At 7:38 p.m. Thursday night, Thomas Michael “TJ” Lane III, 19, and two other inmates scaled the fence at the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio. By 10:55 a.m. this morning, all three inmates were recaptured and transferred to the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio. The other inmates were Lindsey Bruce and Clifford Opperud.
Lane had been sentenced to life after he killed three male students and injured three other students during a school shooting in February 2012. Chardon High School, where the incident took place, cancelled classes for the day after hearing about the escape. Many people were afraid Lane would return to the area.
This escape brought up many questions about not only the safety of those in the area, but also possible issues with the correctional institution itself.
Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution has had two attempted escapes since 2012. One inmate managed to scale one fence and was caught between the inside and outside fence. The other inmate was apprehended right away. Lane, Bruce and Opperud scaled the fence and then scaled the roof of the entry building, which sounded the fence alarm.
Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution received its last review in April 2014. The inspection showed that the facility, with 1,635 inmates, was over their suggested maximum capacity of 1,418. These increased numbers could severely increase the risk of escapes and decrease the quality of security.
“Everybody knows that it does,” said Randolph Roth, professor of history and sociology at the Ohio State University.
Roth has spent a lot of time studying the criminal justice system and is teaching a class titled American Criminal Justice this semester. He has received access to hundreds of police reports and files for a project he is currently working on.
“When you really learn about these cases, you realize how little the public really know,” Roth said.
The police obviously can’t share all of the information of a case with the public, both to respect the privacy of the parties involved and to avoid causing panic or concern. But they completed the job quickly last night to contain the inmates and to capture them within 10 hours of their escape.
“We never like to have a problem which requires us to turn to our local partners for help, but when we do, we like knowing that they are there and are able to respond as well as they did last night,” said Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections director Gary Mohr. “It was a strong response that produced the desired outcomes and produced them quickly.”
The officers used heat-sensing cameras mounted to helicopters, as well as tracking the inmates on foot with police dogs to apprehend the inmates. Residents in the area were advised to stay inside while the manhunt continued.
“In these situations we (the public) have to assume he’s very dangerous, but we don’t know,” said Roth.
Following the escape, investigations are now being conducted to figure out what led to the relative success of the escape. Along with this, outside experts have been asked to review the procedures and give any suggestions for improved measures and safety.
As for the surrounding area, business is back to usual. While classes are cancelled for the whole day at Chardon High School, the football game scheduled for Friday will go on as planned.