- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 5, 2009

HAGERSTOWN, Md. | Two minimum-security inmates escaped while working with other inmates and a contractor on a perimeter fence at a state prison complex near Hagerstown, authorities said Friday.

Matthew L. Chait, 26, of Boyds, and Michael A. Johnson, 24, of Eldersburg, somehow got past a high fence topped with razor wire while working on a painting detail with two other inmates, said Denise A. Gelsinger, acting administrator of the prerelease housing unit where the men lived next to the Maryland Correctional Training Center.

The inmates were painting the inside of the fence as the contractor replaced damaged razor wire, Ms. Gelsinger said.

“They were not working outside the fence,” she said. “We don’t know if they got over it or they got through it.”

Maryland State Police said the men, wearing white jumpsuits, were last seen at about 10:15 a.m. running north toward Hagerstown and Interstate 70, about six miles away. State and local police were using a canine unit and a helicopter in the search.

Chait was serving five years for a 2006 robbery with a deadly weapon in Montgomery County, plus a consecutive two-year sentence for a 2006 vehicle theft in Frederick County.

Johnson was serving 8 1/2 years for a 2004 burglary in Carroll County.

The inmates lived in a unit housing 204 inmates, Ms. Gelsinger said.

The adjacent prison holds about 2,900 medium, minimum and prerelease inmates.

At least two other MCTC inmates have escaped in the past three years. In July 2007, an inmate drove away from a work detail in a supervisor’s pickup truck and was caught four days later. In October 2008, an inmate ran away from a work detail in Hagerstown and was caught the same day.

In January, a convicted murderer climbed a fence to escape from the nearby, medium-security Maryland Correctional Institution. Kandelario Garcia-Ramos broke into the home of a vacationing family and was at large for five days.

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