Former prison warden calls escapes 'unacceptable'

Former prison warden calls escapes 'unacceptable'
Retired ADOC Warden David Wise from a February 2017 interview. Source: WBRC
Retired ADOC Warden David Wise from a February 2017 interview. Source: WBRC

SPRINGVILLE, AL (WBRC) - Exactly how two inmates were able to break out of a maximum security prison early Monday morning has not been confirmed by Alabama's Department of Corrections (ADOC). WBRC first reported the escapes at St. Clair Correctional and the resulting manhunt when ADOC sent out two emails reporting the escapees.

The information from ADOC said Antwone Wilson and Ronald King, both 27, escaped from the prison around 5:15 a.m. Monday. Wilson was serving a life sentence for robbery in Jefferson County. King was serving a 50 year sentence for burglary in Jefferson County.

ADOC would not confirm specific information WBRC has received about the escape, but said the facility is secure and ADOC is investigating details of how it happened.

Former St. Clair Correctional Warden David Wise retired from ADOC in 2010 after 28 years of service. He's been watching coverage of the prison escape, praying no one gets hurt. He said this is exactly the kind of security failure that can result from lack of staff.

"Escaping from inside the fence is unacceptable," Wise said. "These facilities are ticking time bombs that put the public at risk."

The last ADOC report in which staffing data was available was June 2017, which listed total staffing for major prison facilities at 49%. The correctional officer staffing level was 42%.

WBRC has reported on ADOC's low staffing and the resulting violence and security lapses, most recently an investigation that exposed widespread contraband cell phone use by inmates, including two convicted killers using Facebook from death row.

Violence in Alabama prisons has increased as staffing has dwindled. 228 assaults have resulted in inmates suffering a serious injury in 2017, according to year-to-date numbers from the latest ADOC statistical report. 195 inmate assaults resulting in a serious injury were reported at the same time in 2016. So far in 2017, 9 inmates have been killed by other inmates. That compares to 6 inmate homicides at the same time last year.

Wise said current leaders at the prison have not received the resources they need and it's dangerous to run prisons without properly manned posts, but Wise doesn't think building new prisons is the answer.

"You can't run a maximum security prison the way it's been done these past five years," he said. "The only thing to make it right is money, people, intense training, and vetting. The whole system is broken."

UPDATE: One of the escaped inmates, Ronald King, was captured in Birmingham Tuesday after a tip led authorities to a Birmingham address, according to officials.

King surrendered without incident. Authorities continue to look for the second escaped inmate, Antwone Wilson. A spokesperson for ADOC said the agency is following leads and working with all levels of law enforcement to recapture the inmates.

If you have information about Antwone Wilson call local law enforcement or ADOC at 1-800-831-8825.

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