Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block is asking for more than $600,000 to improve security at the Peter J. Pitchess Honor Rancho in Castaic where two inmates escaped in the last six weeks.
The compound, which houses up to 5,286 prisoners in three jails, requires more razor wire, fencing, surveillance cameras and alarm systems, Block wrote in a recent letter to the County Board of Supervisors.
"Both escapes were daring, unusual and highly dangerous to the escapees," Block wrote. "Their trapeze antics 18 feet above the floor could have been injurious or fatal.
"We also recognize that they observed flaws in our structures and security systems," he added. "We have corrected the obvious breaches in security. However, to prevent future escapes, more extensive and expensive measures must be considered."
The maximum-security, 1,786-inmate East Facility, built in 1954 and the oldest jail at the site, needs the most extensive improvements, Sheriff's Department officials said. They estimate that they will cost about $253,000.
Video, Alarm System
In his letter, Block requested a $70,000 video and alarm system that would cover the roof area, a $32,000 indoor surveillance system, $65,000 in additional lighting on the roof and $81,000 worth of razor wire around the roof's perimeter. He asked that the wire mesh above the courtyard area be replaced with heavy-duty wire.
Similar improvements were recommended at the South and North facilities.
Kirk Anderson, 27, escaped from the East Facility on Aug. 6 after he broke through wire mesh covering a courtyard recreation area, walked along the roof, then jumped at least 12 feet to the ground. He scaled a 12-foot-high fence topped with razor wire and a second, shorter fence that surrounds the entire compound.
Anderson, who was in custody on burglary, weapons and narcotics charges, was recaptured Aug. 11. He is being held at the Central Jail. But his escape, the second in one week from the Castaic compound, alarmed county supervisors, who asked for a full investigation and recommendations on how to shore up security.
Rodolfo Corona, 22, escaped July 30 from the 1,600-inmate North Facility, considered the most secure structure at the compound. He was awaiting a preliminary hearing on robbery and kidnaping charges, and he remains at large.
"We're trying to make the jails as safe as possible," said the compound's commander, David Hagthrop. "I'd like to have more staff so inmates could be observed at all times," reducing the 7-to-1 ratio of prisoners to deputies to at least 5 to 1. "But frankly it costs too much money. . . . So we must set up fences and alarms to try to prevent escapes, assaults on officers and fights among inmates."
Block's recommendations must be reviewed by the county's Internal Services Department and will then return to the Board of Supervisors for a vote. Hagthrop said he hopes to have the work completed by January.