Life on the Breaking News Desk at The Oklahoman can be exciting, but there are slow nights that give us some time to think up stories to write.
This prison project came from a night last summer spent looking over the Department of Corrections website for something to write. One story that caught my eye was that of Jose Garcia, a 20-something man who was arrested in Oklahoma City for drug possession. He had been on the lam for 40 years after walking away from a hospital in Oklahoma City while undergoing medical treatment. His story, or as much of it as we could find out, is told here along with Teddy Ellis, a convicted murderer who escaped from prison 25 years ago.
Unlike Garcia, Ellis remains on the state’s Most Wanted list. Here’s a taste from the project that will include photos, videos and the stories of these two men.
The Oklahoman’s latest special coverage on the Department of Corrections’ most wanted escapees gives you a look inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, high profile prison breaks and manhunt procedures. It also has stats on how many state offenders have escaped in recent years.
As a blog element, I thought it would be interesting to include national statistics, so I’ve included a map above with the numbers of escapes reported to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2008 by each state. (Reports for 2009 and 2010 are not available at this time)
Statistician Paige Harrison said the numbers vary because each state has its own definition of what officials count as escapes.
These are not all ‘escapes’ as defined by the media and public. One jurisdiction may only count actual breakouts. Another may count walkaways or furloughs who fail to return, some of whom may be held in halfway houses, not prisons.
The BJS has provided escape statistics dating back to 1999. Harrison said some states might have changed the definition of escapee over the years, resulting in sharp spikes and declines in the numbers.
It appears Oklahoma changed its definition of an escapee between 2006 and 2007 when the number of fugitives went from 157 to 13. Check out of the rest of the list here.