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Prison Population Up, Escapes Down

According to a poll conducted by Corrections Compendium magazine, there were fewer escapes in 1990 than in 1989. In 1989, there were 7,816 escapes reported from 48 states (1.33%). In 1990, those same systems reported 7,244 escapes (1.11%) - a decrease of 572 at a time when prison populations were growing by more than 60,000. Figured in proportion to the inmate population, the escape rate has been going down since 1984 (when it was 1.93%). No reason was given for the decrease in the number of escapes.

The survey found that five private citizens were killed by escaping inmates during the two-year period (over 15,000 escapes). Five inmates died while escaping. Three were from auto accidents, one drowned, and the fifth was crushed to death while trying to escape from a Nevada prison in a garbage truck. Most systems reported no violent incidents as a result of escapes.

Most escapes were from minimum or community custody, where escape is easier. Only a small number of escapes took place from medium or maximum security institutions - 428 in 1989 and 327 in 1990. In 1990, California had the highest number of escapes (1,406), while Oregon had the highest rate of escape (7.7%). Missouri had the least, reporting no escapes. In 1989, Washington state had 148 of its 7,905 prisoners escape (1.87%); 3 from medium or maximum security facilities, 36 from minimum custody, 89 from work release, and 20 from other areas. All but 4 were caught. In 1990, Washington state had 145 of its 8,339 prisoners escape (1.74%); 1 from med/max, 34 from minimum, 87 work release walk away cases, and 23 from other areas. All but 23 of those escapees have been returned to custody.

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