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El Cajon Jail Design Criticized After Inmates Dig Through Wall, Escape

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Supervisor George Bailey on Tuesday strongly criticized the design of the County Jail in El Cajon, citing it as the reason that seven inmates were able to punch a hole in a wall and escape.

Five of those who escaped Sunday night remained at large late Tuesday. Two others were captured Monday, one in San Diego, the other in El Cajon. The prisoners punched a hole in Module 7-C and descended to the ground on a 250-foot rope fashioned from 30 bed sheets, authorities said.

It was the wall that Bailey pointed to as the “best example of shoddy construction” on the part of the architect who designed the facility, which opened seven years ago at 250 E. Main St.

“On the outside walls, you have foam stuck on top of a dry wall,” Bailey said. “You can pick through it in a matter of minutes. I’m no expert on construction, but I do know enough about jails to know you’d never put that kind of wall on a jail. It just doesn’t make sense.”

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Bailey said he does not know the name of the architect who designed the building, but he called it the most poorly designed jail in the county.

“To me, it’s ridiculous that you’d design a building that way and expect it to hold major violators of the law,” he said.

Sunday’s escape was the second from the jail since its opening. The first occurred in July, when an inmate used the same bedsheet technique to escape the same way, authorities said.

“This is not nearly as safe a facility as, say, our temporary facility in Las Colinas,” Bailey said. “There, at least you have a couple of fences to clear if you do manage to get out. In El Cajon, there’s no such barrier. You get to the ground, you’re gone.”

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Bailey said crowding is “a horrible problem” at the jail, as it is at all county lockups. He said the El Cajon jail holds three times as many inmates as it was built to handle. Crowding makes the inmates harder to supervise, he said, contributing to escapes.

Short of transferring the inmates to a temporary facility, Bailey recommended outside lights, more fences, “beefing up the walls” inside and adding guards.

Bailey said all seven inmates who escaped Sunday are “dangerous, and had been incarcerated for major crimes.” Salvatore Serna, 37, was arrested Monday while allegedly trying to burglarize a home a short distance from the jail. He was being held on four counts of burglary.

Also captured Monday afternoon was Keith J. Inman, 20, of Chula Vista. Inman, who was being held on charges of possessing narcotics and six counts of assault with a deadly weapon. He was arrested by San Diego police at a residence on 43rd Street after someone called the Crime Stoppers hot line and reported seeing him there.

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Still at large Tuesday night were Charles Anderson, 19, of San Diego, in custody on charges of possessing narcotics; Russell S. Stuart, 20, of Spring Valley, being held on a probation violation; Humberto C. Ledesma, 20, a transient held on grand theft charges; Israel Garibay, 33, of San Diego, held on burglary charges, and Pedro Perez, 27, of Tijuana, who was being held on a parole violation.


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