TN Debates Arrests of Old Escapees; Is It Worth the Time, Money?


Tennessee’s six-month effort to corral dozens of prison escapees it had lost track of over the years has found 11 fugitives alive and 20 dead. But the state hasn’t fixed some of the institutional problems that helped create the situation, reports the Tennessean. In October, prison officials introduced Operation Clean Sweep, a broad roundup aimed at capturing escapees who had fled prisons and work release programs years ago, and correcting a system that made it easy for them to stay free. The effort came six weeks after the newspaper’s report on the lax system for tracking escapees. The problems allowed more than 120 fugitives to dodge capture for years.

But a disconnect between state and local law enforcers still hampers efforts to solve old escape cases. At issue is a debate over whether it’s worth spending thousands of dollars and tying up courtrooms to lock up older escapees who, in some cases, have lived crime-free lives for decades. A state prison official said some local prosecutors have been unwilling to go after fugitives, even when they know exactly where the escapees are. In several cases, prison investigators have found escapees in other states and asked for warrants for their arrests, only to be turned down by prosecutors.


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