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  #1  
Old 05-05-2004, 06:48 AM
DeniseJJ DeniseJJ is offline
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Post work-release woes

Death spotlights work-release woes

By
Montgomery Advertiser




For the family of Melva Sue Johnston, May 1 is haunted by brutality and death.

Johnston was murdered on the first day of May 2002 at the hands of an Alabama work-release inmate. Her body was discovered two years ago today in a field outside Rave Motion Pictures, where she had supervised Eugene Eutsey and other work release inmates as they cleaned the theater.

At the time of Johnston's death, the numbers of inmates in the work-release program was at 3,591, nearly 2,000 inmates more than its designed capacity of 1,660. In recent months, the number of work-release inmates has dropped to about 1,600 currently. But in the time since Johnston's murder, the number of inmates escaping hasn't changed much.

A total of 153 work-release inmates escaped from May 2002 to March 2004, or an average of 6.7 inmates per month. In the 23 months prior to Johnston's death, an average of 7.7 inmates escaped per month, or a total of 177 escapes.

And work-release inmates, who are supposed to be transitioning back into society, have been responsible for 180 assaults since October 1999, or an average of 3.3 assaults per month, according to Department of Corrections statistics.

In November, after a work release inmate checked out to an individual escaped, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Donal Campbell told the Montgomery Advertiser "there is not enough accountability" in the work-release program.

"We in Corrections should do more checking on inmates. There is a lot of potential for things to happen," Campbell said.

Repeated calls to Campbell for comment about what has been done since that time were not returned. However, there are no plans to change the system that allowed Eutsey to kill his supervisor and many others to escape, according to DOC spokesman Brian Corbett and Steve Hayes, director of community corrections for the Corrections Department.

"We're not looking at changing anything currently," Corbett said.

Work release inmates' bad behavior isn't limited to violent assault. Some less publicized incidents include inmates having sex on the job, using drugs and getting their hands on weapons.

On Jan. 1, 2001, a Montgomery work release inmate escaped from his job at the Waffle House on Troy Highway after he was caught having sex with a woman in the restaurant's restroom, according to a DOC incident report.

On July 5, 2002, an Atmore work release inmate was caught coming back into the facility after work with something suspected to be marijuana, according to a DOC incident report.

On Sept. 27, 2000, a Loxley work release inmate escaped from his job at a truck stop. He was found later at a gas station across the street, intoxicated and carrying a loaded gun, according to an incident report.

The state of Alabama's work release program is not acceptible to Johnston's family, which has filed a wrongful death suit against the Corrections Department.

Johnston, who was employed by the janitorial service that cleaned the theater, was supervising Eutsey on the night she was killed. Intent on escaping, Eutsey killed Johnston with a 45-pound piece of asphalt and drove away in her car. Last month he was sentenced to life without parole for the murder.

Kenneth Mendelsohn, an attorney who has filed a wrongful death suit against the Corrections Department on behalf of Johnston's father, Melvin Johnston, said the state's work release system is in dire need of reform.

"They're totally unsupervised. The people driving them to work are not officers, they're other prisoners. They have complete freedom of movement," Mendelsohn said.

Corbett confirmed that in some cases inmates are driven to work by other inmates, and said the prisoners wear civilian clothes while on work release.

Corbett declined to say which businesses employ work release inmates, saying it is not public information.

The Corrections Department has work release centers based in 12 cities, including Montgomery. In Alabama, work release is supposed to help integrate inmates back into society, while giving them the opportunity to earn some money.

"They're working. They're holding down a job. They're paying child support. They're paying restitution," Corbett said.

The state also makes money in the deal, earning $850,466 from the work release program in March. The amount earned varies, especially now that the number of inmates on work relase has declined.

Currently 1,683 inmates are on work release, compared to about 3,600 in May 2003. Corbett said the decrease was due to the state's increase in paroles for nonviolent offenders.

"We're drawing from the same pool," he said.

Corbett said due to the millions of dollars difference between the Correction Department's budget needs and the funds allocated to it by the Legislature, the department needs to rely on money-making programs such as work release to survive.

Corbett declined to comment on the suit's central allegation -- that Eutsey never should have been on work release in the first place.

Eutsey, who was 24 at the time of the killing and serving a 15-year sentence, had already escaped once from work release.

Just three months before killing Johnston in Montgomery, Eutsey escaped while on work release in Barbour County. As in Johnston's case, he stole his supervisor's car and took off, according to court records.

Authorities should have known he would try again, Johnston's attorney Mendelsohn said.

"To me, it's predictable that he would try again," Mendelsohn said.

Eutsey was caught, and pleaded guilty to theft. The prosecutor dropped the escape charge, so it does not appear as a conviction in Eutsey's file. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

However, Mendelsohn contends that it was clear from the description of the car theft contained in Eutsey's prison transcript that he had escaped. And even with no escape on Eutsey's record, it is against work release regulations to put an inmate on work release within three years of a felony conviction, Mendelsohn said.

