Convict escapes county jail

Work-release candidate is first to flee new facility

August 11, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

In the first jail break from Anne Arundel County's 18-month-old detention center, a work-release candidate hopped two barbed wire fences outside a recreation area and ran off, jail officials said yesterday.

Officials said the break by Robert Nicholas Ross, 23, from the minimum-security facility on Ordnance Road occurred Thursday, and that he has not been found. He had been sentenced to 18 months in the center for violating probation on a petty theft conviction.

Ross arrived at the center a day and a half before he escaped, officials said. Detention center officials said he went over two 12-foot-high barbed wire fences shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday and probably had a ride waiting for him on Ordnance Road. They found his orange detention center jumpsuit on the outer perimeter.

Center staff was not at fault in the escape, said Jim O'Neill, facility administrator at Ordnance Road.

The officer guarding Ross' dormitory was strip-searching an inmate returning from work release when the break-out occurred, he said. When the officer noticed that Ross was missing, just before 10 p.m., officers searched the grounds and dormitories, then called county police just before 11 p.m., O'Neill said.

"He was still being processed to see whether he was going to be in work release," O'Neill said. "If this person had been processed for work release, he would have walked out the front door in 48 hours. He faces up to 10 years for escape now. I'm not sure it was the smartest thing he ever did."

Inmates on work release who walk away from their jobs are the most common detention center escapees, but a jail breakout is rare, O'Neill said. The last time someone escaped from the county's old Jennifer Road detention facility was in 1990, O'Neill said.

Unlike state-run medium- and maximum-security facilities in Jessup housing violent offenders, the Ordnance Road center does not sound sirens to notify residents of an escape.

The press also was not notified.

Area residents told of the escape were surprised but not worried.

"They had a bad-check writer walk out of there, eh?" joked Joe Corcoran, former president of the Glen Burnie Improvement Association.

State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Brooklyn Park Democrat who lobbied for years against building a jail in Glen Burnie, said public safety had never been an issue in the debate because the prisoners kept there were not convicted of violent crimes.

"We worked strongly to downgrade the level of inmates allowed there," he said.

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