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500 Cells Unlock in Maryland Jail, No Inmates Attempt Escape

Travelers Today       By    Maxine Wally

Updated: Apr 29, 2013 04:10 PM EDT

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About 500 locks on cell doors at a jail in Clarksburg, Maryland opened at the exact same time early Saturday, in a puzzling malfunction of the prison's electronic system.

What is even more puzzling is that not a single inmate attempted to escape, even when the door was wide open.

Officials declared a security emergency once they realized that the cell doors were unlocked. They posted about 20 police cars around the rim of the facility, reports the Washington Post.

Corrections administrators also visited the jail Saturday morning, after catching wind of the malfunction.

Director of the county's Department of Correction and Rehabilitation Arthur Wallenstein confirmed that none of the inmates tried to escape, and the locks were fixed.

He also mentioned that the locks disengaged four days before, on Tuesday.

"It's definitely a problem...any security door opening in an unexpected manner constitutes a major security problem," he said. "We must find the source of it."

The cell door locks were the only ones that came unhinged-no locks outside the jail, in housing units, or hallway doors were affected in the malfunction.

If any of those locks opened, cellmates might have had more of an incentive to run, as access to the outer perimeter would widen.

The doors are wired to an electronic system, controlled by computer programs and corrections officers.

The locks opened at around 12:20 a.m., and while some were fixed quickly, others took around an hour to reset.

Officials stayed on the premises until about 5:45 a.m., after the last of the police officers filed out of the jail.

Did the prisoners know that the locks had malfunctioned? Were they aware that freedom could have potentially been in their clutches? Was it an inmate trying to escape, toying with the system that unhinged the cell doors? These questions and more nag at Wallenstein and the rest of his team, but he remained curt about it all.

"We handled it as a security emergency," he concluded. 

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