The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


July 20, 2012



It’s not often we hear of attempts like these.

Three inmates at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex attempted to escape this week, but were quickly detained by correctional officers.

They didn’t get far.

Jim Rubenstein, commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Corrections, said the incident happened around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday when staff noticed that three inmates were not in their assigned housing area.

Those three, all convicted murderers, were attempting to escape the state’s only maximum security facility. But within 20 minutes, the individuals were located on the grounds at Mount Olive and taken into custody.

During the attempted escape, other inmates were not in danger nor were surrounding areas because of the design of the complex, Rubenstein assured, adding, for the individuals to breach the security fences would have been “very highly unlikely because of the nature of the facility.”

It’s easy to be critical of a correctional system that has issues with over-crowding and such. But when it comes to security and the impact that a lack of it could have on our community, this instance proves that this large Fayette County facility and its staff are more than capable of housing over 1,000 of the state’s worst criminal element in a safe manner.

Mount Olive opened in 1995, replacing West Virginia’s former maximum security prison in Moundsville.

The latest technology and equipment also aid the staff in maintaining security at Mount Olive. The facility is encompassed by a secure perimeter fence about one-mile long. Of the nearly 120-acre site, approximately 80 acres are inside the secure perimeter. Extensive use is made of both electronic and manual security controls.

Moundsville, an older structure that opened in 1876, had its share of security issues, escape attempts and even successful escapes, including one involving 15 prisoners in November 1979.

But Mount Olive, a $61.8 million-dollar facility, has never had a successful escape from inside its wall in its 17-year history.

Not that it could never happen. There are no guarantees.

Mount Olive has been everything it was originally cracked up to be when it comes to maximum security. The public has not been put at risk for nearly two decades.

That should allow some, especially the residents of Fayette County, to sleep better at night.

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