State correctional officers’ union says recent Enfield prison escape was preventable

ENFIELD— State officials are continuing to search for the prison inmate who escaped the Carl Robinson Correctional Institution Sunday.

The U.S. Marshals have joined in on the search and are offering a $1,500 reward for information that could lead to his arrest.

Jerry Mercado, 25, is believed to have stowed away under a vehicle to escape the prison grounds.

President of the Connecticut State Prison Employees Union, Collin Provost, is pressing for changes they say they’ve been seeking from top state leaders for years.

“We’ve brought it to the attention of the lowest level all the way up to the Governor,” Provost said. Provost told FOX61 he believes Mercado’s prison escape could have been avoided, citing concerns with staffing levels.

“The staffing levels is the utmost importance, for our safety, for the inmate safety, and for the community safety,” Provost said. He went on to say that staffing cuts at corrections facilities statewide, dating back to 2011 state budget reductions, have been an ongoing concern for the union.

“We have requested for certain, specific posts to be returned to certain facilities, Carl Robinson being one of them. There was two posts that were eliminated in 2015 and those two would have been present this weekend,” Provost said.

There were 166 Department of Correction employees laid off in 2016 due to state budget cuts.

“The agency’s security division is partnering with CT State Police to investigate the events leading up to this escape in an effort to identify security vulnerabilities that may have contributed to this incident,” Scott Semple, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Correction, said while speaking publicly on the incident Monday.

Wednesday, the commissioner said discounted staffing issues played a role in Sunday’s prison escape. He sent FOX61 the following statement:

“Although we are within the early stages of the Carl Robinson escape investigation, preliminary reports do not indicate that staffing levels were a contributing factor to the breach. For safety and security reasons, we do not speak publicly on staff to inmate ratios or details about the approved post plan. We routinely review agency post plans which at times result in the addition of posts and at other times result in removing posts.

Specific to the Carl Robinson location, I can confirm there hasn’t been a significant fluctuation when compared to six years ago. Our focus remains on being an active partner in the efforts to apprehend escapee Jerry Mercado.

The US Marshals recently announced a monetary award for information leading to Mercado’s arrest and we encourage the public to contact law enforcement with information. As a precautionary measure, security audits are underway at all of the fifteen correctional facilities across the state.”

The commissioner also told FOX61 there are security audits going on at all 15 of Connecticut’s correctional facilities.

Jerry Mercado is 5’4" tall and 137 pounds, believed to be wearing a tan jumpsuit, white t-shirt, and gray sweatshirt. Authorities said he has a tattoo on his neck that says, “Time waits for no one.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the U.S. Marshals at 1-800-336-0102, email at USMS.WANTED@USDOJ.GOV or to call 911. Individuals should not attempt to arrest Mercado themselves.

Authorities said, “The offender, identified as Jerry Mercado #389211, age 25, classified as a low risk offender is from Hartford, CT. Mercado last entered the system on 2/26/2016 and was sentenced in August 2016 to three years for Burglary 3rd.”

He was slated to be released in January of 2019.