Retired Corrections Officer: RI Prison Escape Was ‘Once In A Lifetime Chance’

By Juli McDonald, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Escaped inmate James Morales was back in handcuffs in front of a Providence judge Friday after a wild five days on the run that ended in Somerville.

Newly-unsealed court documents revealed Morales was alone in the Wyatt Detention Facility recreation yard for close to two hours New Year’s Eve. Surveillance video showed him standing on a basketball hoop and then came his daring escape.

Hours later, a corrections officer noted “all his detainees were accounted for.”

“Three hours is a long time to be gone from a facility when you’re being held on some pretty major charges,” said retired Massachusetts corrections officer Darcy Kelley.

Retired Mass. Corrections Officer Darcy Kelley (WBZ-)

Retired Mass. Corrections Officer Darcy Kelley (WBZ-)

WBZ-TV’s Juli McDonald sat down with Kelley to get a clearer idea of just how something like this could have happened.

“That was a fluke once in a lifetime chance for him to escape. He went through barbed wire. Who does that?” Kelley said.

Kelley retired just months ago from a men’s maximum security state prison. She became a corrections officer when she was 19, and for 25 years worked as one of the few female corrections officers.

Trooper Joseph Merrick walks James Morales out of Medford barracks, Jan. 5, 2017. (WBZ-TV)

Trooper Joseph Merrick walks James Morales out of Medford barracks, Jan. 5, 2017. (WBZ-TV)

Throughout her career she’s learned inmates have unlimited time and nothing to lose.

“There are no little holes. They’re inmates. They have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to watch every move you make. They know our routine better than we know our routine,” she said.

Kelley likens the consistency of corrections to something of a double-edged sword; the strict routine keeps employees and inmates safe. But the slightest changes to schedules or staffing, illness, holidays, or new hires can create a dangerous window of opportunity.

“It takes that one second for an inmate to know you’re off, it’s over,” Kelley said.

Until an internal investigation is complete, there are four Wyatt Detention employees who are suspended with pay. As for Morales, he’s now facing bank robbery charges as well as stealing guns and child rape.

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