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INMATE ESCAPE PAST RAZOR WIRE SHARPENS SECURITY ISSUE THAT'S DOUBLE-EDGED

A prisoner's weekend escape from the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden may lead -- in the short run -- to another layer or two of razor wire being installed on a fence outside the county jail.

In the long run, the incident may highlight one of the strong arguments for merging the correctional facility with the Erie County Holding Center.

Those were the key points made by authorities after their Monday-morning-quarterback review of Friday night's escape by Adam Bennefield, 22, who broke out of jail apparently to avoid a kidnapping trial and a potentially lengthy sentence.

Bennefield surrendered to the Buffalo Police Hostage Management Team shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday, about 19 hours after he scaled a wall and went over or through a roll of razor wire at the Alden facility, authorities have said.

Officials at the Erie County Correctional Facility spent Monday morning reviewing the incident reports and looking at the razor ribbon. All the information points to Bennefield's having fled from a recreation area before climbing a 15-foot wall and crawling over or through the razor wire.

"Right now, we know we have to at least upgrade the razor ribbon," jail Superintendent Donald J. Livingston said, even though the razor wire never had been considered a problem before the Friday night escape.

"Is one 2 1/2 -foot roll enough, or is somebody who's desperate enough willing to try to go over one roll?" Livingston asked. "One roll has generally proved to be sufficient over the years. Do we need to go to a second or third roll? That's what we have to find out."

Livingston said he also wants to consider improving the lighting in the area just outside the jail.

A review of Friday night's escape has determined that two corrections officers were in the recreation yard with 16 inmates. Bennefield reportedly spent most of the recreation period sitting on a bench by himself.

Authorities suspect that Bennefield fled while the officers were rounding up the inmates, counting them and preparing to move them inside from the recreation area.

"The officers were following regular procedures," Livingston said. "The part that bothers me the most is how quickly he (Bennefield) got through the razor ribbon."

Both Livingston and Sheriff Patrick M. Gallivan raised the possibility that Bennefield might have been housed in the secure part of the downtown Holding Center -- rather than the less secure Alden jail -- if the two facilities were merged.

A money-saving proposal to merge the two jails and put them under the sheriff's authority will be on the November ballot.

While Bennefield already faced more serious charges of kidnapping two women at gunpoint in a March carjacking, he was sent to the less secure Alden facility because he was sentenced on two previous misdemeanor charges.

The Alden jail -- considered a minimum- to medium-security facility -- generally houses prisoners sentenced to no more than one year on any charge. Bennefield was sent there for 12 months on a charge of criminal possession of stolen property and three months for possession of burglar tools, authorities said.

"If we were under one administration, an inmate like this facing serious charges would better be -- and most likely be -- housed in a more secure facility, specifically the Erie County Holding Center," the sheriff said Monday.

Livingston agreed with the sheriff, saying that the merger would allow county officials to devise a classification system that would look at all the factors before sending a prisoner to the Alden facility.

"Under a merger, you'd have a system where you'd look at his charges, and before you put him on a bus (to Alden), we could say, 'No, this man is staying downtown,' " Livingston said.

Before the escape, Bennefield was scheduled to stand trial starting Monday in the kidnapping case.

On Monday, State Supreme Court Justice Mario J. Rossetti delayed the start of Bennefield's kidnapping trial and ordered psychiatric testing.

Alan D. Goldstein, Bennefield's attorney, said he plans to seek further trial delays until his own psychiatrists can examine his client.

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