Over the weekend a resident of our Arizona Community Protection and Treatment Center (ACPTC) escaped while he was on an approved pass to go to church.  The resident was accompanied by one of our staff during the outing.  The resident was authorized to go on the pass to church because he had “LRA” or “Least Restrictive Alternative” status as determined by a judge, meaning that he had been entitled to some community outings.  Fortunately, alert, professional and creative law enforcement folks from the Tempe Police Department quickly followed leads and were able to apprehend the escaped resident by nightfall, and he’s been returned to our facility.  We’re investigating how the resident was able to escape and other circumstances that happened during the outing.

I asked the staff at the ACPTC and the Forensic Hospital to suspend the pass programs until we can assess what happened and to give us the time we need to review and revise our protocols for approving passes and setting the operational conditions under which they’re approved.  For example, we’ll be re-assessing the use of electronic monitoring devices (e.g. GPS tracking devices) as well as staffing ratios during passes.  We’ll also be reviewing other procedures such as setting up a protocol to notify police departments before somebody goes on a pass in their jurisdiction.

I know how important it is to give residents and patients an opportunity to experience life in the community and that passes are a critical component for Recovery and development of key skills.  Passes are also a critical legal component of our mission for folks that have achieved Least Restrictive Alternative status.  However, it’s also our responsibility to protect the community… and it can be tricky balancing passes with ensuring community protection.  I’m committed to resuming our pass program for our Forensic Hospital Patients and residents of the ACPTC, but not until we do a full assessment of the process and implement new procedures to ensure that the pass program doesn’t jeopardize community protection.