Manhunt Underway for 2 Prisoners Who Escaped From Understaffed Pennsylvania Jail After 'The System Screwed Up'
Two Pennsylvania prisoners escaped Sunday night by cutting a hole in a fence and are still at large, authorities said. Nineteen hours passed before guards realized the men were gone, officials said.
A massive manhunt is underway for two Pennsylvania prisoners, one of whom is accused of killing four people, who escaped Sunday from an understaffed correctional facility and weren't reported missing for 19 hours, authorities said.
Nasir Grant, 24, and Ameen Hurst, 18, ran from the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center after cutting a hole through a perimeter fence, authorities said. Both are reported to be armed and dangerous.
Hurst had been charged with murder counts 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.
“Clearly the system screwed up and people didn't do what they're supposed to do," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said at a press conference Monday. “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.”
The city's Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney said Monday, "We have protocols in place and those protocols were not followed." The commissioner acknowledged the prison fence does not have an alarm, and added, "that yard should have been secured, and the fence not breached."
Surveillance footage showed the men escaped about 8:30 p.m. Sunday, but their absence wasn't discovered until about 3 p.m. Monday, authorities said.
Prison headcounts conducted at 11 p.m. Sunday, 3 a.m. Monday and 7 a.m. Monday showed no prisoners unaccounted for, Carney said at Monday's press conference.
There were no guards specifically assigned to the housing unit where the two prisoners were held, and there were no armed officers on duty at the perimeter fence on Sunday evening when the escape occurred, a union official representing correctional officers told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
David Robinson, president of the public service employees union’s District 33 Council, which represents the correctional officers, said that chronic staffing shortages have resulted in nighttime armed perimeter shifts going unstaffed for the past eight or nine months, the wire service reported.
“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?”
"Vital posts were cut that could have prevented this," the union official said.
The escape happened one week after union members unanimously approved a "no confidence" vote in Commissioner Carney. Severe staffing shortages have failed to provide constitutionally required conditions for prisoners, a federal monitor recently found, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Carney had told a City Council budget hearing last month there more than 800 openings for correctional officers, which is about 40% of a full staff, the newspaper reported. Carney also said increased recruiting and higher salaries were hoped to close that gap.
Late Tuesday, the Philadelphia Prisons Department released a statement from Carney denying that posts were closed Sunday because of a staffing shortage.
“The Department of Prisons is committed to identifying any procedural failures that may have allowed the inmates to escape undetected and will update its protocol accordingly to ensure the security of the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center and all other facilities under its management," the statement said.
The city has offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the capture of either inmate.
Anyone with information is asked to call U.S. Marshals Service at 1-800-336-0102, or the Philadelphia Police Department at 215-686-8477.
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