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Improving Lancaster Prison Security : Use of Electrified Fencing Will Help Prevent Escapes From Antelope Valley Facility

We noted in March that electrified fences were being installed at various maximum-security prisons around California. And we strongly suggested at the time that no facility in the state needed such a fence more than the prison in Lancaster.

The reasons were obvious. After 68 months during which no male maximum-security prisoner had been able to effect an escape from a California state prison, there was an escape . . . from Lancaster. It was the only such escape in the state last year, and so far the prison has had the only such escape this year as well.

It also turned out that the Lancaster facility had one of the worst first years in recent memory for a California prison. The state’s oldest prisons were more secure.

Well, we are quite pleased to acknowledge that the installation of electrified fencing around the Antelope Valley prison has now been scheduled.It will be placed between two supposedly insurmountable 12-foot fences that are covered with razor wire.

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On another positive note, the closed-ranks mentality of the prison’s administration seems to have been lifted, at least for the present. Interim Warden John M. Ratelle has been much more visible and open about the prison’s problems and has said that punishments will be meted out against some of the corrections officers whose actions were believed to have contributed to the escapes.

That’s a far cry from the message sent out by the former warden, who set a poor standard for promptly warning the prison’s neighbors when escapes occurred, and low standards for accessibility and believability.

Having said that, however, warden Ratelle was far too quick to talk about removing guards from watchtowers because the electrified fence will make them unnecessary. Let’s reserve judgment on that, warden, until the fence is in place and the head counts show perfect attendance.


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