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How frequently do inmates escape Minnesota prisons?

Touchstone Pictures

On June 6 this summer, staff in New York's maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility discovered two inmates had gone missing, launching a weeks-long, $23 million manhunt that ended in law enforcement killing one of the escapees and wounding the other.

While the chase played out in real time on national news, an inmate named Patrick Buswell escaped from Stillwater prison’s minimum-security unit, albeit in much less cinematic fashion: When no one was looking, he walked away.

Buswell’s fugitive status didn’t last long. Within the week, law enforcement found him holed up near Holcombe, Wisconsin, and dragged him back to prison.

For this week’s installment of Random Acts of Data, we’re looking at how frequently inmates escape from Minnesota prisons and how long they last on the lam.

The short answer: not often, not long.

Since 2005, only 11 inmates have escaped from Minnesota correctional facilities — all of which have been walkaways, as in the case of Buswell.

InmatePrison facilityType of prisonEscapedApprehended
Terrance AdamsStillwaterMinimum securityAugust 13, 2005August 16, 2005
Wade PelvitWillow RiverEarly release programAugust 26, 2005August 26, 2005
Jeremiah RobertsStillwaterWork crewApril 19, 2006April 19, 2006
Wayne JonesStillwaterMinimum securityDecember 11, 2006December 11, 2006
Jun VangLino LakesMinimum securitySeptember 9, 2007September 15, 2007
Jason JacksonLino LakesWork crewAugust 14, 2008August 18, 2008
Reric JoensLino LakesWork crewMay 8, 2009May 12, 2009
Lowan TaylorStillwaterWork crewJanuary 11, 2013January 15, 2013
Angel BenjaminShakopee Female Facility(No fence)December 2, 2013December 2, 2013
Jeffrey WeidellStillwaterWork crewApril 7, 2015April 11, 2015
Patrick BuswellStillwaterMinimum securityJune 12, 2015June 16, 2015
Source: Minnesota Department of Corrections

Jun Vang holds the record for the longest time on the run in that time period. In 2007, Vang, who was serving the tail end of an attempted-murder sentence, sneaked off the grounds of Lino Lakes prison and stayed free for a whopping seven days. The incident stirred controversy in the suburban town because prison officials didn’t inform the public of Vang’s escape for 45 hours.

The walkaways have led some to wonder if even minimum-security facilities should invest in more fences. Two years ago, when Angel Benjamin liberated herself from the Shakopee prison, only a hedge stood between her and an elementary school. Shakopee cops apprehended Benjamin in a mere 23 minutes after learning of the escape, making her one of four people who didn’t last a full day as a fugitive. Earlier this year, Shakopee started construction on a new fence around the facility.

Random Acts of Data is an occasional series by MinnPost reporter Andy Mannix and news editor Tom Nehil. The goal: to answer questions about all things Minnesota using the vast amount of data at our disposal. If you have a question you’re wondering about, send an email to data@minnpost.com with the subject line, “Random Acts of Data.”

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Comments (1)

Kudos

That is a great choice of an illustration for this article.

The article itself was also interesting. I had to conduct a witness interview at the Shakopee prison once, and was surprised at how easy it was to get onto the grounds, and how easy it would have been to leave. I'm surprised more inmates have not taken advantage of that.