A prisoner who scaled a fence to escape from the Cheshire Correctional Institution Wednesday evening, then stole a pizza deliver's vehicle has been found and arrested, according to police.
Department of Correction officials said the inmate, 25-year-old Luis Clarke, of New Britain, hiding during an outdoor recreational break and they discovered he was missing at 6:15 p.m.
A sweatshirt stained with blood was found near a tall barbed wire fence, along with a picnic table that was positioned upright, to help Clark scale a fence, according to police.
After the escape, Cheshire Police received a call from a pizza delivery driver who said his 2002 Toyota Avalon had been stolen from a plaza parking lot about three-quarters of a mile from the prison.
He said he’d left his keys and cell phone inside the car.
Investigators were able to ping the phone in Wallingford and later in Meriden.
Clarke had left the stolen vehicle at a parking lot at Cheshire Academy and had a passing driver him to a residence in Meriden before he was taken into custody, according to State Police.
Clarke was serving an 18-month sentence for violation of probation and was classified as a low-risk offender. The DOC said Clarke escaped from a minimum security housing unit called the Cheshire Annex.
Clarke has been charged with escape in the first degree and larceny in the third degree. Bond was set at $500,000.
Corrections officials said Clarke will be reviewed for placement as a high-security prisoner at Northern Correctional Institution.
Rudy Demiraj, who is President of AFSCME Local 387, which represents the correction officers and other staff at Cheshire CI, released a statement in response to the escape:
“The steady elimination of positions and reduction of staff presence within Connecticut’s prison system has left us more vulnerable to these types of incidents occurring. Initiatives enacted by the agency that allow for more leniency for inmates have also contributed to the increased risk facing our staff and our surrounding community.
“Our jobs are dangerous and demanding. We understand that coming in. But we need to recognize the negative impact of cost-saving and inmate incentive programming on the safety and security of the staff and the public.”
The DOC also released a statement reacting to the union's comments.
"It's disingenuous of the union to claim that this incident is directly correlated to staffing levels at Cheshire Correctional Institution. The fact of the matter is that staffing levels at the Cheshire Annex haven't changed in more than fifteen years.
"It's important to note that the Cheshire Annex, separate from the main campus of the Cheshire Correctional Institution houses very low security offenders nearing the end of their sentences," wrote DOC spokesperson Karen Martucci.