Harborfields Juvenile Detention Facility

Exterior of the Harborfields Juvenile Detention Facility in Egg Harbor City, where four juveniles escaped from Wednesday. Three have been captured, with one still at large going into Wednesday evening. Wednesday, November 15

ERIN GRUGAN / Staff Photographer

The Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved a resolution Tuesday that will add extra security cameras at the Harborfields Youth Detention Center following the escape of four inmates last month.

They also are demanding a full explanation of what happened and how it can be prevented in the future.

At its first meeting since the Nov. 15 escape, the freeholders allotted $27,580 for the installation of more cameras at the Egg Harbor City facility. They also said they will consider a resolution next week inviting representatives from the Juvenile Justice Commission to come and explain to the public what happened and what is going to be done to prevent future breakouts.

Harborfields and its upkeep are paid for by the county and run by the state under the Juvenile Justice Commission. About $2 million in Atlantic County taxpayer dollars is spent each year on Harborfields, Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica said Tuesday.

If the representatives decline the invitation to speak, Formica said the board will use its subpoena power to get answers. Freeholder boards in the state are granted subpoena power under New Jersey law.

“(The escape) was certainly a threat to the area,” Freeholder Ernest Coursey said during the meeting. “It’s in the best interest of the county that we bring them in and ask for clarification, especially considering we pump $2 million into it.”

Just after midnight Nov. 15, four prisoners overwhelmed a lone security guard, took keys, escaped the building and stole a car in under two minutes, according to 911 tapes obtained by The Press of Atlantic City.

One of the escapees, Michael Huggins, is charged with murder in a 2016 killing in Bridgeton. Huggins, who is 18, was arrested and charged with murder while he was still a minor. By law, he was sent to Harborfields.

A recent amendment to state law kept Huggins in Harborfields even after he turned 18. The inmates in the youth detention center are supervised with unarmed security guards who do not get the same training as corrections officers in prisons across the state.

The security guard who was overwhelmed did not follow rules about when to open locked cells and when to have backup, according to previous reports.

A full investigation into what happened is being conducted by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and the state.

The escape prompted the shutdown of several area schools.

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Contact: 609-272-7260 JDeRosier@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressDeRosier

I joined The Press in January 2016 after graduating from Penn State in December 2015. I was the sports editor for The Daily Collegian on campus which covered all 31 varsity sports and several club sports.

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