Escape try worries foes of new D.C. jail

2nd facility proposed nearby

3 teens caught

January 30, 1999|By Tom Pelton and Devon Spurgeon | Tom Pelton and Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

Three teen-agers with a wire-cutter ripped through the razor-wire fence of a District of Columbia jail near Laurel yesterday, sparking complaints from neighbors who oppose a proposal to build a second jail nearby.

Minutes after the escape at 8: 37 a.m., police caught one of the youths, who was snagged and bleeding in the 12-foot-high double-fence surrounding the 188-bed Oak Hill Youth Detention Facility on Route 198, officials said.

Guards ran down a second youth in the woods nearby and handcuffed a third near Route 32, said U.S. Park Police, who helped district jail guards in the chase.

The teen-agers, ages 16, 17 and 18, were in the maximum-security facility on offenses that include assault with intent to kill and burglary, a jail official said. Their names were not released.

Neighbors who are fighting a district proposal to build a $25 million detention center nearby said the escapes are another good reason to oppose the city's plans.

"They can't control the prisoners they have in there already. How can they talk about putting more prisoners out there?" asked William P. O'Reilly, a 71-year-old retired Navy man who lives in nearby Maryland City.

Madelyn Andrews, spokeswoman for the district's Department of Human Services, said the attempted escape will not change the district's plans.

The city is considering four or five sites for a detention center that would be built in fiscal 2000 for about 80 youths ages 11 to 21 who have been charged but not tried, city officials said.

The site near Oak Hill, not far from the offices of the National Security Agency, is one of the possible locations, with the others in the district, city officials said.

Order to build

Federal law and a 13-year-old District of Columbia Superior Court order are forcing the district to build the facility to separate convicts at Oak Hill from youths awaiting trial, said Gayle Turner, an administrator in the district's Youth Services Administration.

"We are working very hard to be good neighbors and to be sensitive to the residents' public safety concerns," said Andrews.

One inmate has escaped from Oak Hill in the past two years, Andrews said. There have been six incidents like the one yesterday, in which inmates got beyond the jail's fence but were caught before leaving district property, she said.

Oak Hill has taken several steps to tighten security in the past five years, building a double fence and increasing the number of guards, Andrews said.

Hoyer concerned

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a Democrat who helped close Cedar Knoll, a nearby District of Columbia jail, in 1993 because of continued escapes, said yesterday that he is disturbed by the recent breakout attempts.

"I intend to oppose any additional structures being built out there, and I want to look into what happened to allow these three kids to get outside the gate," said Hoyer.

At 8: 37 a.m. yesterday, the three teen-agers were walking between classes on the sprawling campus of low-slung brick buildings, U.S. Park Police said.

They ran to the fence in the northeast section of the complex and snipped their way out.

Authorities do not know where the inmates got the wire cutters. Police had captured all three by 9: 05 a.m.

Pub Date: 1/30/99

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