Inmates miss their chance as locks break

Hundreds of locks on cell doors at a US prison opened simultaneouslyover the weekend - but no one escaped.

About 500 locks popped open inside the Montgomery County jail, prompting officials to declare a security emergency that included posting about 20 police cars on the perimeter of the facility.

No inmates tried to escape and the locks were reset, said Arthur Wallenstein, director of the county's Department of Correction and Rehabilitation.

Wallenstein said the cell-door locks also disengaged a few days earlier before being reset. "It's definitely a problem," he said. "We must find the source of it."

County maintenance workers and outside contractors were in the jail working on the system to find a permanent fix for the doors, Wallenstein said. The doors are part of an electronic system guided by computer programs and corrections officers.

Only cell-door locks opened, Wallenstein said. No housing unit doors or hallway doors were affected, he said. Beyond those perimeters, inmates trying to leave would still have to get past corrections officers and a fence. Wallenstein said no inmates left their cells.

Still, the situation is hardly an ideal one for a jail.

"Any security door opening in an unexpected manner constitutes a major security problem," Wallenstein said.

"We handled it as a security emergency," he said. "But nobody tried to escape."

- Washington Post