York jail break prompts move for prisoners with escape history

East Lyme — An escape Saturday night by two Janet S. York Correctional Institution inmates prompted the prison to move inmates with a history of escape to a higher security section of the jail.

A spokesman from the Department of Correction said "as a precautionary measure" inmates in the unfenced section of the prison "were reviewed to ensure proper housing assignments." The DOC did not confirm the exact number of female inmates moved in the days immediately after Melissa Riley, 30, of Willimantic, and Jessica Rivera, 34, of Waterbury, escaped the complex. The women, who were apprehended in Hartford 24 hours after they were found to be missing, apparently made their escape by fleeing to a location on nearby Roxbury Road, where they were picked up by someone in a vehicle, according to a court document.

At the time of the 8:15 p.m. escape Saturday, the women were walking back from the gymnasium to their housing unit in an unfenced part of the jail. The women were allowed to walk back unsupervised, the DOC spokesman said.

"This is, and has been, standard protocol. There were no mistakes made in this procedure," a spokesperson said in an email response to questions from The Day.

The email noted the incident remains under investigation. Andrius Banevicius, a public information officer for the DOC, wrote in an email that after "any major incident, such as the first walk-away in more than a dozen years from the York Correctional Institution, a full scale review of our procedures is undertaken to see how we can improve on our goal of ensuring the public safety."

Banevicius wrote that the review determined that 28 inmates who had a previous escapes in their past were relocated to the main part of the York facility the day after Riley and Rivera's escape for a detailed audit. The public information officer said the majority of the 28 were "walk-aways from a halfway house or other community placement."

The results of the audit determined that approximately half of the 28 inmates should remain in the main part of the facility. The other half were returned to the minimum security East side.

Rivera, who has previous convictions for robbery and burglary, is serving a four-year sentence for conspiracy. Correction officials said she had a previous escape, in 2006, from a community-release program. Riley is serving a 39-month sentence for possession of narcotics.

Both women were arraigned in New London Superior Court this week to faces charges stemming from the escape.

s.goldstein@theday.com

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