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Security holes led to escape

Prisoners' absence went unnoticed for hours

Jake Kennedy
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Oct 02/02) - The escape of two inmates from the Yellowknife Correctional Centre early last month went unnoticed by prison guards for hours, says the NWT Department of Justice.

Doug Friesen, director of corrections for the department, said that although the inmates escaped during the night, it wasn't discovered that they were gone until the next morning.

"It was a few hours (before it was discovered that they were gone)," he said.

The two inmates, Charlie Koe, 20, and Edwin Avik, 19, escaped Sept. 1 by prying open a section of fence with a horseshoe.

Friesen's comments came after a report, prepared by the department, was released Friday with a list of 13 recommendations for staff and management of the facility.

Among the recommendations are:

Friesen said the Justice Department is concerned about the security lapses that allowed the escape, but could not provide specific details about what may have happened.

"That's (security lapses) what we're looking into. Some of it we can't discuss because of safety and security. We can't give security details to the public," he said.

Friesen did not say which fence the inmates escaped under, but said it was not the fence adjacent to the site of the new arena.

That fence was moved to its current location when construction began on the new arena, and a second fence added for extra security.

"It was added because the fence is so close to the building," Friesen said.

He said the entire fence, including the moved section, will be looked as part of the security audit.

Although he doesn't think it's likely the security improvement will be implemented at the currently facility, Friesen said any security concerns will be addressed with the new correctional facility, expected to be open by January 2004.

"Either the fence will be buried, or in cement -- it'll be a security fence to ensure that nobody will get out," Friesen said about the fence at the new facility.

The two inmates returned to police custody -- one was apprehended, and less than an hour later the other turned himself in to RCMP -- less than 24 hours after their escape.

During that time, they committed two break-and-enters.

Friesen said that the department is concerned about the break-out, and will take steps to ensure the public's safety in the future.

"Safety and security is our main concern, not only people in the facility but also residents around there.

"That's why we're going to conduct a formal physical security audit -- to ensure if there are any other deficiencies or areas to look at, we're going to do that."