Calling system needed in Greene

July 7, 2013

Greene County Prison is no Shawshank, but inmates can still escape from the Franklin Township lockup, albeit not in the dramatic fashion employed by Andy Dufresne in the Stephen King novella, “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.”

But on June 22, Jason William Roe, 33, of Daisytown, charged with homicide, and Rocco John Iacovone, 27, of Washington, being held on armed robbery charges, escaped from the jail shortly after 12:30 p.m. They were apprehended two hours later less than a mile away.

After viewing surveillance video of the incident and interviewing staff, the prison’s internal review, conducted by Warden Harry D. Gillispie, concluded the men were able to escape after a corrections officer failed to secure a gate separating the prison’s main recreation yard from a minimum-security yard.

The two were able to upend a wooden picnic table and used it to scale a service gate, squeezing between the top of the gate and the row of razor wire above the gate.

Immediately after the escape, the prison implemented its escape and apprehension policy. The prison was locked down and state police and prison personnel were notified of the escape.

It was fortunate these two were captured so quickly. They were not serving weekends for DUI offenses, but awaiting sentencing or trial on charges of committing violent crimes.

We don’t know if any disciplinary action will be meted out. That’s a decision to be made by the warden and the county prison board. What we do know is that Gillispie manned up and took full responsibility for the incident. He is the warden and it is his prison. He did and said the right things.

Yet, we wonder what would have been the prison’s response had schools been in session. We would hope there would have been immediate notification, and lock downs would have been imposed if necessary.

We were pleased with how quickly the state police notified local and area media of the escape and subsequent capture, and commend the prison for implementing corrective actions addressing both policy and prison equipment, including the gate and picnic tables, to ensure such an escape cannot happen again.

Gillispie and his staff run a good correctional facility and that conclusion is drawn from the fact the last escape occurred 17 years ago from the jail on Rolling Meadows Road. Considering the number of inmates that have come and gone over those years, we think that is a pretty good record.

It is our position, however, that the county and its prison board need to implement an automatic calling system that would notify surrounding residents about incidents such as an escape.

Such a system is in place at the State Correctional Institution at Greene off Progress Drive because some of the baddest of the bad are incarcerated there.

An automated call system has been discussed in the past when the county jail was considering accepting state inmates, but the idea was dropped when no state prisoners were received by the jail.

It’s obvious to us a county prisoner can be as dangerous as a state inmate and we see no reason why such a calling system should not be implemented as soon as possible.



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