A strange thing happened at the Montgomery County Jail, overnight: every single cell door in the facility was unlocked simultaneously. There was no disturbance, say authorities, and no inmates attempted to escape.
It's not the first time this has happened. Officials say the same thing happened late Tuesday evening.
As a building that's only a few years old, the Montgomery County Correctional Facility, in rural Boyds, Maryland, has a modern computer-controlled system whereby officers can lock and unlock all cells simultaneously. It's a safety feature in case there is ever a fire.
But twice in the past week the cell doors inside have become unlocked -- apparently without a human command. It happened Tuesday, around 10:15 p.m., and it happened at 12:20 a.m. Saturday.
The doors unlock with an audible "click." At that point, any inmate can push open the hinged doors and walk out of the cell. One corrections officer told us: it was a "scary" situation.
But, according to Arthur Wallenstein, the county's Director of Corrections, none of the 650 inmates attempted to leave. As soon as the cells were unlocked, however, jailers called 911, and some county police officers from all districts were summoned to surround the building and grounds, just in case.
Wallenstein said corrections officers inside manually closed each cell door within an hour, and at that point the jail was secure. County computer personnel (and outside contractors) worked on the problem all night long, so the security emergency remained in effect until 5:40 in the morning.
By later in the day, it was business as usual at the correctional facility, with court-ordered community-service work crews maintaining the grounds, and visitors being allowed inside to talk with inmates.
Corrections Director Wallenstein told us: the county employees and the contractors have tried to replicate the conditions that led to the unexpected unlocking of all the cells. They have not been successful, and they continue to work on the problem.
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