Ex-Chesco Warden Pushed Out By May Escape — Former Chester County Warden Ronald M. Phillips was pushed out due to Igor Vidra Bolte’s escape in May.
And the county prison had a K-9 program that ended in 1986.
County Commissioner Joshua Maxwell revealed these bits at today’s (Sept. 20) meeting of the prison board.
The board consists of the county commissioners, District Attorney Deborah Ryan, Sheriff Fredda Maddox, the county controller and the president judge of Common Pleas Court.
Phillips started at the prison in 1983 and worked his way up the ranks. He began a leave of absence in July and officially retired Aug. 30, the day before Danelo Cavalcante’s escape.
He was replaced by Howard Holland, who had been police chief of Downingtown where Maxwell had been mayor.
Was there a search for Phillips’ replacement or was Holland merely ordained? That’s assuming Holland gets the permanent job as he is now merely interim warden.
Probably not considering the reception he got at today’s meeting.
Anyway, Maxwell conceded the prison has been short staffed with 60 of the 300 positions not being filled. He also admitted information about Cavalcante’s escape was woefully delayed from being transmitted to the community.
He said there were plans to return a K-9 program to the prison.
It has been widely noted that if the county Sheriff Department had maintained its highly regarded one, Cavalcante would have been rounded up within hours.
The program, however, was allowed to whither when Fredda Maddox was elected to the office in 2019.
By the way, the Sheriff Department is down 40 deputies.
Why is Chesco having so much trouble keeping people?
Ms. Maddox, a Democrat, is stepping down as sheriff in a bid to become a Chesco Common Pleas Court judge. The election is Nov. 7.
Bunny Welsh, who was Ms. Maddox’s predecessor, pointed out that it took her 10 years to develop the K-9 unit. She noted that it doesn’t just take highly trained dogs but highly trained handlers who will work unexpected hours.
Prison Fixes Get Green Light
The board approved, in response to the escape, a design phase for prison renovations with TranSystems. Proposed renovations include are enclosing the eight exercise yards, adding a sally port, and removing the basketball hoops as they are a liability issue along with a security one.
The TranSystems presenter noted that an enclosed yard would prevent drones from dropping contraband to the inmates.
The cost was estimated at between $2.5 and $3.5 million and the job will take six to nine months.
Also a temporary barrier will be installed where Cavalcante made his escape.
Holland Addresses Board
Holland addressed the board from the floor saying plans are in place to add razor wire to where Bolte escaped but there are construction delays. He said there also plans to add metal fencing where Cavalcante broke out.
He said he wants to add 50-75 cameras for $70,000 along with eight people to watch them. Holland says he plans to have more drills. He said wants an alarm system on an outside fence, drones and drone operators, oh, and a K-9 unit.
He said if he these programs Cavalcante would never have escaped.
On the other hand, if the prison was fully staffed and had more than one guard watching the exercise yard he probably wouldn’t have escaped either.
Before public comments, the audience was specifically told not to bring up the Sheriff Department K-9 unit.
Sally Mininger (sp) from Tredyffrin noted the hero of the Cavalcante matter was Border Patrol dog Yoda and then said Bunny Welsh had great program but was gutted when Freda Maddox took over as sheriff. She said there were but two dogs left when Cavalcante escaped at which point she was told to stop talking about the Sheriff Department’s K-9 unit.
She ended by saying it wouldn’t be necessary to reinstate the program if it had been gutted “in 1986 or whenever.”
Guy Ciarrocchi of Tredyffrin said commissioners failed the community. He wanted to know if the prison would start taking murderers until fully staffed or at least keep them in isolation.
Shelia Learner (sp) of Westtown said she never came to these meetings but is livid.
“You had one job to do . . .” she said. “And you failed it. You are not doing a good job and I think you have to think that this is not job for you.”
Daryl Cooper (sp) of East Marlboro Township said the board ratified two major proposals without the expertise to understand them. He did, however, complement Maxwell on his expressions of empathy at the start of the meeting.
A Malvern woman criticized Sheriff Maddox and Commissioner Marian Moskowitz for being almost invisible during the escape.
Ex-Chesco Warden Pushed Out By May Escape
Ex-Chesco Warden Pushed Out By May Escape