* This story has been getting some play…
It took more than four days for the Illinois Department of Corrections to capture escaped prisoner Jared Carter. The hunt involved more than 100 department employees, as well as helicopters, airplanes, and state police personnel. But there’s one thing that was left out of the search due to Illinois state budget cuts: a prison canine unit.
To help slash his state’s budget, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn nixed five dog-handling jobs in the department last year, according to information obtained by The Quad-City Times. And, without handlers, that meant Gov. Quinn had to lay off the dogs.
Local police dogs were used in the search, which the Department of Corrections says worked out fine.
* But there were some items in Kurt Erickson’s original story unrelated to the search for the escaped prisoner that stood out for me. For instance…
The unit was in place primarily to search cells for drugs and contraband, and to sniff out problems with visitors and vendors.
Without those dogs, the guards have to do the cell and visitor searches on their own, so contraband could get by them.
* And then there’s this…
Along with having no dogs within the agency to search for fugitives, Shaer confirmed that one of the guard towers was not staffed when Carter walked off.
But, he said, Carter’s departure spot could not be viewed from the tower anyway. “The tower being manned was not a factor,” he added.
*** UPDATE *** From AFSCME’s Anders Lindall in comments…
Due to staff cuts, Tower One at Robinson is closed save for three approximately hourlong periods each day. Contrary to Shaer’s claim, frontline employees at Robinson report that Tower One is located just 200 yards from where the escape occurred and has a direct line of sight over the area.
Perimeter security has also been reduced at Robinson due to lack of staff. A van that used to patrol the facility’s perimeter 24-7 is now in use only from dusk to dawn, and even then not continuously as the van driver also performs other duties.
So at the time of this escape, the tower nearest the site was closed, there was no patrol outside the perimeter - and no canine unit to respond.
All this at a facility more than 200% overcrowded. Built for 600 inmates, Robinson had 1,209 at the department’s last quarterly report to the General Assembly.