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Prison escape

By Jeff Terrill

Fort Wayne Reader


New York prison escapees and convicted killers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, came to the end of their out-of-custody journeys this week. Police shot and killed Matt and police shot and captured Sweat. The two prisoners escaped from a New York prison in early June. Sweat might be able to broker a decent deal that could minimize the amount of time that he lives in solitary confinement. In exchange, prison officials will need to know all of the details of the escape.

While reading about their story online, I stumbled upon some information that surprised me. The Washington Post, citing Bureau of Justice Statistics data, reported in a June 8, 2015 story that 2,001 prison escapes occurred in 2013. 2,500 inmates escaped in 2012 and 3,100 did so in 2011. That same article stated that in 2013, all 2,001 escapes occurred from state prisons, whereas not one prisoner escaped from a federal prison during that same time period. 115 escapes occurred in Indiana that year. Zero in California, Missouri, Montana, Michigan and Texas. Ohio had three. Alabama led the pack with 687.

The totals get diluted because they include people who bolted from work release facilities. These facilities are, by design, less secure and permit prisoners to leave each day for work. Not all participants, however, return each evening. The totals do not include people who “escape” from home detention.

In Indiana, a person who knowingly flees from lawful detention commits the Level 5 felony of escape. The maximum penalty for a Level 5 offense is six years in prison. It bumps up to a Level 4 offense if the person uses a deadly weapon or causes bodily injury. A person who violates a home detention order or removes an electronic monitoring or GPS device, commits the Level 6 felony crime of escape, which is punishable up to two and one-half years in jail.

When people hear about a prison escape, they think about cases like the New York duo. Richard Matt and David Sweat actually escaped from a prison. These guys executed a sophisticated plan that likely took months of preparation. This type of jail break is still rare. The vast majority of people prosecuted on escape charges don’t engage in any sophisticated planning. They cut their anklets and run or they go to a bar instead of to their job.

With more people serving alternative sentences, such as work release and home detention, the number of “escapes” will rise.


Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at jterrill@fortwaynedefense.com. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you

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