CT prison employees, union speak out about escapee
Posted January 11, 2018 11:18 a.m. EST
ENFIELD, CT — Three days later and there's still no sign of the 25-year-old inmate who escaped from the Carl Robinson Correctional Facility in Enfield.
The Department of Correction, state police, and U.S. Marshals have joined the search, putting out a $1,500 reward for information on Jerry Mercado's whereabouts.
Meanwhile, there is still discussion about how he was able to get away in the first place.
"I think that this was probably an escape of opportunity that was sought by the inmate," said Colin Provost, president of CT State Prison Employees Union Local 391.
The Department of Correction believes Mercado stowed away under a state-owned maintenance van, or maybe a garbage truck that was on prison grounds around noon Sunday.
The president of the state prison employees' union said it happened on a day when fewer people are working.
"It is definitely decreased on weekends so we do have Monday through Friday officers on the compound. So, there was less on that day then there would've been on a Friday," Provost said.
The head of the DOC acknowledged there was an issue with security.
"We are examining security protocols at each of our 15 correctional facilities across the state," said DOC Commissioner Scott Semple.
Provost said a proactive approach is needed.
"Every facility staffing has been at lower levels then they were in 2011 and we've been cautioning against the possibility that we believe that they are gambling with this idea that lower staffing is going to remain safe on compounds and on the other facilities around the state," Provost said.
He said in years past, there were more eyes watching, especially outside at Carl Robinson.
"There was an additional perimeter officer and vehicle that was on the compound in 2011 and there was an additional rec yard officer that was reduced in 2015. Both of which would have had vantage points that could have decreased this opportunity," Provost said.
In a statement, Commissioner Semple said "Although we are within the early stages of the Carl Robinson escape investigation, preliminary reports do not indicate that staffing levels were a contributing factor to the breach. For safety and security reasons, we do not speak publicly on staff to inmate ratios or details about the approved post plan. We routinely review agency post plans which at times result in the addition of posts and at other times result in removing posts. Specific to the Carol Robinson location, I can confirm there hasn't been a significant fluctuation when compared to six years ago. Our focus remains on being an active partner in the efforts to apprehend escapee Jerry Mercado. The US Marshals recently announced a monetary award for information leading to Mercado's arrest and we encourage the public to contact law enforcement with information. As a precautionary measure, security audits are underway at all of the fifteen correctional facilities across the state."
As a security precaution, the DOC Commissioner says security audits are taking place at all 15 correctional facilities across the state.
Union officials say they estimate they're down, between layoffs and attrition, 205 positions between 2011 and mid-year 2016.