Documents reveal security concerns prior to seven escapes at correctional facility

At least seven escapes have occurred at SEPTA Correctional Facility in Nelsonville since September. (WSYX/WTTE)

An inmate who was only at a private prison for a week, managed to escape making him the seventh person to get out in the last nine months.

Razor wire sits in spools outside SEPTA Correctional Facility in Nelsonville, while deputies search for Richard Rush III.

Upgrades were planned for the facility but had not been completed before Wednesday night’s most recent escape, according to the program’s director.

“We will not be armed in this facility,” director Scott Weaver said. “It’s not the intent although we’re labeled as a correctional facility, our intent is to integrate the inmates back into society.”

Weaver said Rush was is the facility for drug-related charges and was in the recreational yard Wednesday on the second tier, when he climbed the fence and took off.

Since September, reports show at least six other inmates escaped from the facility since September. The facility considers the inmates low-level offenders.

The state does not operate the facility, however, SEPTA requested a security assessment in April following more inmate escapes.

ABC 6 On Your Side Investigates was told details and recommendations are not public since it’s security information.

However, those recommendations are being implemented now, according to facility staff. It was said more staffing, lights and cameras are being added.

ABC 6 On Your Side Investigates obtained the most recent August 2015 audit report on SEPTA by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. It noted several areas SEPTA could improve its operations, including:

  • Provide at least 40 hours of structured activity for each inmate every week.
  • Separate low-risk from high-risk offenders in treatment groups to avoid negative influence on low-risk offenders.
  • Limit groups size to 12 for treatment because in many cases there were 20 inmates to one facilitator.
  • Director should better supervise staff and provide training and feedback on a routine basis.
  • To avoid future overspending like in 2015, it’s suggested treatment programs avoid oversights.

Surveillance of inmates, especially those deemed suicidal, assault or an escape risk, SEPTA was considered “compliant,” according to the 2015 audit. That requires inmates be checked upon every 20 minutes.

Additional security improvements, while they aren’t being discussed, Weaver said are in the works right now.

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