HARRISBURG — As the hunt for an escaped killer continues in southeastern Pennsylvania, Republicans in the state House of Representatives announced a package of five bills aimed at improving county jail safety and infrastructure.
Lawmakers circulated joint sponsorship memos seeking support for creating a public alert system when an inmate escapes from county jail, revoking parole for any inmate who escapes or attempts to do so, and allowing county and state corrections officers to cover vacant shifts in the county. Prisons, requiring the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to conduct security audits of county jails where escapes occurred, and to fund improvements to security and health infrastructure.
Pennsylvania has seen two high-profile prison escapes in less than two months.
Danilo Souza Cavalcanti, 34, remained at large at midday Monday after escaping from the Chester County Jail on Aug. 31. He was awaiting transfer to state prison to serve a life sentence for the fatal stabbing of his ex-girlfriend in 2021.
Cavalcanti sneaked through the search perimeter, state police said. He later shaved his hair and changed his appearance over the weekend after he stole and then abandoned a delivery truck while traveling to the Phoenixville area, where he tried to contact acquaintances, according to the Associated Press.
In northwestern Pennsylvania’s Warren County, a couple was alerted by a barking dog, leading to the arrest of Michael Boreham, 34, on July 15, nine days after the known survivor escaped from the Warren County Jail. He was found in a wooded area about 4 miles away. This was Barham’s second chase. Boreham, a New York rape, murder and arson suspect, allegedly kidnapped an elderly couple in Pennsylvania and evaded capture before being captured in dense woods in South Carolina in May after 13 days on the run.
Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Crawford/Forrest/Warren, will introduce a bill that seeks to eliminate parole for fugitives, whether they succeed or fail. She said jeopardizing their early release should act as a disincentive to any prisoner seriously considering escaping.
Boreham was arrested about a mile from Rapp’s home, and she praised the coordinated effort across all levels of law enforcement and corrections.
“It was intense. There were helicopters flying around. We knew they were circling the place,” Rapp said. “And that was the day he was arrested.”
Amber Alerts uses Pennsylvania’s emergency alert system to give immediate public notification of a missing or endangered child, including live alerts to cell phones. Rep. Michael Stander, R-Northumberland/Montour, is proposing a dangerous or escaped inmate alert system to accomplish the same rapid notification.
There are areas like the 108th House District that are prison corridors, Stander said, pointing to federal, state and county prisons in his district and the immediate surrounding area. He said that it is no longer sufficient to simply share such urgent information with the public through traditional media channels.
“The best way to alert people anymore is through a cell phone,” Stender said. “It’s really important that we’re able to alert people and hopefully recover the escaped prisoners.”
Additional bills from the package include those from Rep. Craig Williams, R-Chester/Delaware, who is looking to direct additional savings from the Justice Reinvestment Initiative toward security and safety initiatives that benefit inmates and staff, including heating and air conditioning upgrades.
Rep. Cheryl DeLozier, R-Cumberland, will introduce the bill that would propose that off-duty correctional officers fill vacant shifts at county detention centers, while Rep. John Lawrence, R-Chester, is planning a bill that would require facility audits in counties where they occur Escape cases.