"He wasn't eligible by their own standards. If they aren't reading the documents, how do we know how many others are out there on work release that aren't eligible?" Mendelsohn asked, adding that he has "problems with work release, period."

Corbett said the Corrections Department's policy for work release eligiblity was that the inmate must be three years from their minimum release date or three years from their parole date.

In court filings, defense attorneys are challenging the validity of the suit by calling Johnston's behavior into question.

"She had actual knowledge of the existence of a potentially dangerous condition," one defense document asserted.

Other positions cited by the defense include that Johnston failed to review and screen inmates and exercise reasonable care, and that she was reported to allow inmates to violate Corrections Department guidelines. The defense also has filed a request for Johnston's computer, hoping it could "shed light on an alternate suspect" or "shed light on the circumstances surrouding the underlying events . . . including but not limited to whether there existed a relationship between Ms. Johnston and Mr. Eutsey." A trial in the case is set for this summer in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Last edited by DeniseJJ; 05-05-2004 at 06:49 AM.. Reason: ad's removed
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  #2  
Old 05-05-2004, 07:54 AM
lace lace is offline
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You know just because this one guy messed up doesn't mean it holds true of every work release inmate...we have had some great guys come along and work in our company and went on and was released and are doing well.
Alot of our guys live for the time they can get into work release and then home.
There are two sides to every story and I'm really tired of hearing the OTHER side which is almost always negative!
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Old 05-05-2004, 08:20 AM
DeniseJJ DeniseJJ is offline
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I know Lace, the last few days I have been so FEDUP with the whole chabang. I know Kenny is starting to since my feelings, he's lightened up on calling and has made serveral comments about if i don't feel like visting not to worry about. I know our relationship is stronger than most and we will make it out of this mess but all the negative trash is overwelming some days. I mean if people really cared there would be "the other side" in articules like this one but it's so easy just to forget about "our men".

What's even worse is that the inmates read these stories to and they need postitive news even more these days with so many of the being released and/or placed on work release
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Old 05-05-2004, 11:22 AM
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You know that's strange because my son told us the same thing when we visited him 2 weeks ago. He said you don't even have to come here as much if you don't want to.
It's like he's just give up. Maybe it's where they are at that has alot to do with it. (Bibb)
I talked to Susan Belcher at the parole board again today and she told me it didn't look good for him meeting the criteria for this new secondary docket they have because his crime involved breaking in a couple of unoccupied houses and stealing guns. They told me they had to treat it as a personal crime and there had to be victim notification. This is all too much they are treating him as if he's killed someone. There was no one in these houses no bodily harm or injury. It should be treated as a property crime. Anyway I'm fed up too. I mean sometimes you do all you know to do and never hear anything good. It's done got old and know one gives a crap...
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Old 05-05-2004, 11:35 AM
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I don't understand why people judge all inmates from one "bad apple". It just doesn't make any sense. When I worked at the chicken plant...there were ALOT of WR guys out there...yeah...there were some out there drinkin', doin' drugs, and stuff...but all of them weren't. Most of them were just happy to be able to be out in the "free world" and mengle (sp?) with people...ya know? I just don't understand!!
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Old 05-05-2004, 11:52 AM
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Selena I work at Wayne Farms in the hatchery and we have always treated our work release with respect. One of supervisors there baby and pampered them because we heard horror stories of how they would do them at Decatur Work release. We saw to it they had food and other things they needed to get by on and since some have been released they come by every now and then to visit and let us know they are ok. They even write us. We have one man there that got out and he's still with us today.
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Old 05-05-2004, 11:58 AM
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Oh by the way if the parole board thinks my son may not meet the criteria for this new secondary docket why are they not letting people know just what the guidelines for it are?????
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Old 05-05-2004, 12:38 PM
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lace, havent you heard? its an ancient chinesse secret!! God im old!! i just pray your old enough to get the humor...lol
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Old 05-05-2004, 12:41 PM
DeniseJJ DeniseJJ is offline
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I email the parole board last week and was told by c.dillard that Kenny's did meet the criteria either..stating that there is NOTHING anyone can do until victims unit gets the the cases scheulded for october of 2003. She went as far as saying that NONE of the Legislative bills would even effect him...so what does effect him, i asked..she hasn't answered me back...I just cant believe that with all the NEW guidelines and bills and pressure from the feds that there is NOTHING to help us...
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Old 05-05-2004, 10:06 PM
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I feel you on that, lace. Me and alot of my friends (including supervisors) at GoldKist tried our best to make sure the WR guys had food. We would all take time about cooking or something. Alot of the guys that have been released still work out there...and have had promotions (lead people now).
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