The unnamed woman had been arrested and was being released on June 5 at around 8 a.m., when she failed to follow instructions on how to exit the St. Louis Justice Center, Commissioner Dale Glass told the Post-Dispatch.
Glass said jail staff told her: “Go down the hall to the elevator. Go down to the first floor, make a right turn.”
But after going into the elevator and pushing all the buttons, she ended up on the fifth floor, where she walked through a fire exit door—which can only be unlocked by staff or from the outside—becoming trapped in the stairwell.
The door alarm on that floor had been disabled, and although staff heard the noises she made, Glass said, they could not locate the source.
Finally, on June 7 at around 6 p.m., they spotted her peering through the window of one of the doors.
Glass said the jail has since changed their protocols.
According to the official website, the City Justice Center is a “state-of-the-art facility” opened in 2002, with the capacity to hold 860 inmates.
Of course, jails are more likely to make the headlines with stories of inmates escaping. But the number of escapes has been dropping in recent years, according to some reports.
Faxing Their Way Out of Jail
In May, a woman was jailed for 15 years for helping spring her boyfriend from an Arizona jail by posing as a sheriff’s deputy. Maxine Feldstein, 30, was sentenced after pleading guilty to forgery, third-degree escape, and second-degree criminal impersonation.
According to the Northwest Arkansas Gazette, Feldstein managed to free her boyfriend from a Washington County jail with nothing but a phone call and a follow-up email to which she attached an “authentic-looking form.”
The couple were arrested on July 14, 2018, according to the Gazette, and were held at the Washington County Detention Center. Feldstein made her bond the following day, after being charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.
But her boyfriend, Nicholas Lowe, remained in jail, on hold from Ventura County Sheriff’s Office in California for false impersonation.
But Lowe had a plan.
During a jail visit, Lowe persuaded Feldstein to pose as a deputy from Ventura, according to court documents cited by KFSM.
Identifying herself as “Deputy Kershaw with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office,” Feldstein called the jail July 27, persuading the on-duty deputy that Lowe was to be released as Ventura County jail was overcrowded.
Feldstein claimed to have sent a fax with an official release form. When the deputy said he had not received the fax, she sent him an “authentic-looking form” via email, releasing Ventura County’s hold, according to the affidavit cited by KFSM.
The plan worked—until the couple were both captured less than three weeks later in Fayetteville and found themselves once again in a county jail.
They were both charged over the escape—but Feldstein bore the brunt of the charges.
3 Percent of Inmates
According to analysis from three national databases over an 11-year period, about 3 percent of all inmates escape from prison at some time while serving their sentence.
Every year, around 1.4 percent of the correctional population escapes, according to the 2005 study (pdf) for the University of New York.
However, the vast majority of escapes—88 percent—were from low-security level prisons.
“Among escapees from the more secure prisons, more than 92 percent are captured and returned to prison within a year of escaping,” according to the report.
The report notes that escape rates have dropped with the rising incarceration rate in recent decades—a decline that still continues, according to more recent reports.
The decline is attributed to improved security of new prisons, the gradual aging of the correctional population, and a drop in the number of property offenders whose skills on breaking into buildings easily convert to the skills for breaking out.