Staff Blamed for Escape of Two at State Juvenile Lock-Up

DECEMBER 29, 2005 - Posted at 8:06 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A report on the escape of two 17-year-old prisoners in the state youth lock-up at Alexander says guards sleeping on the job was one of the reasons the boys were able to get free.  The report also says someone on the inside may have known of the escape plans.

Four staff members have been fired from the facility run by the private Cornell companies.

Rusty Vellegas and Benjamin Lamberth were recaptured December 9 in Independence County, a half-day after they got out of the lock-up.

The 12-page report by the state Division of Youth Services says staff members lied about a head count and that a number of guards were asleep when the two got away.

The report says one of the boys admitted taking a key from the staff desk and unlocking the door to their dorm a week before the escape.  The report said the boys got over razor wire by putting a bath mat over it.

State Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Julie Munsell said the agency is addressing the problems outlined in the report.

In addition to the firings, a supervisor was suspended.  Cornell Companies has a month to detail changes it will make to address problems.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)