77 inmates escaped, captured from state transitional centers over 2 years

'Recapture process' of escaped inmates

In June, we told you about two men on the Georgia Department of Corrections "most wanted" fugitives list who had escaped from the Macon Transitional Center

After our story ran, the DOC notified WMAZ that the two men had been recaptured.

Those two men were Yancey Tanner and Marcus Johnson. They both escaped from the Transitional Center in 2015. 

According to incident reports from the DOC, Tanner climbed out of a bathroom window, and Johnson walked straight out of the facility. 

So WMAZ started digging deeper and found that in the last year and a half, 77 people have escaped from Transitional Centers across the state. 

Chelsea Beimfohr began asking questions about how the state Transitional Centers work, and what are the consequences of an escape? 

The Macon Transitional Center lies on the outskirts of downtown. It resembles a hotel, but it's not filled with travelers and tourists. Instead, it's filled with about 150 criminal offenders near the end of their prison sentences. 

According to the DOC, the mission of the state's transitional centers is to "protect the public by providing community residential services to inmates prior to their discharge or parole from incarceration." 

Offenders live in the centers, take part in programs and assignments, and get a paying job in the community. 

To have the opportunity to transfer to a Transitional Center, an offender must receive a referral from either the Board of Pardons and Paroles or the Classification Committee within a state prison.

The decision about which offenders are selected is based on criminal history, behavior while incarcerated, release date, and a number of other factors-- that's according to the DOC website. 

But how well is the community protected when the security level for some of the centers - like the one in Macon - is listed as minimum?

Gloria Jean Collins says she's lived down the street from the Macon Transitional Center since it opened in 1972. 

She's never had any problems with offenders or the facility, but she was surprised when WMAZ told her that in the past year and a half, five offenders have escaped. 

"How do they get through the system? And why aren't they paying closer attention," says Collins. 

Through an open records request WMAZ found that 77 inmates have escaped from Transitional Centers across Georgia since January 1, 2016. 

The facility with the most escapes? The Atlanta Transitional Center with 16 escapes. Then, the Clayton Transitional Center with 14 escapes. 


Those 77 escapes represent about 3 percent of the statewide transitional center inmate population. Which translates out to about 1 escape per week. 

The warrant logs WMAZ obtained from the DOC show that all 77 of the escapees have been recaptured. 

According to Gwendolyn Hogan with DOC public affairs, state law gives offenders 8 hours to return before an escape warrant is issued. 

In an e-mail statement to WMAZ, Hogan says:

"GDC dedicates all of our Fugitive Unit resources towards immediate action in the cases. It is rare for an offender to leave with the intent of escape."

Hogan explained that most offenders claim they lose track of time, or get caught up doing drugs or alcohol with a friend and are scared to come back. 

Frank Howard lives about 2 miles from the Macon Transitional Center. He thinks when an inmate escapes from a transitional center it could be considered the lesser of two evils. 

"As scary as it is for people to escape from something like that, I am much more afraid of a situation where they get out of jail and they are on the lose without any transitional period," says Howard. "I believe they deserve a second chance."

Incident reports from the DOC show that one of the Macon escapees was recaptured during a routine traffic stop, and another was tracked down by a local sheriff's office. 

According to Hogan, when an inmate is recaptured they could face up to 10 additional years in prison. 

We asked the DOC if it was alarming that nearly 80 inmates have escaped in the last year and a half. Hogan says...

"We do take walk aways from our centers and failure to return to our centers very seriously and we are committed to public safety. Offenders housed at our transitional centers are part of a community-based program, which helps them prepare for their re-entry into society. 

© 2017 WMAZ-TV


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