For Immediate Release
August 8, 2001
For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
There have been no escapes from the secure perimeter of a Florida prison during the last fiscal year, and only two escapes from a secure perimeter in the last three fiscal years (July 1, 1998 to June 30, 2001). Of the two escapes, one was recaptured within a week.
"There were no escapes from a secure perimeter last fiscal year, and I expect that trend to continue," said Michael W. Moore, Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC). "These numbers are a good indication that our zero tolerance policy toward escapes is working and that the hard work of our institutional staff in making this policy a reality is paying off."
An inmate inside a secure perimeter is surrounded by fences with razor wire and is under armed supervision. Some facilities with secure perimeters include prisons, work camps and road prisons. Nine out of ten of Florida's 72,000 inmates are housed in facilities with secure perimeters.
The last inmate to escape from inside a Florida prison was Tim Jackson, who escaped from Dade Correctional Institution Annex on April 10, 2000 via a laundry cart. He was recaptured in North Carolina four days later. He was serving a life sentence for robbery and several other charges, including armed burglary and grand theft.
According to James Upchurch, Bureau Chief of Security Operations for the Florida DOC, the decline in escapes can be attributed to three factors: a zero tolerance policy for escapes, the implementation of a comprehensive security audit program that emphasizes practice over paperwork, and replacing and upgrading perimeter barriers including fences and additional razor wire and the installation of electronic perimeter detection systems. Upchurch says that technology has played a positive role in the decline in escapes.
"We've had better success since we rely less heavily on manned gun towers for perimeter control. Well maintained electronic perimeter detection systems are never inattentive and always respond consistently," said Upchurch.
A zero tolerance policy toward escapes, particularly perimeter escapes, is a natural extension of this administration's emphasis on public safety. As a result, there has been increased emphasis on strict attention to procedures, processes and good security practices. These practices are monitored and reinforced during announced and unannounced security audits of each prison annually. The audit is based on a set of cooperatively developed security standards and teamwork is emphasized.
"We also try to keep the audit program non-adversarial. We work together with the facilities, it's not an 'I gotcha' exercise, and that's a key element. In most cases it is the assigned institutional staff who know where the weaknesses are. We work with them to get the deficiencies corrected." The only other inmate to escape from a Florida prison during the last three fiscal years is Julio Bonchea, who escaped from Calhoun CI on March 26, 2000. He remains at large.
Escapes from non-perimeter facilities, such as public work squads, Department of Transportation work squads and work release centers are much more common than escapes from secure perimeters. Inmates in non-perimeter facilities are generally minimum custody and have minimal direct supervision. Most escapes are from work release centers (84 or 86.6% in FY 2000-01), and they often consist of an inmate walking away from his job in the community and not returning to the center. Even if an inmate returns to the center later than expected, he or she is classified as an escape for not returning on time and he or she is often returned to a secure perimeter facility.
In fiscal year 2000-01, there were 97 completed escapes, 89 or 91.8% were recaptured as of July 17, 2001, and 66 or 77.6% of them were recaptured within 24 hours of their escape. Those sentenced for escape during the last three fiscal years received, on average, an additional sentence of 28 months.
Bill Bales, Bureau Chief of the Bureau of Research and Data Analysis says the odds are against an inmate who escapes from prison, whether from a secure or non-secure perimeter. But inmates who walk away from work release centers are particularly foolish.
"More than 90% of the inmates who escaped or walked away from their work release centers last year were recaptured, most of them within 24 hours. Then they get charged with escape and have to serve two or three more years, on average. The irony is, you have to have 18 months or less left to serve on your sentence before you can go on work release," said Bales.
Over the last five fiscal years, the number of total escapes has declined by 49.2%, from 191 in FY 1996-97 to 97 in FY 2000-01, according to the DOC's Bureau of Research and Data Analysis.