WBR jail leads in work release inmate escapes with 22 in 2 years
BATON ROUGE - A new audit has found that the state's work release program for prisoners has had more than 250 escapes in the past two years alone.
The legislative auditor found that the program does have its benefits, including saving money on inmate housing and decreasing the number of offenders who return to prison after they are released. However, more work needs to be done to ensure inmates aren't able to escape.
West Baton Rouge Parish Jail led the pack with the most escapes with 22 incidents. Among the escapes, the audit found one prisoner left his job then reportedly kidnapped a man from a Baton Rouge hotel. He made the victim get in the trunk of his own vehicle after he beat him with a gun and robbed him. He was mistakenly released to freedom, but he is now back in custody after he was captured again in New Orleans. He now faces more charges connected to the kidnapping.
The audit says the Department of Corrections doesn't have sufficient procedures in place to minimize these escapes, and the DoC needs to enforce its policies on inmate transfers to make keeping track of inmates easier. Some type of tracking or spot checks are recommended by the audit to keep inmates on the job. With those measures in place, auditors feel more inmates could participate in the program safely, saving money in the long run. The program is not operating at full capacity now, missing out on a potential $7 million in savings.
Other recommendations included the need for a better job when it comes to deducting money from the prisoners' earning to go toward restitution and legal fees. Strong monitoring from the state of the various work program providers was also mentioned as a much needed fix.
The Department of Corrections oversees the transitional work program, but it's run by local sheriff's offices and private companies. Offenders with criminal records that include violent crimes, sex offenses or habitual offenses are ineligible for the program.