Inmate furloughs giving some a chance to flee in Sumner Co. - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Inmate furloughs giving some a chance to flee in Sumner Co.

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GALLATIN, TN (WSMV) -

Breaking out of jail may be easier than jumping the barbed wire fences in one Middle Tennessee county.

A new report shows a number of inmates in Sumner County have escaped while doing things as simple as taking a trip to the doctor.

The jail is surrounded by thick walls and barbed wire, and Sumner County Sheriff Sonny Weatherford said it's rare for an inmate to try and run away.

"Someone would have to walk you out to get you out," he said.

Still, dozens of inmates have managed to escape the facility by taking advantage of a break ordered by a judge called an inmate furlough.

"Generally, it's to go to a doctor to have some treatment. Occasionally, it's allowed to go to a funeral," said Sumner County District Attorney Ray Whitley.

When the judge grants a furlough, the inmate is given time, a date and time to come back.

Sheriff's officials say 43 inmates have been charged with felony escape in Sumner County since 2011, and a majority of them were out on furlough when they ran away.

In 2012, then-inmate and convicted sex offender Stevie Robertson made headlines after he was granted furlough for a doctor's appointment and disappeared for two days.

"The alternative is to have security personnel with these people 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we just don't have the funds to do that," said Sumner County Criminal Court Judge Dee David Gay.

Gay said furloughs are routine and necessary, and sheriff's officials agree.

Some 90 percent of the nearly 750 inmates are incarcerated for addiction problems, and a majority of furlough requests are from inmates seeking drug rehabilitation.

Sheriff's officials say it usually takes about a day or two to locate an escaped inmate, and when those inmates go back to jail, they can expect to be in a lot more trouble with the judge.

"If they do not have a record, their jail time will be one to two years in addition to what they're in jail for," Gay said.

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