Security breach investigated at Miami-Dade jail


Published: Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 5:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 5:49 p.m.

MIAMI — Miami-Dade County corrections officials say they are investigating a security breach that opened jail cell doors in a maximum security wing.

When the electronically controlled doors opened June 13 at the Miami jail, four inmates attacked a fifth inmate, Kenneth Williams, who leapt from a second-floor tier to escape.

Williams remains hospitalized with injuries to his ankle and back.

The Miami Herald (http://hrld.us/14U3NPO) obtained internal corrections department reports about the breach. The agency's assistant director, Marydell Guevara, says 48 cell doors were open for less than five minutes.

Corrections officers subdued the other four inmates with pepper spray and confiscated at least two homemade shanks, the newspaper reported. Williams was arrested for possession of a contraband blade.

Officials say a similar breach suddenly opened cell doors May 20, though no incidents involving inmates were reported.

"I still can't believe it actually occurred," said Williams' lawyer, J.C. Dugue. "The negligence is amazing, especially if they knew this was already a problem. My client has lots of enemies in jail and he is in a safety cell for a reason."

Federal officials and Miami-Dade grand juries have chronicled poor conditions in the corrections department's jail system, one of the country's largest, over the last decade.

The newly installed computerized sliding door system is part of an ongoing $1.4 million security upgrade that is scheduled for completion next month. Investigators are looking at the control panel that operates the sliding doors.

After the May 20 breach, technicians added an extra step to a door release feature in the system, Guevara said.

Still, the cell doors suddenly opened again June 13. "The control panel shut down and all cell doors opened, at which time all inmates came out of their cells" one officer wrote in an internal report.

In a written statement, Williams said four inmates rushed into his single cell. As he jumped to escape them, officers scrambled to catch the other inmates as they chased after Williams.

Officers said the control panel's lighting went out when the system malfunctioned. They also said no one pressed the button for the door release feature, but a review of the internal computer showed "operator error," Guevara said.

"We have not been able to determine what went wrong," Guevara said.

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