Should OCC inmates live outside the protection of prison security? The issue is a focus of an NBC 10 investigation after we received proof that one inmate escaped. It’s a claim Royce Toney denied until now.
For weeks, NBC 10 has been investigating explosive reports, about OCC prisoners who live overnight at a trailer at the Rifle Range, a public facility that’s paid for by your tax dollars. According to DOC guidelines, DOC inmates are supposed to return to prison once they’re done with work.
The initial report of a simple escape, filed September 4, shows that John Crain, an inmate with a history of seven DWIs, broke loose from his trustee job at the rifle range.
public report shows that Crain escaped after his relative, Timothy Thomas of
“Captain David Jones called in a request for assistance at the OPSO Rifle Range. This case is open and under investigation.”
“I can’t put them in pink underwear. I can’t put them in tents. So I put them to work,” Sheriff Toney said, during one press conference to the media.
But documents, like OCC paperwork and an initial report from the sheriff’s office, show that hard time apparently wasn’t so hard for five inmates, identified as John Douglas Crain, Clinton Downing, Sydney Finklea, John Tipton and Steve Wade.
All of them are handymen and mechanics by trade. According to the sheriff, Crain did over $100,000 of work by installing safety equipment for free on sheriff’s patrol cars as a trustee. The sheriff says it’s a practice that saved taxpayers money.
But what did these convicts get in return? Starting June 21, they all got the special privilege of living overnight at a trailer at the Rifle Range, instead of returning to prison life at OCC.
That living arrangement came to a halt September 4, the day after John Crain was caught in the act escaping from the Rifle Range in a vehicle driven by his relative.
When NBC 10 first asked Royce Toney about the escape, he said he didn’t know what we were talking about, and denied there was any investigation into the matter.
But once several requests for information were filed, we received paperwork about John Crain, whom the assistant warden called a “serious escape risk.”
only was Crain arrested for seven DWIs, he was also charged in one incident
where he stole a rehab counselor’s car and took it on a joy ride all across
But what you won’t find on Sheriff Toney’s rap sheet is an arrest for escape, especially since the report would have been listed on the sheriff’s public Web site.
However, this week, DOC officials changed their tune, and told NBC 10 that Sheriff Toney’s special case for allowing inmates to live on the Rifle Range is an “exception” to their strict rule.
Here’s the response from the DOC:
“Sheriff Toney had a discussion with DOC's Chief of Operations Jeff Travis several months ago (his guess is at least six months ago) about periodically keeping a small number of DOC trustees at the rifle range, as events sometimes necessitated the trustees being there for long periods of time during the day or several days in a row. I can't give you an exact date as this was a verbal request, not written. DOC's permission to allow this arrangement was with the understanding that deputies would be present the entire time the trustees were there (as it was the Department's understanding that deputies actually lived on the premises).”
NBC 10 demanded that the DOC produce the paperwork that shows when Sheriff Toney made that special request, but DOC officials couldn’t give us an exact date.
But who would Sheriff Toney have answered to if Crain had hurt himself, or committed another crime? And did the inmates get special treatment?
was transferred from OCC, to
Why would Sheriff Toney move Crain three times, if the investigation into Crain’s escape hasn’t been completed? And why did it take nearly two months for Sheriff Toney to turn in the investigative report to the district attorney’s office?
Sheriff Toney denied repeat requests for an interview.