PORTLAND — The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an internal review of operations after a maximum-security inmate crawled into the cell of a female prisoner for a sexual tryst.
Sheriff Kevin Joyce said during a press conference Monday that Arien L’Italien, 23, of Biddeford, was spotted early Saturday morning by a corrections officer as L’Italien tried to get back to his cell block after a consensual encounter with inmate Karla Wilson.
L’Italien is being held on federal charges of attempted murder of a federal officer and possession of a firearm by a felon. He was arrested in January following a shootout on Mellen Street with the U.S. Marshals’ Violent Offender Task Force. He was being sought by the task force in connection with a New Year’s Day stabbing in Biddeford.
Wilson, a 25-year-old from Portland, is awaiting trial on four counts of gross sexual assault and two counts of aggravated assault.
Joyce said L’Italien was out of his cell for about an hour before he was spotted early Saturday morning. L’Italien made his bed to look as if it was occupied and used some kind of material to prevent the lock of his cell from latching properly, Joyse said.
Wilson also used material to keep her cell lock open, the sheriff said. He said officers later were able to manipulate a cell lock to stay open using paper towels and a credit card.
Joyce said L’Italien and Wilson, who knew each other, somehow arranged their tryst using the jail’s ventilation system. He said that likely involved other prisoners passing messages.
“It appears this (also) did happen two days before, but her door locked and he couldn’t get in,” Joyce said.
The two inmates’ cells were separated by a walkway and two security doors in day rooms, which were left open during overnight hours because corrections officers checked on inmates every 15 minutes, Joyce said.
A department review of security videos and a visual inspection of the two cell blocks revealed the location of the corrections officers’ station, as well as “some lack of attention to detail” by the officers on duty, enabled the security breach, Joyce said.
Joyce said the corrections officers’ station has been moved and the security doors to the day rooms will now be locked at all hours. Jail officials also will review what items inmates have access to, including deodorant containers that could be broken and used to manipulate locks.
“They don’t have a lot, but they get creative when they have plenty of time,” Joyce said.
The sheriff said he was particularly concerned about the security breach because of the danger L’Italien – or any inmate unexpectedly out of a cell – poses to corrections officers.
“That’s a huge issue. This guy is not a good guy, that’s why he’s in here,” Joyce said.
The internal investigation is being conducted to see if any policies were violated and what policies should be changed as a result of the incident. Joyce said it is too soon to say if any corrections officers will be disciplined.
Joyce said L’Italien and Wilson will likely face disciplinary action at the jail, but not criminal charges. L’Itlien is now being held in the super maximum security unit and has no contact with other inmates.