OLESKER

WHAT'S IN a name? Don't ask. What's in Russell John Yarborough Jr.'s name? Don't ask, don't ask. For the thinkers who run Maryland's prisons, there's nothing in it but trouble and calls to the Missing Persons Bureau.

Yarborough -- one of the Yarboroughs, anyway, although nobody's entirely certain which Yarborough -- is the latest of four inmates mistakenly released by the prison system in the past month.

In Yarborough's case, it turns out there was a complication.

Yarborough's not the only Yarborough around here, and he's not even the only Russell John Yarborough Jr. around here. He has a brother and, as family pride would have it, the brother's also behind prison bars. (Or, was, until the recent untidiness about releases.) And the brother's got the exact same name, Russell John Yarborough Jr.

This, naturally, raises a series of questions having nothing to do with the prisons, or with confusion over so many recent mistaken inmate releases, but has plenty to do with the Yarborough family, to wit: What parents give two brothers the exact same name?

They couldn't think of any other names? They had such a triumph with the first Russell John Yarborough Jr. that they figured, what the heck, let's give the name another shot? Some visionary in the family saw a time somewhere off in the future when the same-name abundance would help one of the lads bolt prison?

There was a run on traditional future-jailbird names, such as Lefty, Rocky, and Sam, Son of?

In the entire history of multiple-name use for siblings, only a couple come immediately to mind: the boxer George Foreman, who named all of his sons George; and those two idiot brothers on the old "Bob Newhart" show, Daryl and Daryl.

In the case of the brothers Russell John Yarborough Jr., the distinguishing differences appear to be a) age; and b) criminal charges, although the differences weren't so great that they couldn't fool prison officials, who lately have a rich history of being fooled even by fellows who don't share the same name with one sibling or another.

There is the 26-year-old Yarborough, arrested 13 days ago and ordered held is lieu of $15,000 bail on charges of second-degree assault, burglary, destruction of property and theft.

And there is the 36-year-old Yarborough, arrested nine days ago and ordered held on $10,000 bail after he was charged with second-degree assault.

It was, at last check, the 26-year old Yarborough (hereafter known as Russell Jr.) who was mistakenly released Saturday morning when someone posted bail for the 36-year-old Yarborough (hereinafter known as Russell Jr.), which raises another question:

What brother slips out of prison when he knows it's his own brother who's really supposed to be getting out? If nothing else, it answers the ancient question: Am I my brother's keeper?

In this case, no. His brother's keeper is the Baltimore City Detention Center but, things being the way they are, probably not for long.

"As we speak," Barbara Cooper, spokeswoman for the Division of Pre-Trial Release, said yesterday, "we have no idea where Yarborough is."

She meant Russell Jr., not Russell Jr.

But, late yesterday, police received a call from Russell Jr. -- the one who had gotten away -- and he was back in custody last night.

At last look, the second Russell Jr. was still situated at the Baltimore City Detention Center, which is a part of the Pre-Trial Release system. There are roughly 3,000 inmates in that system, which can lead to occasional confusion.

Then there's the Division of Correction, which includes most of Maryland's prisons. It has, as of yesterday morning, 22,087 inmates, which is three fewer than it should have had. The others were mistakenly released in recent weeks.

"We have not yet apprehended those inmates," department spokeswoman Maxine Eldridge said yesterday.

"You know, we take in 14,000 inmates a year, and we release 14,000 a year. Overall, our employees do a good job. Why this is happening now, I can't answer."

"On any given day, this department handles 150,000 criminal cases," said Len Sipes, spokesman for the state's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

"The public expects 100 percent perfection, and we don't blame them. But we're like every other system in the country, which is struggling with overwhelming numbers."

Sipes said he's run into previous same-name cases, like the Yarboroughs, but "not brothers. Plenty of times, more than one guy with the same name. But, brothers, no."

He said it with a sigh of relief.

Pub Date: 11/20/97

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