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After A Prisoner Escapes

Illinois Department of Corrections

The state agency that oversees prisons does not expect to make significant changes to its operations, following the escape of an inmate last week from a minimum security prison located about an hour east of St. Louis.

Officials issued an alert when 21-year-old Marcus Battice escaped from Vandalia Correctional Center, where he was serving time for stealing a car. Battice turned up the next morning, about three-and-a-half miles away.

Illinois Department of Corrections Director of Communications Tom Shaer says it was spontaneous; the 21-year-old didn't bring warm clothes, extra food or water, and he'd been classified as low-risk -- eligible for parole in January.

Beyond that, Shaer says the investigation into how Battice managed to get away is ongoing, and will continue to be for awhile. Investigators have talked with more than 100 people, and will have to talk with anyone in contact with Battice in the weeks leading up to his escape.

But already the department has come to some conclusion, including a decision that it likely does not need to make many changes what it does to prevent escapes.

"Because there's nothing to indicate that policies or procedures led to this escape. That's why we hadn't had an escape at Vandalia in 17 years," Shaer said. "So if there were a systemic problem or there was something at Vandalia, meaning this was bound to happen, we would have known about it and it would have happened sooner. Which it did not."

Vandalia will still get a few tweaks. Shaer says more razor wire has been added across the facility - including along the fence and on top of buildings. There's also increased observation and security of inmates as they go from the commissary to their cells.

A different inmate walked away from a work crew in Robinson last year and was on the loose for several days. That did result in a minor change: when prisoners work outside the walls, their bright orange clothes are now printed with a state phone number. Shaer says it's believed that prisoner wanted to turn himself in earlier, but didn't know how.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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