Orange County was hit with the news that three inmates had escaped from the Orange County Jail on January 22, 2016. This was a huge criminal escape, that made the news. These men used their knowledge of the jail and the procedures in place—timing their escape so that they got a 16-hour head start. The Orange County Jail is now looking at revamping their procedures and technology in order to prevent another such escape from happening. But isn’t it too late? Shouldn’t this have been an issue that was addressed prior to the escape of three dangerous individuals?
The outdated jail and prison system in California is a serious issue. With understaffed, overworked personnel, there is only so much that they can do in order to keep everything functioning. The prisoners know the system best, and these three in particular were able to not only escape but to evade the authorities for 8 days without being captured. It has been revealed that they had a disagreement—one that spared an innocent man’s life. One of the prisoners did not want to kill the taxi driver whom they had essentially kidnapped and after arguing with one of the others he took the taxi driver and the car back to Orange County before turning himself in. The other two were caught over 8 hours away in San Francisco not too long after.
These three individuals cut their way through a metal grate without being seen. They were then able to climb through tunnels without being tracked until they got to the roof of the jail and then rappelled down about 6 stories before being driven away. The surprising thing is that it took this escape for the officials in the Orange County Jail to admit that their systems, procedures, and their facility itself were sadly out of date. They accepted the blame for the escape stating that they are now working towards coming up to date with their technology and changing their procedures. Sounds like too little too late. The jail was warned that one of the inmates, Nayeri, in particular needed to be watched carefully and that he was a high flight risk and they still placed him in the lowest security settings in the system. Their lack of oversight and general lax take on the safety of not only the other inmates but also for the general public who live near the jail is telling. Telling of the future of the prison system where it’s not safe to be in and it’s not safe to be out.
So what’s the penalty for using force to escape from a jail? Not as harsh as you think it would be. Penal Code section 4532(b)(2) states that this type of felony charge will only add on an addition punishment of two to six years to the original sentence the escapee was facing. So for the escapee facing a life sentence, two to six years as additional punishment is nothing.
Orange County Jail will definitely be updating its security features given the embarrassment this criminal escape has caused, and better equip its staff to handle the overcrowding. The surrounding community hopes it will certainly change its procedures making another criminal escape near impossible. The jail will no doubt pay more attention to the classification of its inmates and the objects that visitors or staff members can take in to the jail. They will now do more intensive background checks on the personnel and volunteers they allow inside—but it should not have taken an escape to begin this change.