Alert system implemented following inmates escape

July 17, 2013
The Greene County Prison on Rolling Meadows Road has implemented an emergency alert system as a result of the June 22 escape of two inmates. - Bob Niedbala Observer-Reporter Order a Print

WAYNESBURG – Greene County Prison Warden Harry D. Gillispie told members of the county prison board Wednesday the prison has implemented an alert system that will notify county residents in the event of an emergency situation at the prison.

The decision follows last month’s escape of two inmates from the prison. An internal investigation into the escape yielded several changes to the prison’s policies and procedures.

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 prison shortly after 12:30 p.m. June 22 and 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 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.

Roe and Iacovone upended 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. As the men were scaling the fence, the tower officer fired a warning shot, in accordance with prison policy, and radioed for backup.

Gillispie said he personally takes responsibility for the escape. “I am embarrassed,” he said. The warden told the board the gate was secured at the bottom and middle, but there was enough room at the top to squeeze through. The top of the gate has since been secured with a lock, he said.

He also said the wooden picnic tables have been tethered together, and although he would not be specific, Gillispie said he would be addressing some “personnel” matters later Wednesday.

AMG Alerts of Chicago will offer mass emergency notifications to anyone who subscribes to the service. The agreement will cost $895 a year, but the service is free to the public.

“Anyone can sign up, but this is primarily for people who live within a close proximity to the prison and want to receive immediate notification,” said Gillispie, adding that an escape or a riot are examples of the types of emergency situations that will warrant an alert.

A link to an AMG Alerts registration page will be provided through the county’s website at Subscribers will be asked to provide a first and last name, an email address, and land line and mobile phone numbers. They can then select their notification preference: text message, email or phone call.

“The public will be responsible for keeping their information current,” Gillispie said. “They can also unsubscribe at any time.”

Gillispie and several other county officials will serve as administrators of the alert system, and a separate list of prison staff will be maintained to receive alerts as well. The system is capable of sending 500 notifications in less than a minute.

Anyone without Internet access may contact Gillispie to subscribe to the alert system. For more information, call the Greene County Prison at 724-627-7780.

Gillispie told the board of the July 11 hanging suicide of inmate Fred Spencer of Carmichaels. “We had no indication of any problems with this person,” Gillispie said. “He had been at the prison for nine days and had just completed a detoxification regimen.”

In other business, the prison board:

• Was informed the apparent low bid for a new kitchen at the prison was $592,430. The commissioners are expected to act on this matter at their meeting today.

• Learned Fayette County still owes $85,500 for housing inmates for May; $61,000 for June; and $34,250 as of Tuesday.

Jon Stevens was the Observer-Reporter’s Greene County bureau chief. During his 41 years with the O-R, he covered county government, courts and politics, and won statewide and regional writing awards.

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