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Lots of Mistakes in Jail Break, Sheriff Concedes

November 27, 1991

FAIRFIELD, Calif. (AP) _ Four jail-breaking prisoners got unexpected help from a series of official blunders, including a dispatcher who urged one to ″try again″ when he had difficulty scaling a fence.

The dispatcher thought the inmates were juvenile pranksters who sometimes stray into the area that includes a county parking lot, explained Solano County Sheriff Al Cardoza.

The escape from the jail, 35 miles northeast of San Francisco, apparently went undiscovered for almost five hours because no one was watching security cameras. Then there was a 55-minute delay in notifying dispatchers and a wrong computer code meant the California Highway Patrol was 12 hours behind on the break, authorities said.

″There is no such thing as an escape-proof jail,″ Cardoza told the County Board of Supervisors, looking into the matter Tuesday. ″Sooner or later you will overlook something. Someone will take advantage of that and someone will escape.″

One convict surrendered three days after the Nov. 2 escape. Convicted murderers Jeffrey P. Horstman and Michael W. Waggoner remained at large, as well as William E. Rice, charged with attempted murder, rape and robbery. A federal warrant has been issued that charges unlawful flight across state lines.

The inmates escaped from the maximum-security wing of the Solano County Jail, apparently using hacksaw blades to cut through a wire mesh roof that covered the exercise yard. Then they climbed down the outer walls on a makeshift rope fashioned from bed sheets.

A camera was trained on the recreation yard, but a tower guard was not watching the monitor.

Cardoza questioned the value of a security system that depends mainly on cameras.

″That is fine if someone has eyes glued to screen at all times, but people become tired,″ he said. ″If you are totally dependent on an electronic system, sooner or later something like this is going to occur.″

Two correctional officers remain on paid suspension and could be dismissed or face other administrative action.

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