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Inmates on the move
Walkaways from low-security facilities on the rise

08/13/15
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



The number of inmates who escaped from state custody by failing to check in at halfway houses or other low-security facilities on time doubled between 2013 and 2014 and is on track to be even higher this year.

 
Recent cases
New Hampshire Department of Corrections spokesperson Jeffrey Lyons said there were five walkaways in 2013 and 11 in 2014. So far, there have been nine this year, according to Lyons.
“During a typical year, we’ll see six or seven walkaways,” Lyons said.
In one of the most recent cases, on July 23, Bruno Joseph Martin walked away from the Calumet Transitional Housing Unit in Manchester. Martin left the halfway house to head to work that morning, and when he didn’t arrive at 10 p.m. as scheduled, he was placed on escape status. Then, less than 24 hours later, a second man from the same facility named Charles Arthur Namiot walked away. Namiot, who was serving two to eight years for armed robbery, was found four days later in Manchester as he was about to turn himself in. Martin, who was serving two to four years for burglary, was caught crossing the border into Canada.
And on July 3, a male inmate escaped from the Corrections Transitional Work Center in Concord and was returned to custody 12 days later.
Earlier, on May 21, a male inmate at the North End Transitional Housing Unit in Concord walked away, and a female inmate walked away from the Shea Farm Transitional Housing Unit in Concord just hours later. Both were caught within a few days.
Lyons said that while these cases are informally known as walkaways, they are still taken very seriously.
“It can still be charged as an escape because you’re escaping from official custody,” Lyons said. “We call it a ‘walkaway’ because these inmates are already being allowed to walk away from the facility to go to work, for example, to go to job assignments, to go to AA meetings or NA meetings. Sometimes, we give them permission to go job-seeking, or give them permission to have a furlough where they might spend a couple days with a family member.”
 
Why they walk
Lyons said that the inmates will leave or miss curfew for a variety of reasons, often including substance abuse.
“More often than not, we have found that these are inmates who … now have this taste of freedom. They are at a much lower level of security. They have much more flexibility to come and go, and I think they take advantage of it, hoping they can maybe go out and visit a friend, possibly go out and obtain narcotics or get a drink or something under the guise of going to work,” Lyons said.
Occasionally, Lyons said, they’ll sabotage their imminent parole for fear of the responsibilities that living on the outside entails. 
Unless investigators determine an inmate missed their scheduled hour of return for a legitimate reason like a medical issue, inmates are invariably charged with escaping and may get their prison sentences extended.
“A majority of the people do what they’re supposed to do because they want to be released on time and they want to move on with their lives, but there’s always some who either get anxious or excited or make thoughtless decisions, and it just causes more problems for them,” Lyons said.
Joe Diament, the director of the DOC’s division of community corrections, oversees the halfway houses. He says every case is unique, and there’s no data to suggest the increase in the number of walkaways is attributable to drug addiction or any other single factor.
“There is no single, driving cause,” Diament said. “We are dealing with people in the criminal justice system, and it’s an actuarial business. Some people respond to what we do. Some people will not.”
While Diament said he’s concerned about the increase in walkaways, there’s little to be done about it.
“I’m not doubting that the trend is upwards, but it’s not due to any significant change in policy,” Diament said.
However, Diament did say he thinks it probably couldn’t hurt to expand transitional services.
“I wish we had more facilities,” Diament said. “One of the realities is we keep pushing the number of beds up in these facilities to the maximum allowed, and, frankly, the facilities are overcrowded.”
The Calumet house in Manchester has about 78 beds, the Shea Farm house for women has about 48 and the North End house has 44 beds, according to Diament.
And staff at each house has been spread thin.
“There used to be two or three councilors available at each facility. We now have one,” Diament said. “The department has been cut repeatedly. People want to lock a lot of people up, but they don’t want to pay for it.” 
 
As seen in the August 13, 2015 issue of the Hippo.





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