9 Teens Escape Pennsylvania Juvenile Detention Center During Riot, Are Captured in Manhunt

Juvenile Detention Center Escape
Nine teens escaped from Abraxas Academy in Morgantown, Pennsylvania, where habitual juvenile offenders and those with a history of sex offenses are housed and treated, according to the facility's website.Abraxas Academy

In the latest escape from a Pennsylvania correctional facility, nine teens fled a detention center during a riot. All were captured during a manhunt.

Nine teenage males escaped from a juvenile detention center during a riot at the Pennsylvania facility Sunday night, officials said. All were captured Monday morning after an overnight manhunt, according to authorities.

The escape prompted school closings and warnings to residents in the area.

The juveniles fled during a Sunday night riot at the correctional facility, which is about 15 miles from where escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante was captured Wednesday following a two-week manhunt.

“We’re asking the people in this area again, kind of like we did two weeks ago, lock everything up, take your keys out of your car, be vigilant,” Pennsylvania State Police Trooper David Beohm told reporters Monday, before the teens were captured.

Four of the escaped teens were captured at about 6 a.m. Monday, some 50 miles away, Beohm said. Another four were chased down in a stolen truck during a police pursuit, authorities said. The last teen, who jumped from the truck during the chase, was found in a nearby field. according to police.

All nine escaped from Abraxas Academy in Morgantown, a detention and treatment center for convicted male juveniles ages 14 to 18, who are habitual offenders or have a history of sexual offenses, according to the facility's website.

The escape is the latest in a series of breakouts from Pennsylvania jails. Cavalcante managed to flee on Aug. 31 by crab walking up two opposing walls in broad daylight, authorities said. 

His absence wasn't noticed for about an hour, officials said. Extra razor wire had been installed at the Chester County Jail following the May escape of another prisoner, but that didn't deter Cavalcante, who was able to jump over the wire, land on the ground, and run away, authorities said.

“The one thing we didn’t take into account was a failure on the human element side,” Howard Holland, the jail's acting warden, told reporters after Cavalcante's escape. “We only focused on the physical infrastructure.”

Also in May, Nasir Grant, 24, and Ameen Hurst, 18, ran from the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center after cutting a hole through a perimeter fence, authorities said. 

Hurst had been charged with murder in connection with the shooting deaths of four people in three separate incidents, authorities said. Grant was being held on narcotics and gun violations, prison officials said. 

Understaffing was blamed for the escapes, authorities said.

“Clearly the system screwed up and people didn't do what they're supposed to do," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a press conference at the time. “I’m really angry about it. There’s no reason for this, and if everyone did what they were supposed to do, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

David Robinson, president of the union that repesents the correctional officers, said chronic staff shortages had resulted in perimeter shifts going unfilled, The Associated Press reported then.

“I’ve been talking about the staffing and safety issues for years and seemingly being ignored," Robinson said. "I've been saying how something is going to happen, and now that something has happened, so are you listening now?”

Both men were captured without incident following days on the run.

At a subsequent Philadelphia City Council meeting, several speakers noted jails were experiencing staffing shortages sparked by the pandemic, increasing numbers of prisoners and employee burnout caused by long hours.

“People are fatigued, people are tired, people are walking around like zombies,” union spokesman Robinson told city leaders. “My members are still overworked: 16 hours, 19 hours, some 20 hours, just even this past few days.”

In July, 34-year-old Michael Burham escaped the Warren County Jail by tying bedsheets together and rapelling from the roof. The murder suspect eluded authorities for nine days by hiding in the woods, authorities said. 

The Pennsylvania breakouts have prompted legislators to draft bills designed to increase staffing and also increase punishments for inmates who escape.

“In 2023 alone, Pennsylvania has seen multiple jail escapes in counties such as Philadelphia, Warren and Chester. These escapes involved incredibly dangerous inmates, including those charged or convicted of murder," said a group of Republican legislators earlier this month.

The group is writing a series of measures to battle such escapes, the legislators wrote.

"Our bills will not only deter and punish future escapes, but will help equip counties with resources and personnel needed to keep their communities safe," the state House representatives said in a sponsorship memo.

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