In Wake Of Florence Escape Legislation Introduced To Toughen Penalties For Prison Escapees

(Photo by Jenn Vargas/Creative Commons)

PHOENIX – In response to the escape of two inmates from the prison in Florence last month, State Rep. David Cook has introduced new legislation that would toughen penalties for correctional facility escapees.

“Following the recent successful capture of two dangerous escaped state prison inmates, I was dismayed to learn that they could only be charged with a Class 4 felony,” said Cook in a press release. “It is only by the grace of God that nobody was injured, or worse, while these criminals were at large. The penalty needs to fit the crime and this change in statue does exactly that.”

Inmates John B. Charpiot and David T. Harmon escaped from a medium security unit at Arizona State Prison Complex-Florence on January 23. The two men managed to break into a tool room and steal tools to cut through the outside fence. After they escaped, the men attempted to rob an employee at a nearby hotel. They were captured on January 28, in Coolidge.

Cook’s bill, HB 2790, cosigned by Representatives Kevin Payne (R-21), Frank Pratt (R-8), Bret Roberts (R-11), Ben Toma (R-22), and John Fillmore and Jacqueline Parker (R-16), as well as Senators Vince Leach (R-11), T.J. Shope (R-8), and Kelly Townsend (R-16) increases the penalty for escape from a Class 4 to a Class 2 felony.

Cook says his bill gives prosecutors and judges a “wider array of options and greater discretion when charging or sentencing an offender.”

A Class 2 felony is the highest non-murder felony classification in state law and carries a sentencing range of anywhere from 3-35 years imprisonment, depending on the offender’s prior criminal history and whether a weapon was used. Under the law, any sentence for an escape conviction must be served consecutively to the sentence that the inmate was serving at the time of their escape.

“I commend the tremendous efforts by state and local law enforcement to protect the public and quickly apprehend the two escapees. HB 2790 respects their efforts and those of all who uphold public safety in our state. Moreover, it respects those who have been crime victim and their families who are likely to endure additional traumatic stress if their perpetrator escapes,” concluded Cook.