(NewsNation) — Over the past several weeks, multiple inmates have escaped across the country.
In Florence, Alabama, a jailhouse romance triggered a nationwide manhunt starting April 29 for escaped inmate Casey White and the corrections officer who helped break the capital murder suspect out of jail, Vicky White. U.S. marshals later tracked down the couple, finding them in Indiana. Casey White was captured, and Vicky White died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
On May 12, Gonzalo Lopez, an inmate with ties to the Mexican mafia, escaped a prison transport bus in Texas after stabbing a guard. While on the run, Lopez would go on to kill five members of the same family before eventually being shot and killed by police.
Now, an inmate out of Ohio remains on the run. Investigators say he and four others broke out of the STAR Community Justice Center in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, on Saturday. The sheriff said the inmates escaped by cutting a hole in the fence using a bolt cutter, most likely thrown over a fence by one of the inmate’s fiances. Four of the inmates have been captured. Authorities are still searching for Thomas Charles Comberger. Anyone who spots him is urged to call 911.
How do the escapes keep happening, and what can be done to prevent them? One sheriff says the answer is simple: Hire more guards and make sure they follow the rules.
Lauderdale County, Alabama Sheriff Rick Singleton’s jail was at the center of the nationwide manhunt for escaped inmate Casey White and corrections Officer Vicky White. He joined NewsNation Prime to comment on the jailbreak in Ohio and doesn’t think the escapee has gone far in this case.
“I think it’s [escapes have] always been happening. In our case, the fact that we had an inmate who was awaiting trial for capital murder made it somewhat unique. The escape in Ohio with low-level drug offenders, based on my experience, they are probably there somewhere close. They’re not going to skip out across the country like ours did,” Singleton said.
Singleton said since the Casey White escape, changes have been made at the Lauderdale County Detention Center.
“We put too much responsibility and authority in one person. Vicky White was the assistant director of operations. She coordinated transport from the facility from A to Z. She was the only link in the chain. We have since changed that,” Singleton said.
“We’ve reviewed our policy. We had a good policy. We had a good protocol. They just weren’t followed. That’s because we put too much authority and responsibility in a single person. We’ve now incorporated better checks and balances.”
How do inmates persuade people to help them escape? Singleton says they have a lot of time to think about different persuasive techniques.
“They’re sitting there all day and they’ve got all day to think of ways to persuade people to help them. Including developing a romantic relationship, that happened in our case,” Singleton said.
According to Singleton, the Lauderdale County Detention Center has 12 openings.
“This is a tough job. They’re underpaid, they’re overworked. It’s not a job that anyone can do. It’s not a job that just anyone wants to stay with. We had a resignation today … Our local fast-food restaurants now pay about what we pay an entry-level corrections officer — $14.92 an hour,” Singleton said.
“It’s a challenge. It always comes down to funding. It’s always a fight to get your share of the budget that you need.”