Corrections officials talk about challenges after two inmates walk away from Sioux City Facility
By Jacqueline Quynh, Multimedia Journalist - email
SIOUX CITY (KTIV) -- -
Still no sign of an inmate who walked away from Sioux City's Residential Treatment Facility five days ago.
28-year-old Justin Miller was convicted of willful injury causing serious injury and assault while taking part in a felony. He pled guilty in 2009.
Investigators say Miller punched and kicked then 14 year-old Bryan Hill until he lost consciousness, while Hill waited for the bus near the corner of 13th and Nebraska back in 2007. Hill had to be hospitalized. They also say Miller stole Hill's Gameboy.
So how did someone like Justin Miller, convicted of committing a violent crime, just walk away from a residential correctional facility?
In Iowa, the state board of parole periodically reviews cases of everyone in prison, and unless there is a mandatory minimum sentence, inmates can be eligible for parole or work release.
"They are empowered to grant parole or work release to offenders when they feel that, when the offender is willing and able to fulfill the obligations of a law abiding citizen," Lettie Prell, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Corrections said.
In this case, even though Miller was convicted of a violent crime, he was no longer considered high-risk after serving just three years of a possible 15 year sentence. That made him eligible for a work release program.
"Work release is for offenders ordered to that placement by the board of parole as a gradual introduction into that community," Prell said.
Seems like it could be tempting for inmates to walk away, but if they do, the consequences are high.
"They know they can be returned to prison," Prell said.
So why would it be hard to track down a missing inmate?
"In some locations some sex offenders in the facilities, yes, do wear ankle bracelets, when they leave the facility, and are monitored. The majority of our offenders in these placements are not monitored in that manner," Prell said.
Correctional staff monitor those members by calling employers or checking places they're expected to be. Most of the time this works. So far this year, Prell says only 8 percent of some 6500 have walked away. Prell says most of them are usually caught within two weeks.
Prell says many violent offenders are placed in work release program because there is a high amount of oversight and supervision.
Inmates are trusted to come back, but if they don't authorities GO looking for them right away.
"You know there's no, I guess, designated hiding spot for them, the walkaways in town, basically, typically, we look for girlfriends, family members, etc, and that's who we're usually looking for," United States Deputy Marshal, Michael Fuller said.
Deputy Fuller says if you have any information on the whereabouts on Miller you are urged to contact local authorities.
And he warns people not to help missing inmates because they can be charged for aiding and abetting.
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