Expert: Calif. Inmates Had Help to Escape

Questions raised about why men were kept in 68-man dorm
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2016 4:15 PM CST
This Jan. 23, 2016 photo shows a cell and a vent screen that had been cut at Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana, Calif.   (Orange County Sheriff's Office via AP)
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(Newser) – As the search for three escaped inmates stretches on, Orange County jail officials are facing pressure to explain why the men weren't held in individual cells. Authorities at the Men's Central Jail in Santa Ana say Hossein Nayeri, 37, Jonathan Tieu, 20, and Bac Duong, 43—charged with violent crimes including torture, kidnapping, murder, and attempted murder—fled through a hole in a wall hidden behind bunk beds in a 68-man dorm. However, the sheriff's department in neighboring Los Angeles County says it keeps inmates accused of similar crimes in one-person cells, reports the Los Angeles Times. At the state level, the California Department of Corrections adds that inmates convicted of violent crimes are typically only held in a dormitory after 20 years of good behavior. "These guys have nothing to lose,” a former corrections head says. "Why are they, looking at life or worse, not being held in closed cells? Who made that judgment?"

Los Angeles County requires at least three physical checks per day, while a minimum of four are performed at the state level; Orange County performs just two. The escapees were last spotted during a 5am check on Friday, but were missing during the next check 16 hours later; it was delayed by an hour due to a "jailhouse brawl" that could have been a cover-up, the Times notes. A further cause of concern is that authorities might have had reason to suspect that one of the inmates was a flight risk. Nayeri fled to Iran after allegedly cutting off a marijuana dispensary owner's penis, per the Times. He was eventually arrested in the Czech Republic. A former jail official says the inmates likely had help getting the tools to cut through four layers of steel and rebar. "Such cutting creates a lot of noise, and it would have to be covered up," he says. "Once we get the inmates back into custody, we'll focus on how they were able to get out," an officer tells the Orange County Register. (Read more prison break stories.)

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