Crime Prison break: 29 inmates escape federal lockups in 18 months
South Carolina inmate trying to halt June 18 execution
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The inmate scheduled to be the first put to death under South Carolina's recently revamped capital punishment law has filed a last-minute request seeking to halt his execution in the electric chair, arguing that the state hasn't exhausted all methods to procure lethal injection drugs. On Thursday, attorneys for Brad Sigmon filed papers in federal court asking a judge to put a stop to his execution later this month. Sigmon,On Thursday, attorneys for Brad Sigmon filed papers in federal court asking a judge to put a stop to his execution later this month.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Over the past 18 months, 29 prisoners have escaped from federal lockups across the U.S. — and nearly half still have not been caught. At some of the institutions, doors are left unlocked, security cameras are broken and officials sometimes don't notice an inmate is missing for hours.
At one Texas lockup, security is so lax that local law enforcement officials privately joke about its seemingly “open-door policy.”
Some inmates saw the Calif. firefighter program as 'redemption.' Newsom is set to close it.
“I honestly feel that if the programs go away, you’re going to have a whole lot of people going back to their bad ways," a former inmate firefighter said.The California Correctional Center in Lassen County, located near two national forests in the northeastern part of the state, is slated to close in June 2022 and its fire training program relocated nearly five hours south to the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown.
Prisoners have broken out at lockups in nearly every region of the country. Twelve of the inmates who escaped in 2020 — from prisons in Florida, California, Louisiana, Texas and Colorado — remain at large. Two others who escaped since January this year have also not yet been caught. Their crimes include racketeering, wire fraud, bank robbery, possession of methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and other drugs.
All of the escapes happened at minimum-security federal prison camps, some of which don’t even have fences, and house inmates the Bureau of Prisons considers to be the lowest security risk.
Dummies in beds, unlocked doors: Justice IG finds security lapses at federal prison camps raise escape risk
Justice inspector general: 'Inmates sometimes place dummies in their beds or physically place themselves in other inmate beds during inmate counts.'A memorandum issued Monday by Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz said "multiple" escape investigations have found unlocked doors, malfunctioning alarms, no surveillance cameras and some old-fashioned deception by inmates.
“Anybody can escape from any camp any minute of any day,” said Jack Donson, a prison consultant and former case manager at a federal prison in Otisville, New York. “They’re not secure facilities. They have no fence, no metal detectors.”
The numbers raise serious concerns that the agency long besieged byis failing at performing its most basic function: keeping prisoners in prison. While a Justice Department budget report submitted to Congress said the Bureau of Prisons had no escapes from secure facilities, it does not count those who escape from minimum-security prisons or camps.
Federal officials often refer to them as “walk-aways,” though it is still an escape from federal prison under the law and law enforcement officials say there is still a risk to the community when an inmate absconds.
Federal prison camps were originally designed with low security to make operations easier and to allow inmates tasked with performing work at the prison, like landscaping and maintenance, to avoid repeatedly checking in and out of a main prison facility. But the lax security has now not only opened a gateway for contraband but is also the source of most of the prison system’s escapes.
New Jersey to close women's prison after "long history" of abuse
Ten correctional officers have been charged in connection with a January attack on inmates at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women. © David Madison / Getty Generic Prison "I am deeply disturbed and disgusted by the horrific attacks that took place on January 11. Individuals in state custody deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and the officers involved in this incident, both directly and indirectly, abused their power to send a message that they were in charge," Governor Phil Murphy said in a statement.
Aside from Texas escapees, law enforcement officials have also routinely learned of inmates at the prison just walking off the grounds to retrieve drugs and other contraband that is dropped off in the woods and then bringing the illegal items back inside with them.
It has become routine at FCI Beaumont for cars to drop drugs, cellphones and other contraband in the woods, leaving them for inmates to break out of the prison at night and pick up the items before sneaking back inside, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the matter. The official could not discuss the investigations publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The Texas escapes, at least, have attracted the attention of the Justice Department's inspector general. The office issued a memorandum this week highlighting glaring security gaps at Beaumont and other federal prison camps.
In one case, four inmates sneaked out and went undetected for more than 12 hours even though prison officials conducted three inmate counts overnight during the 12-hour period, according to an inspector general’s report. The inmates put dummies in their beds to trick the officers, the report said.
Embattled New Jersey corrections commissioner to resign
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey's embattled corrections commissioner announced his resignation Tuesday, a day after Gov. Phil Murphy said the state would shutter its long-troubled and only women’s prison. Marcus Hicks had faced sharp criticism in recent months from several lawmakers who called for his dismissal, citing his overall job performance and his handling of problems at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton. Ten guards face criminal charges brought by the state attorney general stemming from what he said was a violent attack on women at the prison in January.
“These are very small, unsecure facilities,” said Cameron Lindsay, a retired Bureau of Prisons warden who now testifies as an expert witness on prison matters. Because of their size and the generally low risk the inmates pose, federal prison camps often have the lowest levels of staffing in the Bureau of Prisons’ system, sometimes with just one officer working to supervise inmates during a shift, he said.
In a statement, the Bureau of Prisons said that it strives to ensure safety and security at every one of its prisons and that when an inmate “walks away” from a prison, officials will notify other law enforcement agencies and the media. The agency stressed that the inmates who are placed at the minimum-security camps are the lowest risk offenders who “pose minimal risk to the community” and generally are allowed to participate in outdoor work programs and other initiatives.
“The BOP remains vigilant in its efforts to maintain safe and secure institutions at all times,” the agency said. Officials said a review is conducted following every escape to determine “if any security weakness exists and if warranted, corrective actions are taken.”
In Beaumont, officials said they were building a fence around the prison, repairing the broken door alarms, adding and upgrading video cameras and putting up additional lights. The agency said it was also considering adding additional staff members at some of the prison camps.
Hearing set on plea deal in prison administrator's killing
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A hearing has been set to discuss a plea deal for a Tennessee prison inmate charged with killing a corrections administrator during a 2019 escape attempt, a prosecutor said Wednesday. Lauderdale County District Attorney Mark Davidson told The Associated Press that a hearing has been scheduled for Monday in the case of Curtis Ray Watson. In an email, Davidson declined to discuss any details about the possible plea deal. Watson has been indicted on 15 counts in the Aug. 7, 2019, killing of Tennessee Department of Correction Administrator Debra Johnson. The charges include premeditated murder, rape and escape.
“We take seriously our duty to protect the individuals entrusted in our custody, as well as maintaining the safety of correctional staff and the community,” agency officials said in the statement.
The Bureau of Prisons has been plagued by chronic violence, significant security issues and persistent staffing shortages for years. The AP reported last month thatof federal correctional officer jobs in the United States are vacant, forcing prisons to use cooks, teachers, nurses and other workers to guard inmates.
The expanded use of that practice, known as augmentation, has beenabout whether the agency can carry out its required duties to ensure the safety of prisoners and staff members while putting in place programs and classes required under the law.
The Bureau of Prisons insists its latest hiring initiative is bringing on additional personnel to close the gaps.
Sisak reported from New York.
On Twitter, follow Michael Balsamo at twitter.com/mikebalsamo1 and Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak. Send confidential tips by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/
Prison break: 29 inmates escape federal lockups in 18 months .
WASHINGTON (AP) — Over the past 18 months, 29 prisoners have escaped from federal lockups across the U.S. — and nearly half still have not been caught. At some of the institutions, doors are left unlocked, security cameras are broken and officials sometimes don't notice an inmate is missing for hours. At one Texas lockup, security is so lax that local law enforcement officials privately joke about its seemingly “open-door policy.