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Ohio conducting prison-wide review of inmate count system after escape

by ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS Associated Press Published: July 25, 2016 11:00 AM

Columbus -- The state is reviewing its system for counting inmates at all Ohio prisons after a mistake by guards allowed a convicted murderer's alleged escape in March.

The "Back-2-Basics" analysis will look at how counting procedures are put into practice by staff in the field and correct areas of concern, according to a report released July 22 by the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

The agency is also examining every inmate across the state with a history of escapes or attempted escapes, even going back two or more decades, "to ensure the inmates are classified properly and housed in an appropriately secure environment," the report said.

John Modie, 58, is facing an escape charge in Hocking County Court following his 24-hour disappearance from the Hocking Unit of the Southeastern Correctional Complex in Nelsonville beginning March 27.

A change of plea hearing has been scheduled for Modie for Aug. 23. Such hearings are typically held when a defendant changes a not guilty plea to guilty.

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A message was left with Modie's attorney seeking comment on the report and the change of plea hearing.

Modie climbed onto the roof of a prison building around 4 p.m. and waited until darkness to escape, the report said. Supervising guards missed Modie at a 9 p.m. head count by failing to verify an inmate count slip, according to disciplinary letters sent to two lieutenants.

Both were suspended for five days without pay this month.

Modie unsuccessfully tried using a rope made from inmate laundry bags to climb over two exterior fences, according to the report. When the rope got caught up on the fence's concertina wire, Modie dropped from the building and went under an interior fence without setting off an alarm, the report said.

Modie then climbed an exterior fence and, though receiving cuts from the wire, jumped down and ran, according to the report. Modie was discovered missing around 11 p.m. by an officer who oversaw his cell block.

Prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said a design flaw with the interior fence was fixed. She wouldn't comment on whether the exterior fence had an alarm.

Modie was captured the next night at an abandoned Nelsonville gas station as he was trying to get into a fast-food restaurant to get water, according to the highway patrol.

The inmate is now housed in the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, known as the state's super-maximum security prison. All inmates with a history of escape were removed from the Hocking prison, the report said.

Modie pleaded guilty in 2003 to beating a Cleveland woman to death in 2002.

Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/andrew-welsh-huggins


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