Walking away

Escapes on the rise in work-release program

Before 2005, an inmate work-release program in Craig went five years without a worker escaping.

But when Charles Edward Yoder, 40, walked away from Correctional Alternative Placement Services on Ranney Street last week, he became the ninth client to do so this year.

Including Yoder, three of the escapees are still on the run.

"I don't know what it is," CAPS director Cindy Talkington said about the recent rash of escapes.

When clients escape, they must return to jail and serve additional time, Talkington said.

Statewide, there were 193 escapes from community corrections facilities from July 2003 to June 2004, according to a report by the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice.

CAPS has 42 clients in the resident program, which means participants live on the CAPS premises. The program has 20 clients in the non-resident program, in which participants are required to check in with officials.

The Department of Corr--ections pays the private company to provide transitional housing for inmates and work-release programs.

CAPS hasn't made any policy changes in the past year that would cause an increase in client escapes, Talkington said. Clients just seem more willing to walk away from the facility, she said.

Yoder has an escape charge on his record, but he was still allowed to participate in CAPS.

Typically, CAPS won't accept a client who has a previous escape, Talkington said. The company accepted Yoder anyway.

Yoder's escape was from law enforcement officers 10 years ago, not from a community corrections facility, Talkington said.

Yoder removed his handcuffs and tried to run from authorities while being transported to court, Talkington said.

Yoder spent 10 years in prison for the escape and a weapons charge. The older a charge the more likely the CAPS board will disregard it, Talkington said.

The board will review the Yoder case and see whether it made a mistake by letting him into the program, board member John Ponikvar said.

"We'll see if there is something there we as a board may have missed," Ponikvar said.

Ponikvar has been on the CAPS board for 16 years and said he has never seen a year like 2005, when so many clients walked away.

"We're trying to get good criminals," Ponikvar said. "Criminals who will be successful in the program."

When Ponikvar began with CAPS, alcohol played a role in most of the crimes that landed people in jail and eventually CAPS.

Now, drugs play more of a role, and the inmates are more transient, he said.

CAPS isn't the only correctional facility in the area with an escape in recent weeks.

An inmate worker from the Moffat County Jail escaped earlier this month and remains at large.

This was only the second inmate worker to escape in the past 16 years, jail administrator Dean Herndon said.

A work-release inmate escaped from the jail in September.

"Normally, when they are doing work release, they don't escape," Herndon said. "This is abnormal. Maybe it's something in the water."

But a deputy at the Moffat County Jail said escapes are part of the business.

Cpl. Vickie Hays-Rayburn has worked at the Moffat County Jail for eight years. Before that, she worked for CAPS for three years.

Although a surprise, inmate escapes come with the territory, she said.

"People aren't here because they like to follow the rules," she said.

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