Two inmates back behind bars after jail escape

HENRY COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) – Two inmates are behind bars again, after escaping from the Henry County Jail early Monday morning.

The two inmates were discovered Monday afternoon, at Steve Wilson’s house, who says he’s known Johnny Dennis for years.

“I got to watching the news, and I’d seen pictures in the paper, and I just knew they escaped. It was just a matter of time before police showed up,” said Wilson.

“I told them, I said, you got two choices. Either, take off and get gone, or go turn yourself back in. They were contemplating that, then the police showed up,” said Wilson. Wilson said Dennis told him he was trying to get down to his dying mother in Texas.

Neighbor Crystal Latham said she was home at the time.

”That scared me. That really scared me. If my kids would have been home, out in the yard… you just don’t know,” said Latham.

24-Hour News 8 went back to speak with the Sheriff Monday afternoon, about how he’s working to prevent this from happening in the future.

Sheriff Butch Baker with Henry County says their jail was originally made to house 68 inmates. But for years, he says, the jail has housed double that. Monday, there were 112 inmates.

He says Johnny Dennis and Michael Bertram escaped through a pantry, housed inside the rec room. It’s in the rec room, he says, because they needed the space to feed all the inmates they house.

“If this was the rec room, like it was supposed to be, they wouldn’t have had access to get out onto the roof here. That was built back in 1999,” Baker said. Baker says another inmate attempted a similar escape from the pantry about ten years ago, before he was sheriff. He says that inmate got stuck in the process and never made it out. Baker says the inside of the wall there has been patched up, but you can still see where it happened from the outside.

Sheriff Baker says last year, the county implemented a Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee to take a look at the justice system in Henry County. They’re looking at alternatives, to cut down the overcrowding, like alternative sentencing, alternative programs.

They had an assessment report done by the National Institute of Corrections in September of 2013.

Baker says they’ve got a request in right now for a NEEDS assessment of the county-wide criminal justice system. He’s hoping it’ll be funded, but he says, the money’s just not there right now.

“Money fixes everything. If we had a newer built jail, in a POD construction, then would we have escapes? Yeah, because there are new jails out there today that have escapes from time to time to time. Would it be easier to manage and take care of from our side of it and reduce the chances? Yes,” said Sheriff Baker.

“It’s a process that’s not going to take place overnight, it’ll take 2, 3, 4 years.”

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