Dozens of inmates living in Massachusetts minimum security prisons – facilities where inmates can literally walk out the door -- have escaped or tried to escape before, a FOX Undercover investigation has found.
The state's minimum security prisons have been under scrutiny since late last year, when inmate Manson Brown escaped from one of the facilities and remained on the run for two months.
Brown had escaped twice before, raising questions about why he was even allowed to live in a minimum security facility. But FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet has discovered that he’s not the only inmate living in low security who has either escaped or tried to escape before.
Responding to a public records request, the Mass. Department of Correction says there are 61 inmates in minimum or pre-release security who have records of escapes or attempted escapes.
>> Click here to read the Department of Correction's response to Fox Undercover's request
“My gut reaction is that I'm frustrated that it would be that high in terms of the percentage, the number of people that are in minimum security that could have easy access out if they chose to take that option,” said state Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, chairman of the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, which is investigating minimum security prisons in Massachusetts.
The committee began its investigation after Brown became the target of a nationwide manhunt after his latest escape last November. He was in minimum security prison despite having escaped twice before.
Brown was serving time for home invasion and armed robbery. He took off after reading in the newspaper he'd been indicted for rape. Authorities caught Brown two months later in Georgia and returned him to Massachusetts.
“He's a criminal. He's walked away twice. He never should have been put at that lower security,” Steve Kenneway, former president of the union representing the state’s correction officers, said earlier this year.
DOC commissioner Harold Clarke declined our request for an on-camera interview, but sent FOX Undercover a statement saying, “(E)scape history is one of many elements taken into consideration during an inmate's classification. We also rely on research data and it shows that inmates discharged from minimum/pre-release facilities are less likely to come back to prison."
Clarke did sit down in January with FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet to discuss why so many violent criminals are housed in minimum security.
Beaudet previously reported that of 1,229 in inmates in minimum security, 285 have committed crimes against people including armed robbery, assault and battery, carjacking, stalking, home invasion, and kidnapping. There are even six inmates in minimum security convicted of second-degree murder.
Asked whether the state was putting the public at risk by allowing the criminals to live in what is essentially a prison they can walk away from, Clarke replied, “No. I don’t believe so.”
Clarke says he wants more prisoners ending up in minimum security so they're better prepared when they're released.
“Ninety-two percent of these people are going home. And so if they're going home, it behooves us to do all that we can to assure that once they get out there they're going to reintegrate successfully,” he said.
FOX Undercover also asked the Department of Correction why the department charged nearly $400 for the information, but a spokesperson said the department had no comment.