City leaders promise changes at jail

10:06 PM, Sep 17, 2011   |    comments
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Video: Inmate Escapes

Lorenzo Pollard

St. Louis (KSDK) --Officials in the city of St. Louis say they are reviewing procedures at the Medium Security Institution, otherwise known as the city workhouse, located on Hall Street.

An inmate, Lorenzo Pollard, 31, escaped Friday night, in a scene that sounds like something out of an action movie.  He remained on the loose Saturday night.

City Operations Director Sam Dotson described what happened as Pollard was being lead from his cell to a shower.

"In his cell he had crafted a weapon," said Dotson.  "And I would describe the weapon as similar to numchuks, sharp objects attached to the end of sheets or towels.  He began swinging those items towards guards, who backed up and called for assistance."

Dotson said Pollard was on the second tier, or level, of the prison pod.  He said this incident marks the first time an inmate used force towards guards.

"He began to break a window that allows sunlight in for the inmates to have, during the normal course of the day.  He broke out a section of that glass-blocked area, and jumped from the second story onto the pavement outside," said Dotson.  "At that point he made a dash for the perimeter fence, out-ran a guard, and climbed over the perimeter fence and escaped."

Dotson said Pollard saw the guards' processes, knew how they would respond, and exposed a weakness.

The escape came on a day when administrative changes were made at that jail.

Dotson said, "The commissioner of corrections was put on forced leave Friday afternoon unrelated to this incident.  This incident happened after he was placed on forced leave.  We were looking at the processes, the policies, the physical plant, the operation.  We saw some things we had questions about.  The two previous escapes caused us enough concern that the commissioner was put on forced leave while we review some of the processes."

Pollard is the fourth person to escape from the workhouse in a little over a year.  In July, an inmate escaped through an unlocked gate.  Two teenagers also escaped in June 2010, prompting Mayor Francis Slay to call for changes.

Dotson, a police captain, said he's been in his current position for four months.  In his blog, Mayor Slay says Dotson will be the one to direct any changes necessary at the city workhouse.

Dotson said, "I have confidence in the facility, I have confidence in the staff that's there.  I think it's all about management and leadership and oversight.  Like any position there has to be accountability.  The guards are well-trained, they were on-site, but we want to make sure they have the tools and the training.  So we look at all of those things.  We're going to go in and make sure there are levels of leadership and accountability to keep these things from happening and occurring again."

Police say if you know the whereabouts of Lorenzo Pollard, call 911.  He is considered armed and dangerous.


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