File photo by Andy Close.

Warren County Commissioners, Prison Board Say Steps Taken to Keep Another Escape from Happening

July 11, 2023

WARREN, Pa. – The Warren County Commissioners and the Warren County Prison Board have already started to take steps to prevent another breakout from the jail like the one conducted by Michael C. Burham late Thursday night, July 6.

“In the aftermath of the escape on Thursday, the Prison Board and Commissioners have met and reviewed all available information not directly involved with any criminal investigation,” a release from the Commissioners and the Prison Board obtained Tuesday night by Your Daily Local. “That review has led to the order of repairs on the roof of the prison yard, which is a 40-feet by 40-feet room with a cage on the top floor of the jail facility. The Commissioners and Prison Board have also ordered the space be augmented with deterrents and safety measures and that the exercise equipment be removed and replaced with equipment that does not provide access to higher positions in the facility.”

According to the release, the Commissioners “expect the immediate structural fixes to be completed before the end of the week”.

“Several longer-term upgrades will begin immediately and be completed in the next few weeks,” the release stated.

The Commissioners and the Prison Board, which includes all three County Commissioners – Trisha Durbin, Ben Kafferlin, and Jeff Eggleston – as well as Warren County District Attorney Rob Greene, Warren County Sherriff Brian Zeybel, and Warren County Treasurer Dennis Munksgard – said they will review all policies and procedures related to inmate access and observation.

“Changes will be made to increase security in that space,” the release said. “It’s important to understand that the law has changed in the past five years, and prisoners must have access to yard time and outside exercise. With a facility as small as ours that is close to full, inmates must be taken to the yard in shifts. That happens all day and evening to ensure all inmates have appropriate yard time. Therefore, inmates are legally required to access the yard, and it is crucial for the Prison Board to ensure the facility is secure.”

The Prison Board and Commissions will have an ongoing review of the policies, staff, and structures in the Prison and intend to continue releasing information on future changes and improvements.

The release went on the state that upon the request of Greene, the DA, the Prison Board and Commissioners will potentially be working with the Pennsylvania State Department of Corrections (PADOC) to thoroughly evaluate the facility and its policies to find weaknesses and recommend improvements.

“On Wednesday, July 12, at their regular noon meeting in the Jackson Courtroom at the Warren County Courthouse, the Commissioners will review and vote on a potential contract with PADOC to fully investigate the Warren County Prison,” the release said. “It’s important to note that this is an added measure as PADOC inspects the facility annually.”

Editor’s Note: Greene was not a part of the media release sent out Tuesday, and does not endorse any of the statements made, being a part of the current investigation into the escape of Michael Burham.

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