Wyatt board chairman promises accountability after escape

Luke Gallant, chairman of the board that runs Wyatt Detention Facility, speaks to reporters about the escape of James Morales.

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I (WPRI) — About an hour after escaped inmate James Morales was captured by Massachusetts State Police in Somerville on Thursday, the chairman of the board of the detention center that he broke out of promised to hold anyone responsible for his escape accountable for their actions.

An emergency meeting to discuss security procedures was called by the board of the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation, which runs the facility. Board chairman Luke Gallant addressed reporters before the closed-door meeting, promising a comprehensive investigation that will answer many of the questions about the prison that have been raised in the wake of the escape.

“I can’t begin to express our gratitude and our thanks to the Massachusetts State Police for their work,” Gallant said, explaining that he found out Morales had been captured while driving over to the meeting.

Gallant called Morales’ escape from the detention center, which houses federal inmates from multiple states, “wholly and entirely unacceptable and inexcusable.” He promised to hold anyone responsible for the escape accountable for their actions.

Captured: State police arrest escaped Wyatt inmate »
Captured: State police arrest escaped Wyatt inmate »

Gallant said another correctional officer and a supervisor have now been placed on paid administrative leave, in addition to the two that were previously placed on leave earlier in the week.

He said the board has directed Warden Daniel Martin to conduct a thorough investigation into what led up to the escape, which includes interviewing correctional officers, the detainees in Morales’ cell block, and reviewing security procedures and policies. Rhode Island State Police is assisting in the investigation.

“Of obvious importance to identify in this, is we want to know were the procedures and policies in place on that day followed without exception,” said Gallant. “If they were, what are the holes and where are the holes that allowed this escape? If those policies and procedures were not followed, we want to know by whom, and did it play a direct role in allowing Mr. Morales to escape.”

So far, the detention facility has revealed that James Morales, who was behind bars awaiting federal trial for allegedly stealing guns from a Worcester army Reserve center, escaped by climbing a basketball hoop in the rec yard. A spokesperson for the detention center said there were no other inmates or correctional officers in the rec yard at the time.

Morales climbing on the backboard of the hoop, cut his way through fencing above, climbed onto the roof of the facility and crawled over several layers of razor wire before descending down a wall and taking off.

According to police, the escape took place at 6:45 p.m. Saturday. Warden Martin says Morales was discovered missing at 10:30 p.m. Central Falls Police received the call that Morales was missing at 11:43.

Gallant would not take any questions from reporters after he made his comments, including about why there was such a long delay in calling the police. He said many of those questions would be answered in a report that will be made public after the investigation is complete.

“We’ll want to know who accounted for him and how, or was he never accounted for,” Gallant added. “I know many of you are eager for immediate answers…however many of the questions relate to highly sensitive information regarding prison procedures and security measures.”

Gallant also said the board fully supports Warden Martin, who has been in charge of Wyatt since 2015, and expressed his confidence in Martin’s ability to conduction the investigation into the escape.

“Warden Martin is a consummate professional,” said Gallant. “He is a gentleman, and he is very, very thorough. He has taken this to heart, he has taken this personally, and he is giving this his best effort.”