PORTLAND, Maine — Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce on Monday said jail officials are lucky two inmates who were able to breach security over the weekend in the facility’s most fortified section only wanted to meet up for sex.
In an afternoon news conference, Joyce told reporters the maximum security inmates executed a rendezvous plan similar to one used successfully for a conjugal meet-up by a previous pair of inmates two years ago.
The sheriff said policies adopted after the 2012 security breach were not followed by guards serving meals to the inmates Saturday, and that those protocols would have prevented the most recent breach.
“The good thing about this is we’re talking about an inmate having sex with another inmate,” Joyce said. “We’re not talking about a death. I’m not planning a funeral for one of my corrections officers. That could have happened.
“This is a case where the officers may just think they’re taking a shortcut, and an inmate [could have] plunged a shank into their back, because he’s been able to get out of his cell,” the sheriff continued.
According to the chain of events described Monday by Joyce, doors leading to the men’s and women’s wings of the second floor of the maximum security section of the jail were left unlocked late Saturday morning as facility staff served meals to inmates.
After guards picked up the lunch trays and conducted routine cell checks at 11 a.m., inmate Renee Glantz, 23, of Windham, snuck out of her cell and went approximately 40 feet — through the aforementioned unlocked doors separating the men’s and women’s wings — undetected to reach the cell of male inmate Michel D’Angelo, 34, of Middleboro, Mass.
Glantz was apparently able to wedge cardboard from a toilet paper roll into her cell door to keep it from latching and locking shut after the tray pickup, Joyce said. The sheriff said investigators aren’t yet clear on how D’Angelo kept his door from locking, but he said Glantz was able to enter his cell, have sex with him and stay there until approximately 2:45 p.m., when a guard grew suspicious.
Joyce said corrections officers check the cells every 15 minutes, and the guard noticed that D’Angelo hadn’t moved from his bed over the course of several straight check-ins.
“The corrections officer opened the door to check on his welfare, and upon doing so, inmate Glantz fell out of the door where she’d been hiding out of view,” the sheriff said.
Glantz’s absence from her cell went unrecognized because she bundled up pillows and blankets under the covers of her bed to make it appear as though she was sleeping there, Joyce said. Glantz had previously told guards she wasn’t feeling well, so they wouldn’t be alarmed by the sight of her sleeping during the midday stretch.
Joyce said the two inmates likely planned the meeting by talking through ventilation systems connecting the two wings.
“These are [methods] where you and I would say, ‘Really? You can communicate with each other that way?’” the sheriff said. “But inmates have a lot of time on their hands to try things out.”
The Saturday encounter bears striking resemblance to a March 2012 incident in which inmate Arien L’Italien, then 23, of Biddeford, jimmied his cell door and snuck into the women’s wing to have sex with inmate Karla Wilson, then 25, of Portland.
Joyce said the 2012 security breach motivated jail officials to institute policies that the wing doors remain locked at all times, that guards pull on each cell door during the regular checks to ensure they’re properly latched and locked, and that guards “need to actually see the inmates in their cells” instead of just bundles of blankets.
“It disappoints me,” Joyce said. “We had corrected the problem based on what we saw during the last event.
“Although we have an internal investigation ongoing, it’s safe to say that leaving the day room doors unlocked while serving lunch and performing checks was a shortcut, a practice that is unacceptable and a violation of policy,” he continued, calling the shortcuts “a lapse of judgment.”
The sheriff said the two inmates who breached security would have certain privileges revoked for the incident, and that jail staff who violated policy may face disciplinary action after the department’s internal investigation is complete, although he declined to identify the corrections officers or specify what that discipline might be.
Glantz is in jail because she violated bail conditions set after a previous conviction on drug charges, Joyce said, while D’Angelo is temporarily being held in the Portland jail on orders by the U.S. Marshals Service. It was not immediately clear what crime or crimes the federal law enforcement agency had leveled against D’Angelo.
The sheriff said Glantz was moved to the jail’s high-security section because she had “acted out” in lower security areas.
“She had been a real problem, breaking sprinkler heads and flooding cells, that sort of thing,” he said.
“The most secure part of the jail needs to be secure,” Joyce added. “It makes you wonder what the rest of the jail is like.”