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Private Prison Escape Explained

On October 12, 1998, four prisoners escaped from the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) South Central Correctional Center in Wayne County, Tennessee [See: News In Brief, Feb. '99 PLN ]All of the escapees were eventually captured.

On January 15, 1992, CCA warden Kevin Myers appeared before the Tennessee state legislative Select Oversight Committee on Corrections to explain the escape. The committee was told the breakout resulted from a failure by South Central guards to follow proper procedures, and that a supervisor had been fired and two other employees suspended as a result of an investigation.

Myers cited two major procedural shortfalls. First, a supervisor delivered a mailed package (which contained bolt cutters) to a prisoner. The bolt cutters were later used by the escapees to cut through perimeter fences.

The second procedural failure occurred when a guard in the prison's control room shut off an alarm without checking to see what had caused it. The escape occurred during shift change. Myers blamed complacency and lack of attention to detail as a contributing factor to the escape. He also confirmed reports that CCA guards did not learn of the mid-afternoon breakout until they were later informed by a prisoner.

"Had I gotten complacent? Possibly," he told the committee. "I assure you I'm reviewing everything in that facility. There have been a lot of improvements made, a lot of money spent," said Myers.

The Tennessean, Commercial Appeal (TN)

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