An investigation continues after two inmates escaped from William Head Institution in Metchoin. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

How secure is a low-security prison?

Escape of two inmates from William Head Institution in Metchosin prompts concern

How secure is a low-security prison? It’s a question that’s been weighing on the minds of many following the escape of James Busch and Zachary Armitage from the William Head Institution.

The pair escaped from the Metchosin prison on July 7 at about 6:45 p.m. according to West Shore RCMP. The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) said staff members at William Head discovered Busch and Armitage were unaccounted for at approximately 11 p.m.

When an offender is discovered to be missing from an institution, staff complete a count of all offenders, conduct an emergency search of all areas of the prison and if confirmed missing, the local police service, stakeholders and regional senior management and CSC’s National Monitoring Centre are then notified.

RELATED: Inmates who escaped William Head to appear in court later this month

According to guidelines set out by CSC, the perimeter of a minimum security institution will be clearly defined but isn’t directly controlled. Firearms are not used or even housed in the facility, although the institutional head may permit the use of firearms during an emergency situation.

Inmates are expected to interact effectively and responsibly with minimal monitoring while demonstrating a high level of motivation towards self-improvement by participating in their correctional plan as stated on the CSC website.

In a statement released to Black Press Media, CSC said anyone entering their jurisdiction to be admitted into any institution must undergo an assessment where case-specific information — such as documents from police, courts and family — are reviewed to assist making an informed decision on the placement and security level for each offender.

“The offender’s security level is based on three factors: how the offender will adjust to the institution, the risk of escape and public safety,” Lucinda Fraser, regional manager of communications for CSC, stated in an email.

As an offender progresses through the correction system to lower security levels, they are given more freedom of movement and the programs and activities are tailored to more closely reflect the conditions the offender is likely to encounter once released into the community.

Fraser stated every escape is taken very seriously and public safety remains the paramount consideration. She added CSC reviews and conducts an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the escape and if any improvements are identified they will be implemented accordingly.

RELATED: Escaped William Head inmates recognized after commenting on of-duty RCMP officer’s dog

Upon recapture, an offender will undergo a new risk assessment to determine placement in the appropriate security level.

Fraser could not comment on the current location of Busch and Armitage as the information is protected under the Privacy Act.

On July 9 at about 8 p.m. Busch and Armitage were recognized by an off-duty RCMP officer who spotted them in Esquimalt and called 911. The two were arrested shortly after by the Victoria Police Department and turned over to West Shore RCMP.

The off-duty officer, Sgt. John Ferguson, was walking his great Dane named Lewis in the West Bay area in Esquimalt when the escapees commented on how big the dog is.

“I turned and said ‘thank you, he’s a big baby’ and I immediately recognized them as they walked by me,” Ferguson said.

Const. Nancy Saggar of West Shore RCMP was unable to comment on information about where the two men were hiding but said the details are to be addressed in court.

Busch, 42, is serving a sentence for second-degree murder and assault and has served time for aggravated sexual assault and escaping custody.

Armitage, 30, is serving a 13-year, 10-month sentence for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences.

With files from Shalu Mehta



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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