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Policy Changes Coming To Lincoln County After Inmate Escape

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Lincoln County is shutting down its inmate work crews after 37-year-old Michael Rhodes stole a county truck in Meeker Wednesday and took off to Texas. Lincoln County is shutting down its inmate work crews after 37-year-old Michael Rhodes stole a county truck in Meeker Wednesday and took off to Texas.
LINCOLN COUNTY, Oklahoma -

Lincoln County is implementing some big changes Thursday after an inmate on trash duty made a getaway while his supervisor ate lunch.

Police later caught up with the inmate in the Texas panhandle, so News 9 wanted to know, how does an inmate with a long rap sheet get assigned to a work crew in the first place?

The Lincoln County Sheriff's office says they've been bombarded with questions all day in regards with how that inmate got away Wednesday. But the county commissioner for the third district says he is not going to point fingers as to how it happened because each employee did their job.

Lincoln County is shutting down its inmate work crews after 37-year-old Michael Rhodes stole a county truck in Meeker Wednesday and took off to Texas.

Sheriff Charlie Dougherty released a statement today saying, "In lieu of this incident, the inmate workforce program has been suspended to reevaluate the current procedures to prevent further incidents and develop more effective policy."

The Sheriff doesn't blame any employees. Instead, he praises the law enforcement who helped catch Rhodes five hours after his escape.

8/7/2013 Related Story: Lincoln County Inmate Escapes In Meeker Area

"The escapee was quickly apprehended due to excellent emergency action plans, it is impossible to predict the actions of delinquent humans," Dougherty said. "Inmate workforces are a common program in most jails and prisons, and 85% of the time are successful and productive."

Lincoln County's head jailer Kelly George says Wednesday's mishap was a staff error and Rhodes should've never been a part of that work crew in the first place. Rhodes' criminal history includes possession of a stolen vehicle and escaping prison.

Third-district Lincoln County Commissioner Lee Doolen says Rhodes' escape was the first of its kind. He says all the inmates are screened before they become trustees like Rhodes, but his office just picks the crew up from the county jail to do the work and returns them in the evening.

"It's just one of those cases, whether it had been with me or any of the other agencies that use inmates, if he had been with them, he would have found a way to escape."

Doolen says he's not going to release the name of the employee who was in charge of supervising Rhodes, but he says the man has been a long time Lincoln County employee. Doolen says all the employees go through extensive training that he administers before they work with the inmate crews.

"I have a little booklet on just kind of what to watch for on anything out of the ordinary," Doolen said. "And if there are any problems, we call a deputy, and they'll be back to the jail house just in no time."

Rhodes is in Oldham County Jail in Vega, Texas awaiting extradition.

8/7/2013 Related Story: Lincoln County Escapee Captured in Texas

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