Originally created 09/29/03

Jail under investigation after escape



ORANGEBURG, S.C. -- One guard has been fired after an escape at the Orangeburg-Calhoun Detention Center amid allegations from the escapee that he had "police" help to break out.

Center director Willie Bamberg said the ex-guard's activities are being investigated after two inmates tried to escape. Joseph Parham, 28, was missing for two days before he was caught. Gregory Blurton, 46, injured himself in the attempt and was recaptured outside a fenced area.

Bamberg says the State Law Enforcement Division is looking into the escape. "One officer has been terminated for breaking our protocol. I can't say whether (the officer's action) was illegal or not," Bamberg said.

Parham requested an interview with The (Orangeburg) Times and Democrat, where he said a jail officer helped the inmates get the tools needed to cut through their cell bars and wire mesh.

"It was a police," Parham said. "It was an officer that gave us the tools to do what we done."

Bamberg said he could not name the guard under investigation.

Parham, accused of armed robbery, said any investigation into the facility would end with authorities closing it.

"They don't have to be in that jail five minutes before they'd close that jail down," Parham said.

In July, the state Corrections Department found the center violating parts of 14 compliance standards. Jail staff was found inadequate for its average inmate population of 362, about 60 more than its capacity. Some violations dealt with inadequate bedding and insect control, others with security.

Bamberg said authorities are working "with us 100 percent getting all the problems solved quickly."

Parham says inmates control the inside the facility because of the unlockable doors. "None of the doors, none of the doors lock on medium or on maximum lockdown," Parham said.

Less than 24 hours after Parham's escape, officials from the Corrections Department, the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety and the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office and the detention center inspected the facility.

Parham says all types of weapons are hidden inside, including guns. "I took the gun with me when I left and threw it in the river," Parham said.

After Parham was found missing almost two weeks ago, prosecutor Walter Bailey said he had told jail officials of a pending escape attempt several weeks before. U.S. marshals called the solicitor's office with the tip.

Bamberg said he got two tips about an escape, one of which did not include information about Parham or Blurton. Parham was arrested two days later as he attempted to take a bus to Pennsylvania.

Parham, who was being held on an armed-robbery charge, said he was wrongfully locked up and that's what led him to break out.

Prosecutor Robby Robbins said Parham's charges have not been dropped.

"Once these guys go to prison and have access to the law library, they think they're lawyers," Robbins said.