Corrections Facility Releases Violent Criminal Into Community

    Corrections Expert Witness

    This case involves a man who murdered his wife and mother-in-law while on temporary leave from a corrections facility. The man had an extensive criminal history including domestic violence against his wife and had recently violated a restraining order his wife had taken out against him. The man was sentenced to jail, given a no-contact order for the woman, and prohibited from owning a weapon. He was transferred to a corrections facility, where he was allowed to go to a temporary employment center for a few hours 2 times a week. On the day in question, the man never showed up to the employment center. He broke into the house of his wife’s parents and murdered his wife and his mother-in-law with a stolen gun. It was later discovered that the corrections facility knew the man had gone AWOL but had no means to contact his wife to warn her. An expert in corrections was sought to opine on the standard of care for community corrections centers and address whether the center in question was negligent in releasing the man into the community unsupervised and unmonitored.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Please describe your background in corrections.
    • 2. In your experience, what minimum standards must an inmate meet to be approved to leave the facility?
    • 3. If an inmate is permitted to leave the facility, under what conditions would you alert individuals who may be threatened by the inmate?

    Expert Witness Response E-070896

    I retired from one of the largest sheriff’s departments in the country after 37 years of service rising from deputy to undersheriff. As an assistant sheriff, I oversaw a large municipal jail operation. As director of a youth authority, I was responsible for some 6,000 young men and women in custody and another 8,000 on parole. As the chief probation officer, I had as many as 600 youths in detention and another 20,000 adults and juveniles on probation. I have taught leadership and risk management courses for law enforcement and corrections personnel throughout the state for the 18 since my retirement. In my experience, persons with a violent criminal history and known orders of restraint from a judge are not eligible for parole. Inmates who are on work release should be supervised by a competent corrections officer, equipped with a weapon or, at the minimum, a means to alert the authorities of an AWOL inmate. Any agency releasing inmates in the community should have checked the threat level of the inmate first. A history of violence, threats, or court restraining orders should disqualify such an inmate from being placed on work release. Any time an inmate escapes or goes AWOL, the agency should simultaneously check for specific warnings or potential victims while searching for the inmate. The agency should be aware of potential victims and have the ability to contact them directly. Agency investigators should be on call for emergency follow up and protection measures.

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