Some heavily-armed corrections officers swarmed the
Spokane Off-Road Vehicle Park earlier this week as
they practiced catching a pair of escaped inmates.
Sometimes, low-risk offenders at the Airway Heights
Corrections Center are allowed to work outside the
fences, shoveling snow, delivering firewood, and battling
wildfires. On rare occasions, an inmate tries to escape,
and a drill this week tested what type of response
we'd see from the Department of Corrections.
The exercise got its start when two offenders doing
landscaping outside the prison kidnapped their gardener
and fled in their work crew van.
We have one offender who has escaped on foot and
we have one offender who
is holding the gardener hostage,
said DOC employee Mike Rainville, describing the exercise.
The gardener tried to thwart the escape by deliberately
crashing the van. The impact broke the offender's
leg and now he's threatening to the driver with a
While the prison's version of SWAT prepares to track
down the inmate on foot, negotiators gear up to free
The first responsibility being community safety and
then ultimately a win-win for us, if at all possible,
to gain the trust of that person and resolve the issue,
without it escalating to violence, said DOC Deputy
Director Scott Russell.
The 2,300 inmates still inside the corrections center
were locked down in their cells so the staff could
concentrate on the escapees. Their previous phone
calls and visitor logs searched for clues about where
the outstanding inmate could be found.
We're constantly working on gathering and gaining
intelligence that we can use to help prepare staff
for these type of situations, said Russell.
This exercise is the last part of a week-long academy
that teaches DOC staff from across the state how to
take command of critical incidents and resolve them.
It really gives us the ability to respond to emergencies
much more effectively, regardless of where it's at
throughout the entire state, so it's critical, said
In the end, the negotiators were able to free the
hostage, which means no one got shot. The other inmate
tracked down by the Special Emergency Response Team
and brought right back here, where in the real world,
would face a new escape charge.