How an inmate can escape while officers follow 'all policies and procedures'
By Kevin Keen. CREATED Jun 21, 2013
PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - An inmate escaped from the Pima County Jail, and the sheriff’s department admitted officers made mistakes. Then, it happened again. But this time the department said officers followed all procedures and policies. How can that be when a bad guy got away for some time? KGUN9 News investigates.
During the escape in October, inmate Cesar Lowe ran away from a corrections officer escorting him outside. Dozens of deputies searched west side neighborhoods and found him hours later.
KGUN9 uncovered that officer failed to handcuff and shackle the inmate, failed to have a partner with him and failed close the gate. Read more of KGUN9's two-part investigation.
“I can tell you that the Pima County Sheriff's Department as well as the county has taken every step available to us,” Capt. Sean Stewart said in February, “and we've corrected any of those loopholes or problem areas that we saw to ensure this doesn't happen again.”
Seven months later, another inmate escaped. He took off in mid-May from a jail loading area, where a van waited to take him to the minimum security facility. Deputies caught 26-year-old Matthew Martinez minutes later in the nearby desert.
KGUN9 obtained newly released investigation reports, which state Martinez explained to investigators he was "tired of 'everyone's [expletive]'" at the minimum security facility and his plan was to "walk back to his home in Marana."
What went wrong again?
The sheriff's department said in this case “all the policies and procedures were followed.”
How could that be when an inmate escaped?
“In this case, it was different,” Dep. Jesus Banuelos said, explaining Martinez was as "inmate worker" doing kitchen work at the jail. Others in that role pick up trash or clean up city streets. They’re also known as “trustees.”
“They aren't shackled or cuffed when being moved and transported,” Banuelos said. “They wouldn't be able to do their job if they were cuffed or shackled.”
Certain inmates can take part in the program when they're serving less than a year and are not likely to try to escape, he said.
“In this instance, Mr. Martinez chose to and we just don't know why,” he added.
Martinez, in fact, was serving just 30 days for assault. He had ten days left, according to the department.
“This is an incident or situation that we don't like to see happen,” Banuelos said. “We definitely take steps in order to try to avoid these situations. But, in order to eliminate this completely, we would have to take away the worker program. This one incident shouldn't dictate whether this program continues because we do believe that it's something that's good for the inmates.”
The sheriff’s department said Martinez's suspected actions will not lead to changes in the program or in jail procedures.
Martinez faces escape charges, and court records show he might take a plea deal. He declined to talk to KGUN9 for this story.