Inmate reportedly walks out of Sugar Land prison

February 28, 2010 4:49:02 PM PST
A state prison in Sugar Land remains on lockdown as authorities investigate an incident involving a 19-year-old trustee. People with the prison received a tip that he left the facility last week without permission and returned a short time later. Taking long walks on a beautiful Sunday afternoon is one of Jack Alfeche's favorite pastimes. Just up the road from the tranquility that is New Territory, you'll find that life couldn't be more different. There, you'll find the Central Unit, a state prison on Highway 90 two miles west of Sugar Land.

"It's not bad as long as the inmates stay inside," said Alfeche.

As of Friday, prison authorities placed the unit on lockdown after getting word than an inmate assigned to the trustee camp left the grounds without permission and returned a short time later.

Officials say the convict, who is within 24 months of being eligible for parole, went to a nearby store within walking distance where he bought tobacco products. While they wouldn't tell us which store, the closet one we found was at the entrance to the new territory subdivision.

"Those offenders would not be able to leave and be unaccounted for and then come back," said Jason Clark with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. "That is something that's not permissible."

Prison officials say trustees are low-risk non-violent offenders who are screened before being placed in the camp. As the investigation continues, correctional officers and prison staff are going through the unit searching for contraband as part of its semi-annual lockdown.

"Do they have to do an overhaul over what the rules are? I don't think so," said resident Kathy Schwartz. "I think they need to look at this guy personally and see what was going though his mind for him to do that."

Still, other longtime residents say a little more scrutiny certainly wouldn't hurt.

"Everyone's got to do their job," said resident John Schwartz. "It is a prison. They are there for a reason, so they've got to keep an eye on those folks."

He adds that in spite of what happened, New Territory is still a great place to live.

The prison wouldn't tell us who the 19-year-old trustee is, only that he was sentenced to prison for burglary and theft. The Office of Inspector General is also investigating the incident.