New details surface on how three juveniles escaped a detention center in downtown Houston

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ByMiya Shay via KTRK logo
Thursday, December 10, 2015
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Report explains how three juveniles escaped a detention center last month

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Even before teenagers Jarell West, Alferis Coby and Deionthay Harper were all captured after their daring escape in mid-November, questions of just how they managed to pull it off were stacking up. Precinct One Constable Alan Rosen's office led the investigation.

"Everything we had was mostly on video, so we were able to see everything and then interview everybody," said Rosen.

Rosen's office released a summary of their findings Thursday. The Harris County District Attorney's Office would not release the closed circuit video that apparently showed the teens escaping. Rosen's staff found that the teens not only managed to beat up a juvenile probation guard without anyone noticing, but they knew all the shortcomings inside the Juvenile Probation Center. The teens used the shortcomings to their advantage.

Here is the full list of the findings, as provided by Precinct 1.

  • The juveniles escaped without the intentional aid of any employee.
  • Negligence and policy violations by Harris County Juvenile Probation Department detention personnel played a role in allowing the juveniles to escape undetected.
  • One detention officer - who was severely assaulted by a juvenile - had been the sole officer on duty on the seventh floor, leaving him vulnerable and without assistance.
  • If another employee had been monitoring the security cameras the assault would have been observed and the escape prevented.
  • The escape was detected when a unit supervisor on rounds found the officer locked in a cell, unconscious.
  • The escapees were familiar with the stairways and exists because they had frequently used the stairs while under guard.
  • The fact that no cameras were required to be monitored allowed the juveniles to descend the stairs to the first floor undetected.
  • Based on past and present incarcerations, the juveniles knew a limited number of officers were on duty during night shift.
  • The failure of detention staff to secure the two doors leading into Probation Department offices allowed the juveniles to escape through the doors. If the doors had been locked, even the keys they had taken from the assaulted officer on the 7th floor would not have opened them.
  • Night shift staff had routinely left the doors unlocked. One Juvenile Intake employee said in an interview that keeping the doors unsecured had become "a culture of the department."
  • A malfunctioning light on a central control panel prevented central control staff from knowing if and when the doors were unlocked.
  • Memos and other papers taped to an office observation window blocked the probation intake officers' view of the passageway where the juveniles crouched on their way out.
  • It is likely - but not in evidence - that family members aided one or more escapee after they left the building.
  • The escapees apparently left the downtown area on the Metro Rail System.
  • "All of those things played a role in the escape that happened," said Rosen.

    The Juvenile Probation Department is responsible for the security and safety of its employees and the juveniles under its care. The head of the department did not wish to speak on camera Thursday. However, the department has already fired two employees and disciplined six others. Rosen said his investigation isn't over, but told us his main goal is to help the probation department correct the mistakes.

    "They saw deficiencies, we have reported those deficiencies to them, and the Juvenile Probation Department has taken action to correct those deficiencies," said Rosen.