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After recent escapes, PA Republicans plan to introduce bills to improve jail security

Law enforcement officers continue the search for escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante in Glenmoore, Pa.
Matt Rourke
Law enforcement officers continue the search for escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante in Glenmoore, Pa., Monday, Sept. 11, 2023.

In the wake of several recent jail escapes, state Republican lawmakers are planning to introduce a set of bills to improve county jail security, infrastructure and staffing.

Michael Burham broke out of Warren County's jail in July, prompting a manhunt stretching into New York. He was able to get out by climbing exercise equipment, going through a window and scaling down a rope made from bedding.

Rep. Kathy Rapp, who represents Warren and Forest counties, said the Warren escape is just one recent example of why jail safety and infrastructure need to be addressed. Two inmates also escaped from the Philadelphia correctional facility in May. Danelo Cavalcante, who escaped from Chester County jail almost two weeks ago, was taken into custody early Wednesday.

“The bills are really to tighten up and look at what's going on in our jails that we need to take a good look at and make them safer so that our communities are safer," Rapp said, "especially when we see escapees breaking out of our county jails and striking fear into the hearts of our constituents.”

Rapp plans to introduce a bill that would remove the chance of parole for inmates that try to escape.

“Since they're escapees, we know they want to get out of jail, right? So if they know that they're not going to have a chance then with parole, hopefully that will disincentivize an escape,” Rapp said.

Other bills in this package would provide jail infrastructure funding, allow county jails to hire off-duty corrections officers from other counties and state corrections officers, create an alert system for prison escapes, and require a security audit of county jails that experienced an escape.

Sydney Roach is a reporter and host for WPSU with a passion for radio and community stories.