Despite increased security to handle inmates transferred from the overcrowded Orange County Jail, a prisoner escaped Friday from the minimum-security Theo Lacy Branch Jail in Orange.
Alberto Romero, 22, convicted of petty theft and possession of stolen property, was being sought late Friday, said Sheriff's Lt. Dick Olson.
Olson said Romero had been assigned to an outside work detail during the morning but was returned to the facility because of an unspecified disciplinary infraction. While a supervisor was writing a report, other inmates told jailers that Romero had escaped. Olson said it was not known how Romero got away.
"When they received that information, they shut the whole compound down and moved them back to the housing facilities and took a head count," Olson said.
Olson said that while it is not known how or from what part of the jail Romero escaped, security was adequate and had not been compromised. After the escape became known, he said, jailers inspected the facility and found "nothing out of order."
Romero was transferred to Lacy on May 22, five days before 100 inmates from the central jail in Santa Ana were moved to Lacy to relieve overcrowding at the main facility.
A federal judge on March 18 found Sheriff Brad Gates and the county supervisors in contempt for not improving conditions at the jail, which was built to hold 1,191 inmates. The jail has beds for about 1,500 and has had approximately 300 additional inmates sleeping on mattresses on the floor.
Barbed Wire Added
A roll of barbed wire was added to the fencing at Lacy after the prisoners from the Santa Ana jail were moved there, officials said, but security is light.
Jailers said most prisoners do not try to escape because they know that if they are recaptured they will be sent to the main jail, where conditions are worse.