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Chester County Prison officials announce major changes at town hall meeting

Chester County residents have mixed feelings after second town hall following prison escape
Chester County residents have mixed feelings after second town hall following prison escape 01:56

POPCOPSON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CBS) -- Major upgrades are happening at the Chester County Prison after two inmates escaped during a three-month time span. Convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante was captured last week after an extended manhunt that captured national attention.

Dozens of people were packed into a room, eager to hear how officials plan to secure the Chester County Prison.

"It was a little different when he was in Longwood because it wasn't in my backyard," Karen Lampe said. "When he got very close, it was frightening, really frightening, to know there's a murderer loose in Chester County."

During the meeting, the prison board approved a $94,000 contract to hire a company to design and construct an overhead enclosure for the eight exercise yards at the prison to reduce the likelihood of another escape.

"The proposal today is capping the yard, so whether that is a fixed roof or mesh netting or wire," Howard Holland, the Acting Warden of the prison, said. "So when we go through the proposal today, they will give all three options, the pluses and minuses of each proposal."

In the future, inmates will wear brightly colored uniforms that are easier to spot if they escape.

There will be 75 new security cameras and touch-sensitive fencing that will send an alert with 24/7 camera monitoring and more lighting throughout the prison.

"The idea that people here felt unsafe for a period of two weeks, deservedly so, I think we do owe those folks an apology, and we deserve to show them action," Josh Maxwell, the Chester County Prison Board chair, said.

More than 100 people packed a town hall meeting on Monday when officials showed photos of a new barrier put up to block the opening Cavalcante went through to get through to the roof.

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The chair of the prison board estimates the changes will cost $1-3 million. It will be paid for with federal money.

The responses to the planned enhancements were mixed.

"I felt fine," Lisa Spera said. "I feel like they were being as open and honest as they could be."

"I was hoping that some of the upgrades for the prison would've already been done, so that was a little disheartening to hear," Lillianna Yates said.  

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