CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tennessee Justice System Flaws are Illustrated Through Escapees' Success

From's justice system that have allowed more than 150 Tennessee prison escapees to roam free, often enabling them to break the law again.

The danger posed by fugitives is profound. Convicts on the run from Tennessee prisons have murdered at least nine people during the past 30 years.

A Tennessean investigation reviewed the cases of hundreds of inmates who escaped from Tennessee's prison system since 1975.

More than one-third of escapees still on the lam had no warrants identifying them as fugitives. As a result, many were stopped by police, given traffic tickets, arrested and in some cases sent to prison, then turned loose — without anyone knowing that they should have been returned to Tennessee prisons. Some of them were later arrested on serious charges, ranging from armed robbery and attempted murder to sex crimes.

In recent years, the high-profile arrests of two Tennessee fugitives highlighted flaws in the way Tennessee handles warrants for escapees, but prison officials did nothing to remedy the problem. In fact, until presented with The Tennessean's findings in recent months, prison officials continued to insist that escape warrants were on file for all escapees.

Tennessee criminal justice officials point to a litany of past and present shortcomings. Some of the missing warrants were thrown out by mistake or as part of regular purging of older files. In many cases, officials have no explanation for why the warrants aren't active. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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