The recent high-profile prison escape in Chester County has compelled us to take time out of our busy lives to participate in this important discussion. How this inexcusable escape happened—and what our response should be.
Our entire community is on edge since a convicted murderer escaped from prison on August 31st and remains at large. We all anxiously await news of his capture.
We should be thankful for all the men and women of law enforcement who have been working overtime to bring this fugitive back to justice.
The citizens of Chester County have a right to feel safe in their community. A primary responsibility of government, including county government, is to keep its citizens safe. But people do not feel safe at the moment as a convicted killer remains at large, a killer who killed his girlfriend in front of her children. Someone who is also the subject of a warrant for murder charges in his native Brazil.
We are witnessing the consequences of this escape in very personal ways that are affecting lives and livelihoods. Notwithstanding the fear and concern we have for the safety of our families and neighbors, we also weigh the impact on our children with the closure of schools, the impact on businesses which have had to close and the cost of the manhunt itself. Burdens which have been placed on all the citizens of Chester County.
This episode clearly raises many serious questions about the competence of those elected officials in our county who are charged with protecting us. The men and women who hire senior staff and set policies and priorities that impact our lives and livelihoods.
- How can a convicted murderer — let alone any prisoner — walk out of prison in broad daylight? And now we are learning that this is the second prison break in the past three months.
- Why was there a delay in notifying the public?
- Why was a convicted murderer housed in a local facility rather than immediately housed in an appropriate state facility?
- What role does the county’s budget, priorities, policies, planning, and oversight have in this entire episode?
Once again, this crisis prompts many fair and reasonable questions about policies and even the competence of those running our county government.
And, after this murderer is caught, we expect a thorough, transparent investigation will provide clarity, lessons learned—and accountability.
The bottom line is that our citizens deserve better.
And so, we affirm our commitment to our community, and to advocating for safer communities. To protecting our quality of life. To restoring good government. And to fostering welcoming communities for all of those law-abiding people who want to make Chester County their home.
As a citizen, a husband, a dad, and a party official, I want to thank the men and women of law enforcement who are working tirelessly. We know that they are using every resource available to track down this killer. Let us keep them in our thoughts and prayers as they do their job to protect us and return our lives to normalcy.
Raffi Terzian, M.D. is the Chairman of the Republican Committee of Chester County. This column is adapted from his remarks at a press conference held on September 6.