No policy changes in the works following convict escape


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Despite a third escape in one year, officials at a local work-release facility said there are no policy changes in the works.

Alajuwon S. Johnson was placed on escape status last week, but officials said they remain confident in the surveillance measures taken by the organization when dealing with residents.

“We haven’t made any plans to change our policies at this time,” said Sam Black, the supervisor of the Hope House.

Johnson, 27, arrived at the Hope House on June 13 after being placed in a work-release program by the Iowa Board of Parole, according to the Department of Corrections. He was placed on escape status after failing to return from seeking employment on a furlough.

Johnson spent a little over a year in prison in the death of 20-year-old Kylie Jo Perkins on Dec. 30, 2009, before being transferred to the facility. In March 2010, he accepted a plea agreement involving an Alford plea to the charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Black said escapees are a continuing concern for the facility and the first 30-45 days can show what will happen with a resident during their stay.

“It’s pretty telling in terms of how well a person is going to invest in the programming here,” he said.
Johnson never made it to Day 30.

Fred Scaletta, a public- and media-relations director at the Department of Corrections, said in situations like this, officials will review the practices and policies of the Hope House to see if there is something they can change.

“In this particular case, there was not much to be done that would have prevented it,” Scaletta said. “It is common any time something happens, we take a look and see if there is something we can change. In some cases, there are.”

This isn’t the first such case.

Brett Young escaped on Nov. 10, 2010, after being sent to the Hope House on probation for a drunk-driving offense, Scaletta said, and Joseph D. Dahlen escaped on Dec. 23, 2010, after being assigned to a work-release program following a second-degree robbery charge. Both were eventually caught.

The Hope House, 2501 Holiday Road, is one of 22 residential correctional facilities in the state, and it is operated by the 6th Judicial District Department of Correctional Services in Cedar Rapids. The facility has around 55 residents at a time, with employees who help them find work and stabilize their lives.

Hope House residents are released from the facility to seek employment. While searching, they are required to file a plan that lists job locations, contact information, and approximate times at the location, Black said, so officials may show up to verify information.

“The idea we hope to impart is that we can be anywhere at anytime checking on [the residents],” he said.

When a resident does escape, officials secure a warrant, either from the court or the Community Placement Office Division in the Department of Corrections at Oakdale depending on the clientele, to search for the resident, Black said.

Officials also contact the local law-enforcement agencies and provide a report to Scaletta, who notifies the public.

While the judicial district also takes on the escapee case, Brotherton said, the Iowa City police don’t have the resources available to join the manhunt. But the Iowa City CrimeStoppers have joined in, offering $1,000 for information on Johnson’s whereabouts.

Black said interviews with people who were a part of Johnson’s original investigation have happened. If Johnson is caught, Black said, he will be immediately taken to jail and his work-release will likely be revoked.

“I would love to say that it’s going to take place this afternoon,” Black said. “[But] as with any matter of this nature, the leads take time to follow.”

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