Back in Custody, Cavalcante Is Moved to ‘High-Tech’ State Prison

S.C.I. Phoenix, a maximum-security prison in Pennsylvania, holds almost 3,000 prisoners, and housed Bill Cosby for a few years after his conviction.

It took the authorities in Pennsylvania 13 days to track down the convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante after he escaped from a county jail last month. It took just a few hours after his capture on Wednesday for officials to deliver him to the prison that will be his home for the foreseeable future.

On Thursday, Mr. Cavalcante, 34, began his first full day as inmate QP8931 at S.C.I. Phoenix, a maximum-security facility in Montgomery County, Pa., that for a few years housed Bill Cosby.

Mr. Cavalcante arrived at S.C.I. Phoenix far more notorious than when he escaped from a jail in Chester County on Aug. 31.

He had been convicted of murder in the killing of an ex-girlfriend, and had been sentenced to life without parole when, nine days after the sentencing, he managed to escape by scaling a wall in the prison’s yard area and climbing onto the roof, unnoticed by a guard in a watchtower.

For almost two weeks, Mr. Cavalcante eluded a search that came to include around 500 federal, state and local officers. The search took a more urgent turn on Monday night after Mr. Cavalcante stole a .22-caliber rifle from an open garage and fled. Over the course of the search, the convicted murderer had been spotted several times, and more than once, officials believed they had him hemmed in — only to be taken by surprise when he showed up somewhere else.

The manhunt came to a swift end on Wednesday morning, after a team of officers quietly surrounded Mr. Cavalcante in a wooded area of South Coventry Township, and he was subdued by a search dog.

Initially, Mr. Cavalcante was taken to a state police barracks, where he was processed and treated for a bite by Yoda, the search dog. Within hours, though, he was placed in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and taken to S.C.I. Phoenix.

The facility is only about 30 miles from the local jail in Chester County, but it is a different world. S.C.I. Phoenix, described as a “state-of-the-art facility” by the state’s Department of Corrections, is a maximum-security prison that opened five years ago, in 2018.

While Mr. Cavalcante, as well as another inmate, were able to escape the Chester County jail in recent years, S.C.I. Phoenix, which has been deemed the state’s most modern and expensive correctional facility, is equipped with high-tech security features.

The facility’s perimeter is lined with two rows of razor-wire fence and is equipped with a system that officials say can detect anyone who is trying to scale or cut the fence. Officials of the prison have said that between the two concentric fences, a system is installed that detects weight, so an alarm would sound if an inmate were to make it into the space between the fences.

At the Chester County jail, officials have been reviewing the breakdown in security that led to Mr. Cavalcante’s escape, and the officer who was in the watchtower has been fired.

S.C.I. Phoenix, built at a cost of $400 million, replaced S.C.I. Graterford, a prison that was built in 1929. The new prison, set on 164 acres of land about 30 miles west of Philadelphia, is currently housing just under 3,000 inmates — less than its full capacity. Mr. Cosby was held there for three years after he was convicted of sexual assault in 2018; he was released after his conviction was overturned in 2021.

While at S.C.I. Phoenix, Mr. Cosby occupied a 7-foot-by-13-foot cell with a 10-foot ceiling. Unlike many inmates, Mr. Cosby did not have a cell mate

Life inside the perimeter is mundane. For breakfast, it was reported that Mr. Cosby and the inmates at S.C.I. Phoenix had access to fruit and cereal, and on Saturdays, pancakes. For lunch and dinner, options varied from cheese pizza to a hamburger or roast pork.

Typically, inmates at S.C.I. Phoenix are able to go to the exercise yard twice a day, and can work at jobs in the facility, many of them involving maintenance tasks.

The prison has a mural arts program, a gymnasium, more than 30 classrooms, a law library and other amenities. Inmates are generally able to have visitors, make phone calls, purchase TVs, radios and snacks, and receive email.

There has been one reported escape attempt since the facility opened; it occurred last year. The inmate, who was serving a sentence for sexual assault, had gained access to a building roof and then jumped onto the concrete pavement below, authorities said. But the inmate was quickly taken back into custody and treated for injuries sustained in the fall.

Maria Bivens, a spokeswoman for the corrections department, said Mr. Cavalcante was going through classification on Thursday and was in a cell with no other inmates.

Ms. Bivens said prison managers will review his records as part of the intake process and then determine what he will have access to at the facility. Typically, once inmates have completed classification and placement, they get the same privileges as other inmates in their unit.

Campbell Robertson contributed reporting and Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.

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