One month after two inmates' deadly prison bus escape, the Georgia Department of Corrections is outlining what went wrong.
In a review released Friday, the commissioner Gregory Dozier shared what they learned about the incident and how they will move forward. He began by expressing his condolences to the families of Sgt. Christopher Monica and Sgt. Curtis Billue who were killed when Donnie Russell Rowe and Ricky Dubose escaped a prison transport bus on June 13.
"My heart remains heavy with the realization of the loss to these families, to this agency, and to the state," Dozier said.
"I ask that you continue to pray for their families as they try and make sense of this violent and heinous act in the days, months, and years to come."
Dozier outlined five breaches in procedure that resulted in the murder and escape.
Each prison requires specific search procedures before inmates are removed from the building and placed on transport busses. Dubose and Rowe originated from Baldwin State Prison were they , along with 11 other inmates, were searched via a pat down. Somehow, Dubose was able to conceal the tool he used to escape. "They were able to take a pen or a toothbrush on the bus that day," Dozier said.
Dubose removed his handcuffs two minutes after boarding the transport bus, according to the review. He then also removed handcuffs from "many other offenders," including Rowe, while the bus was in route between prisons.
Procedure requires the handcuffs to be double locked but the review notes "the ease with which IM Dubose removed his own cuffs, and those of many other offenders around him, suggests that this did not occur."
The inmates were left unattended at least two times while stopped at Baldwin and Handcock State Prisons. Leaving inmates unattended is against standard operating procedure. The report states that Dubose and Rowe were able to break into the compartment that separates the inmates from officers using either a toothpick or pen.
SECURING THE OFFICER COMPARTMENT
The report reads, "the lock hanging on the door separating their compartment from the officer's compartment on the bus had not been secured." An investigation by the GBI revealed that the lock was operational and the key was on the key ring with the bus.
The inmates were able to open it within a minute. While in the compartment, the inmates reportedly "rummaged through the officers' lunches," before returning to their seats.
Dozier said this was the first time the compartment was breached. The second is when they entered the compartment to confront the officers.
"At the time of the escape, the inmates were able to take the weapon that was stored on a shelf behind the officer and use that weapon for the murder and the escape," Dozier said.
Not securing the gate was identified as the "single greatest point of failure."
WEAPONS | BALLISTIC/STAB VESTS
Procedure requires officers to carry their weapons on their person and wear ballistic vests during transport. According to the incident review, neither Sgt. Monica nor Sgt. Billue wore either item. Instead, their handguns were stored in storage boxes during the trip.
Sgt. Billue's ballistic vest was found inside his personal vehicle. Sgt. Monica was never assigned a ballistic vest but his stab vest was not at work with him, according to the review.
After the deadly escape, the department of corrections implemented changes to their prison transport procedures that range from new pre-boarding checklists to additional supervisors being involved in the process. They also implemented a permanent trail vehicle that will follow prison transport busses.
Some other changes include:
- Annual training for prison transport staff
- Installing key retaining padlocks
- Video cameras pointed at officers
- Annual audit of the transportation operations
Dozier said improving their operations is a top priority. "They are determined, I am determined, not to allow an event like this to take place again," he said.