CENTRAL FALLS, RI (CBS) – Prisoners at the Wyatt Detention Facility were pounding on the windows after days in lock-down since James Morales escaped through rows of razor ribbon New Year’s Eve.
On Wednesday, the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a criminal charge against Morales in connection with his escape from the maximum security lock-up.
“I’m sure the inmates are somewhat frustrated because they’re locked in their cells, but there’s definitely a security problem that needs to be evaluated before they reopen the facility,” said Richard Ferruccio, union representative for Rhode Island correctional officers.
Ferruccio does not represent the correctional officers at the Central Falls facility because they are privately contracted. He says there’s a reason for all the “now hiring” signs in front of the building: Critical under-staffing.
“They have 98 staffed,” says Ferruccio. “That’s 30 percent less than they need. It’s not uncommon for a corrections officer to come in here on his shift in the morning and not be able to go home until eleven o’clock.”
Jack Parlon, the union representative for Wyatt corrections officers, says the staffing issues are a result of pay.
“You’ve got to recruit and retain people and they can’t compete with state facilities,” Parlon said. “Security problems are a byproduct of high turnover there … When you’re working 60-80 hours a week, you’re going to be tired, with less energy and attention.”
The board of directors that runs the prison has called an emergency meeting Thursday. On the agenda is “security” and “investigative proceedings.” Two corrections officers are on leave after the warden says Morales climbed a basketball hoop and scaled a building.
Before Morales was sent there, he was out on bail facing a child rape charge, when he was accused of stealing 16 guns from a Worcester armory last year. Now U.S. Marshals call him a dangerous fugitive and those who live near the prison wonder if it could happen again.
“There was no alarm and no sirens,” one woman said.
“It looks like it would be tough to get out, but obviously it’s not too tough,” a man said.
Morales was scheduled to make a court appearance in connection with the weapons theft on Friday.
A confidential phone tip line for the public has been set up. If you have information on the whereabouts of James Morales, you are asked to call 1-800-336-0102.