The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) is reporting that seven (7) inmates at its re-entry/restitution center at Walnut Grove escaped on Sunday night. The inmates escaped while taking a smoke break outside the facility. Apparently, they simply bent the chain link fence down and stepped right out. You can read the Clarion-Ledger article here.
Escapes like these are always confusing. Walnut Grove is a facility where offenders can go to work and pay off Court-ordered restitution. The facility is also used as a re-entry center, to prepare offenders to re-enter society. Walnut Grove is more like a halfway house than a prison. Most offenders consider themselves to be very lucky to be at the restitution center, rather than a correctional facility. Most are short-timers and, in the case of offenders in the re-entry program, are about to be released. Why would someone so close to being released escape from custody? Sometimes the reason is the offender fears violence from another inmate. But usually, there is no explanation at all.
Escape guarantees that additional time will be added to the offender’s sentence. “Escape time” is served in a real prison, with a high security classification. How much extra time does escape add to a sentence? Pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated Section 97-9-45,
If any person sentenced to the Mississippi Department of Corrections for any term shall escape or attempt to escape from his particular unit or camp of confinement or the boundaries of the penitentiary as a whole, or shall escape or attempt to escape from custody before confinement therein, he shall, upon conviction, be punished by imprisonment in such prison for a term not exceeding five (5) years, to commence from and after the expiration of the original term of his imprisonment as extended in consequence of such escape or attempted escape.
The above statute applies only to felony offenders. In the case of an offender being held on a misdemeanor charge, an escape will result in an additional one-year sentence being added to the original sentence. See Mississippi Code Annotated Section 97-9-49.
Those are pretty serious consequences, especially for offenders who were about to be released. Hopefully, they will come to their senses and surrender peacefully.