(Update: As of Friday evening, Department of Corrections officials say that David Edwards and Nikita Brannon have been apprehended.)
Three minimum security inmates have walked away from South Carolina work assignments or facilities just during the last few days. The latest is 23-year-old David Edwards, missing from Campbell Pre-Release Center in Columbia since Thursday night. He was last seen at his work assignment at the Columbia Farms poultry plant in West Columbia.
Edwards is black, stands 5 feet 11 inches tall, 220 pounds, and has multiple tattoos. Edwards started serving a one year, four-month sentence in June for fraud insufficient funds check.
Also on Thursday, 22-year-old Patrick Frazier went missing from Aiken County’s Wire Road facility in Columbia the previous Thursday.
Authorities say the day before that, 31-year-old Nikita Brannon left er work release job at KFC in Irmo. Brannon had spent 15 months at Goodman Correctional Institution in Columbia on a charge of distribution of crack in proximity to a school in Cherokee County. She was scheduled for release next January.
All of the escapees now face felony escape charges that carry up to 15 years in prison.
Prison system spokesman Josh Gelinas says law enforcement and they’re on it. “Anytime a prisoner escapes, our Fugitive Apprehension Team is alerted,” said Gelinas. “And we send out bulletins across South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. Local law enforcement is contacted as well and all of these entities begin the search process.”
Gelinas says even with the walk-aways, the work release programs are beneficial: “It’s a carrot we provide to inmates. They’re allowed to go into the community, work, earn a wage, and get re-acclimated into society. It’s usually a privilege.”
Gelinas says those allowed to participate in work release programs are carefully selected. He says the inmates only have short times left to serve, and there’s no advantage to walking away but sometimes it happens.
Gelinas says there are more than 3000 inmates in minimal security facilities around South Carolina, and a handful of walkaways is still a low percentage. Out of 13 escapees last year, ten were work release and all inmates were recaptured.