The escape and failure to account for inmates was another black eye for the Lake Region Correctional Facility, which three inmates have escaped from since 2015.
Last month’s escape of registered sex offender Seth Suko from the Lake Region Correctional Facility led to more discussion of security at the jail during Tuesday’s County Commission Meeting.
Suko, who was in jail on several Eddy County charges, including fleeing police and reckless endangerment, slipped under one fence and over another during outdoors recreation time and was gone for 30 hours before jail staff noticed.
The escape and failure to account for inmates led to the resignation of Capt. Duane Armstrong, who was the head corrections officer at the jail at the time.
The discussion at Tuesday’s meeting echoed past discussions after escapes in 2016 and 2015, as commissioners bemoaned the age of the building and its range of security issues, including the fencing that was inadequate to keep Suko contained.
Commissioner Ed Brown, who also served on the Law Enforcement Center board, called for a review of the 40-plus year old building.
Commissioner Lucas Wakefield acknowledged those issues but expressed frustration at the lack of oversight that led to the latest escapee going unnoticed for about a day and a half.
“A prisoner escaping is one thing, a prisoner escaping and not being noticed for so long is an entirely separate thing,” Wakefield said.
Commissioner Jeff Frith wondered if the US Marshals Service, which has removed inmates at the LEC in the past due to security concerns, would be appeased by another building inspection.
The LEC’s bottom line suffers when the Marshals decide not to send inmates to be housed there due to security issues, as the facility’s revenue is largely tied in with inmate counts.
Whatever the Marshals decide as far as their prisoners go is unknown, but commission chairman Mark Olson did say that the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation looked into the latest escape and decided that the corrections officer directly involved at the time of Suko’s escape should not be fired.
“It’s no excuse, but they understand we (have) a very young group of jailers there,” Olson said.