Orange County, Ca., Sheriff's officials said they were “extremely troubled” that it took at least 16 hours for deputies to realize three inmates had escaped last week, as new details emerged about the lengths the trio went to break out of the high-security lockup, the Los Angeles Times reports. With the inmates now at large for five days, the jail has come under intense scrutiny for several policies that some believe may have made the escape easier. Jail personnel conduct only two physical head counts of inmates per day, one at 5 a.m., the other at 8 p.m. Investigators believe the three men vanished after the 5 a.m. check, and the escape was not discovered until late Friday night.
Although this is the second major jailbreak to make national news within a year, prison escapes are actually rare and getting rarer in the U.S., the Christian Science Monitor reports. In 2000, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported 37.1 escapes per 10,000 prisoners. In 2013, this rate had decreased to 12.7 escapes, Even the rate of 12.7 escapees per 1,000 inmates is misleading. BJS groups together “escapes” and “AWOL” (Absent Without Leave) incidents to arrive at the total. While “escapes” includes events like last summer’s New York State escape by two convicts and and Friday's events in Orange County, AWOLs are less exciting but more common. AWOL can include a prisoner who comes back late from furlough or can't be identified on a worksite for a few hours. Looking exclusively at escapes, the national rate in 2013 was 10.5 per 10,000 prisoners.