The Pennsylvania jail from which convicted murderer Danilo Cavalcante brazenly escaped, eluding searchers for two weeks, plans to enclose its exercise yards with walls and a roof and make inmates wear brighter uniforms, along with other security improvements.
The Chester County jail board unanimously approved plans Wednesday to fully enclose the exercise yards at the facility in Pocopson, southwest of Philadelphia. The project is expected to cost $2.5 million to $3.5 million and could take as long as nine months to complete.
TranSystems, a Kansas City, Missouri-based engineering and design company hired for the redesign, said the new enclosures will be a “permanent solution” to the security flaws that Cavalcante exploited in his Aug. 31 escape by crab-walking up between two walls that were topped with razor wire and then jumping from the roof.
The redesign plan calls for fully enclosed exercise yards, with 18-foot-high masonry walls to replace fencing, and the removal of shed roofs that could inmates could scale. The plan also calls for removing basketball hoops.
The design notably blocks overhead sunlight into the yard, save for a small ribbon of windows at the top with secure screening. An LED lighting system will mimic daylight, the company said.
The design will prevent escape attempts and block contraband delivery by drones or other remote devices, according to TranSystem. The jail’s acting warden also proposed additional security upgrades — including the installation of at least 50 new cameras and the hiring of eight more guards — that were also approved by the board.
Funding will come from the county’s remaining federal pandemic relief allotment.
Other planned changes include brightly colored inmate uniforms that are easier to spot in an escape attempt.
Cavalcante, 34, was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in front of her children in 2021. Prosecutors say he wanted to stop her from telling police he was wanted for another killing in Brazil. At the time of his escape, he was awaiting transfer to a state prison to serve a life sentence.
He was captured after a two-week manhunt that left residents on edge and led to school closures right at the start of the academic year, warnings for homeowners to lock their doors and blocked roads over the busy Labor Day weekend.
Cavalcante was charged with escape after his capture, and his next hearing in that case is scheduled for Wednesday. No lawyer has yet spoken on his behalf. He is now being held at a state prison outside Philadelphia.