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Juvenile Facility's Security Criticized

Sylmar: County probation chief faults staff and equipment failures for the escape of a 17-year-old detainee last month.

April 04, 2002|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A county review of an escape last month at a Sylmar juvenile hall has found a range of security lapses at the detention center, including the staff's failure to quickly alert authorities that the 17-year-old had scaled a wall.

Kenneth Gilliam, who was convicted of three counts of attempted murder and was awaiting sentencing, is still at large. He escaped March 10 by breaking his dorm room window with the ball of a computer mouse and then climbing over the 16-foot wall.

In a five-page report to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Chief Probation Officer Richard Shumsky said it took the staff of Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall 20 minutes to notify authorities of the escape. The report was released Wednesday.

Shumsky's review spotlighted security problems beyond the circumstances of the escape. It found that the hall did not house violent detainees in more secure quarters until last month.

The report, dated March 28, also said that improperly installed door locks and an inoperable gate allowed Gilliam to escape. The hall is repairing and replacing the faulty equipment.

The report recommended more inspections of doors, gates, walls and fencing, and closer monitoring of tools and equipment that could be used in an escape. It said computer mouses should be glued so the metal ball cannot be removed.

Last month, staff members complained that detainees who assault probation officers are not brought up on additional criminal charges. The report did not address that complaint, and Shumsky could not be reached for comment.

Gilliam was the second detainee to escape from the hall in as many months. There have been eight other escape attempts in the last three years, officials said. The hall holds about 550 minors.

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