March 13, 2012

County inmate sneaks out of cell for jail tryst

Corrections officials make changes to prevent further security breaches.

Sheriff Kevin Joyce diagrams the maximum-security cellblocks where Arien L'Italien is alleged to have escaped from his cell and had sex with a female inmate and then was caught trying to get back to his cell.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — A Biddeford man escaped from his maximum-security cell in the Cumberland County Jail during the weekend and crawled to a female inmate's cell, where the two had sex, Sheriff Kevin Joyce said Monday.

click image to enlarge

Arien L’Italien crawled across the landing between the maximum-security cellblock, at right, and a women’s cellblock, left, where he is accused of having sex with Karla Wilson.

David Hench/Staff Writer

click image to enlarge

Arien L'Italien and Karla Wilson

An hour after Arien L'Italien, 23, snuck out of his cell, a corrections officer saw him sliding along a second-floor landing, trying to sneak back from Karla Wilson's cell to his own.

Jail officials are doing an internal review to determine how the incident occurred, Joyce said during a press conference Monday.

"It appears that the physical location and environmental design of the corrections officers' station, as well as some lack of attention to detail by the corrections officers on duty, played a major role in the security breach," he said.

A review of security tapes showed that L'Italien sneaked out of his cell at 11:50 p.m. Friday.

He was caught trying to return at 12:50 a.m. Saturday, Joyce said.

He said the episode raised serious safety and security concerns.

Inmates in maximum security typically are dangerous or difficult to manage, or need to be segregated from other inmates.

"Somebody could have seriously gotten hurt with this guy out -- one of our employees," Joyce said.

L'Italien is being held on federal charges of attempted murder of a federal officer and possession of a firearm by a felon.

He was arrested in Portland in January after a shootout with deputy U.S. marshals, in which he was shot.

The U.S. Marshals' Violent Offender Task Force was searching for L'Italien that night in connection with a New Year's Day stabbing in Biddeford.

Wilson, 25, of Portland is being held on charges of gross sexual assault and aggravated assault. She allegedly helped a man rape a woman in an apartment on Park Street last summer.

L'Italien and Wilson knew each other through friends, officials said, but had not been involved with each other outside the jail.

The pair arranged the tryst by somehow communicating through the jail's ventilation system, Joyce said, but the arrangement must have involved other inmates because the two would not have been able to communicate directly through the vents.

Male and female inmates typically do not mingle when they're allowed out of their cells.

Cameras showed L'Italien making his way across the floor, Joyce said, but they are just two of the 100 security cameras in the jail, and not all of the cameras can be monitored constantly by officers.

Jail officials found it was not L'Italien's first attempted rendezvous.

Security video showed that he snuck out of his cell two days earlier, but couldn't get into Wilson's cell and had to retreat.

The episode pointed out several issues for the jail, Joyce said.

Foremost is the way the two inmates tampered with the locks on their doors.

They used pieces of plastic, like the kind issued with deodorant, to keep their doors from closing securely, said Chief Deputy Naldo Gagnon.

The maximum-security pod was full with 24 inmates -- 21 men and three women, Joyce said. L'Italien's bank of cells was on the second floor, separated from the women's cell block by a small landing.

Two corrections officers man a watch station, but its position -- on the ground floor in the center of the pod -- didn't give a clear view of the second-floor landing between the cell blocks.

One of the officers happened to glance up and see L'Italien's leg as he crawled along the floor.

The station has been moved to provide a better view of that area, Joyce said.

(Continued on page 2)

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