A summer of hospital escapes

If you feel like you've seen an uptick in hospital escapes in the past two months, you're not alone. Becker's has reported on at least five instances in which individuals in custody have evaded authorities and escaped from hospitals since early August. 

Most recently, Tommy Boyd, 45, escaped custody while receiving care at St. Louis-based Mercy Hospital South on Sept. 20. Video surveillance shows Mr. Boyd, a convicted child sex offender serving a 30-year sentence, walking out of the hospital in the early morning hours of Sept. 21. Missouri authorities captured him that evening about 6 miles north of the hospital, the St. Louis County Police Department said in a statement.

On Sept. 23, Isaac Rivera, 24, escaped from UMass Memorial-Marlborough Hospital, and authorities captured him less than 24 hours later.

Yenchun Chen, 44, also made headlines this past month for his escape from New York City-based Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital. Police say Mr. Chen, arrested for criminal possession of a controlled substance, used towels to rappel down the side of the hospital from his fifth-floor room Aug. 4. He was on the run for more than a month before he was captured Sept. 12.

On Aug. 30, murder suspect Christopher Lee Pray, 39, a patient at Oregon State Hospital in Salem, also escaped by stealing a transport van after staff members left the keys in the ignition, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. He was apprehended two days later. 

Meanwhile, police are still looking for homicide suspect Christopher Haynes who escaped from George Washington University Hospital on Sept. 6. Police said Mr. Haynes escaped custody in the hospital's emergency department after physically assaulting an officer who was attempting to cuff one of his hands to a gurney. Authorities are offering a $30,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

The U.S. Department of Justice tracks data on prisoner escapes, though this information does not distinguish how many are from hospital settings. Nationwide, 2,231 people escaped from state and federal prisons in 2019, down from 5,168 in 2000, federal data shows.

Many inmates who attempt hospital escapes likely plan them far in advance, according to inmate advocacy consultant Kevin Tamez. 

"Very rarely do these guys go to the hospital for treatment and all of the sudden they decide they're going to escape," he told Newsweek in 2015. "What happens is, traditionally, inmates go to the hospital for treatment. … They come back to the facility and they start telling other inmates" about the strength of its security measures.

Mr. Tamez said it's also easy for correctional or security officers to let their guard down during medical visits and transports because they become so routine. Federal prisons often see fewer inmates escape from hospitals, as they often provide on-site medical treatment. 

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