- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006

Six D.C. correctional officers have been put on leave as the U.S. Attorney’s Office leads a criminal probe into the escape of two D.C. Jail inmates over the weekend, authorities said yesterday.

Inmates Joseph Leaks and Ricardo Jones were caught in separate locations in Maryland and Virginia Sunday after they broke into the warden’s office and fled through a window Saturday.

D.C. Department of Corrections Director Devon Brown said yesterday that authorities are investigating “quite vigorously” the question of whether the two inmates had help in the escape.

“Everyone who may have had some knowledge of how this took place, whether it be staff or inmate, will be investigated,” Mr. Brown said. “There was a major breakdown.”

Leaks, 32, of Northeast, and Jones, 25, of Hyattsville, are charged in the July 6 fatal shooting of David Valentine in the District. As co-defendants awaiting trial in the same case, Mr. Brown acknowledged that the inmates should not have been allowed to have contact with each other.

Leaks had been assigned to a painting detail in the jail, which also should not have been permitted because of his criminal history, Mr. Brown said. It was not clear how Jones, who was not on the work detail, paired up with Leaks before the escape.

“It should not have happened, and we accept that,” Mr. Brown said.

Thomas Hession, chief inspector for the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force, which is led by U.S. Marshals Service, said a tip to the Prince George’s County Police Department led authorities to catch Jones in the backyard shed of a home in Seat Pleasant late Sunday night. Leaks was caught early Sunday at a motel in Alexandria.

Detective Michael Reese, of the Metropolitan Police Department, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office is leading a criminal investigation into the escape. The probe also is being conducted by city police and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Mr. Brown would not identify the six correctional officers whom he said were placed on administrative leave pending the investigation. One of the officers oversaw the work detail in which Leaks was involved.

Mr. Brown said authorities also are investigating whether a siren system designed to alert the surrounding community of a jailbreak was working properly.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, said yesterday that he plans to investigate the siren system through a series of hearings.

“It will be an opportunity for the public to get a full explanation,” he said. “We want to look at what procedures were not in place, what went wrong and what’s being done to fix the situation. I’m sure we’ll also be looking at community notification. When someone escapes into the neighborhood, the neighborhood needs to be alerted. The Department of Corrections said they sent out the alarm, and the community said they got nothing.”

Mr. Mendelson, who is chairman of the council’s Committee on the Judiciary, said the hearings also will investigate how the escape occurred.

“The escape is very troubling,” he said. “The jail is a secure facility — we don’t put people there so they can escape.”

The hearings have not been scheduled, Mr. Mendelson said.

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