MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Investigators spent the day questioning prison workers and contractors at the Clinton Correctional Facility to figure out how two killers escaped from a maximum security prison in Upstate New York. As of Monday night, the men got away with an elaborate plan using power tools to cut through walls to reach tunnels outside. Authorities have acknowledged they could be anywhere by now.
So, how often do prisoners escape? Good Question.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 2,001 escapes from prisons in 2013. The category is classified as AWOL/escape and includes people who haven’t shown up or simply walked away from minimum-security facilities.
“That’s the classic escape from the Bureau of Prisons,” said Ed Ross, a spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He said there are few very escapes from high-security federal prisons. The last one was in Chicago in 2012 when two inmates tied bedsheets together to climb down 17 stories. Both were later captured.
The number of escapes have dramatically decreased over the past several decades as the prison population has increased. In 1993, there were 14,035 escapes.
Ross credits better technology, including surveillance cameras, alarmed fences, less-than-lethal stun fencing and armed perimeter patrols.
At the state level, escapes have dropped off significantly as well. In Minnesota, there haven’t been any escapes from a secure perimeter facilities since the mid-1980s. The state has one of the best track records in the country.
In 2013, two men walked away from a minimum-security federal prison in Duluth, but were captured at a Burnsville hotel six days later. In 2008, a corrections officer foiled an escape attempt at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater. Four men had been trying to dig a tunnel to the outside.
“They’re not really very common, especially at the higher levels, because of the good staff and the people who do their jobs every day,” said Jim Bruton, former warden for Minnesota’s highest-security prison, Oak Park Heights.
Bruton said, when he first became warden, he commissioned his staff to find ways to escape and then fix them. He called himself “overly paranoid all the time” about the possibility of an escape.
He credits better technology among cameras, better training and more people who want to be in the role of corrections officer.
“You can have all the technology and have all the security and do all of these drills and everything,” Bruton said. “But without a good staff, it’s all futile because you’re going to have trouble.”