A female inmate in the maximum security wing of the Cumberland County Jail in Portland managed to get out of her cell late Saturday morning and through three additional locked doors in order to reach a male inmate in the same wing, Sheriff Kevin Joyce said Saturday night.

Joyce said the two spent about 3½ hours together in the male inmate’s cell and had consensual sex before a guard discovered them during a random security check.

A nearly identical incident occurred at the jail in 2012.

Joyce called the security breach serious and said officials will try to figure out how the woman got out of her cell into a locked day room, out of that room onto a landing at the top of a stairway, past a lock into a male day room and then into the man’s locked cell.

Jail officials believe the woman, whom Joyce declined to identify, used a piece of cardboard to keep her own door from locking, but are unsure how she got through the other three locks.

The two inmates admitted to guards that they had sex, the sheriff said, but they refused to say anything beyond that. Both inmates were back in their cells Saturday night, he said.

Joyce refused to identify the inmates, say whether they were serving a sentence or awaiting trial, or detail their criminal records. He said more information will be released Monday.

Saturday’s incident was the second time in two years that inmates in maximum security cells at the county jail managed to leave their cells to have sex.

In the other incident, in March 2012, guards had propped open the doors to and from the day rooms to avoid having the doors slam and make noise as they made security checks – a procedure no longer allowed. In that case, a male inmate tampered with his lock, got out of his cell and sneaked over to the female cell block, where he had sex with an inmate in her cell and was caught trying to get back to his own cell about an hour later.

Joyce said the woman in the incident Saturday laid the groundwork for the tryst in the morning by saying she didn’t feel well and returning to her cell from a day room. Maximum security inmates are confined to their cells 20 hours a day.

Then she put a sign on the window in her door saying she didn’t want her medication, which is normally delivered around noon, Joyce said. The guard delivering the medication looked through the window, Joyce said, but the inmate had used her blankets and pillows to make it look like she was in bed.

By that time, she was likely in the male inmate’s cell, the sheriff said.

Joyce said he didn’t know what medication the woman was taking.

Joyce said the two probably arranged the meeting by yelling into heating ducts, the same technique believed to have been used by the two inmates in 2012. He said he didn’t know if they communicated directly or if other inmates passed along messages.

The two wouldn’t have had any contact otherwise, unless they managed to talk on a few occasions while being taken to see visitors, Joyce said. Saturday was visiting day at the jail, he said, but neither of the two inmates had any visitors.

Joyce said he didn’t know if the two knew each other before they were jailed.

While the two obviously coordinated on how to get the woman into the man’s cell, Joyce said they didn’t seem to have a plan for getting her back before they were discovered at about 2:45 p.m. Saturday.

There have been other cases in previous years of inmates packing material into cell door strike plates to prevent bolts from locking at the county jail. In one case in 2002, guards caught inmates who had tampered with the locks before they could leave their cells, then two weeks later, an inmate used the same technique to get out of his cell, into the day room and then into an adjacent day room, which also housed male maximum-security inmates. He was caught in the second day room.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com