Posted: Feb 25, 2014 4:51 PM by Chris Nakamoto
Updated: Feb 25, 2014 6:50 PM
ST. GABRIEL - There's new leadership at a state prison that has been plagued with high-profile escapes. Elayn Hunt Warden Howard Prince called it quits last week.
The State Department of Corrections said he retired, and was not forced out. Employees at the prison told News 2 his departure was sudden.
Gregory Moman lives across the street from the fence that circles the perimeter of the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center. He loves where he lives, but has concerns being so close to prisoners.
"The security, it should be a lot tighter," Moman said.
Two high-profile escapes happened under Warden Howard Prince's watch. The first happened more than a year ago when officials said Joshua Kelly overpowered an EMT, stole his clothes and drove off prison grounds in an ambulance. He was originally convicted of armed robbery.
"It bothered me later to think an inmate got out," Moman said, "we living that close."
Then days later, another escape happened at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women when convicted murderer Keanna Barnes reportedly climbed the fences and bolted. That facility is next door to Elayn Hunt, and operated under the umbrella of Warden Prince.
Barnes made the FBI's 15 Most Wanted Fugitives list. Her escape led to a large scale search around the prison, and a nationwide manhunt. Barnes was captured months later more than 2,000 miles away in California.
Despite the escapes, the Department of Corrections said they had nothing to do with the warden's departure.
"Hopefully it will get run a little better and get tighter security on inmates," Moman said.
Employees close to the warden told News 2, his retirement announcement was sudden. Some of his closest co-workers didn't even know he was leaving, but the Department of Corrections said it was planned for a while. Click here to read the email that was sent out by Secretary James LeBlanc.
The state said Prince is using "leave" before he officially retires. Deputy Warden Seth Smith is Prince's replacement.