Escaped inmate leads to discipline for Richland County jailers

MANSFIELD — The inmate that was mistakenly released and escaped from the Richland County Jail last month generated an internal investigation of two correctional officers and one sergeant. The inmate, Cornelius Phillips, was arrested in Huntsville, Alabama on Sept. 18, without incident, two weeks after escaping.

  • Corrections Officer Stephen McDonnell was found to have exhibited gross neglect of duty resulting in the escape of an inmate. McDonnell went to the housing unit and failed to positively identify the inmate who was to be released. McDonnell was issued a ten-day suspension without pay.
  • Sgt. Kenneth Moore was found to have exhibited gross neglect of duty resulting in the escape of an inmate. Moore was the supervisor who failed to supervise McDonnell to assure procedures were being followed. Moore was issued a five-day suspension without pay.
  • Corrections Officer Christopher Plantz was found to have exhibited gross neglect of duty resulting in the escape of an inmate. Plantz was the booking officer who processed Phillips’ release without positively identifying him. Plantz was issued a twenty-day suspension without pay.

According to a news release from Sheriff Steve Sheldon, an investigation determined that Phillips was the planner and Dasia Crutcher helped facilitate the escape. Phillips worked with Chekiah Washington to allow Crutcher to post his bond for release. Phillips, identified through watching the operations of the jail, observed that there were specific time frames to facilitate an escape, using Washington’s identity.

Also, Phillips observed that certain staff were complacent on how they identified inmates to be released. When the officer went to the pod to call for Washington to be released, Phillips posed as Washington. The officer should have positively identified the inmate before he taken to booking to be processed out. The booking officer should have done the same for the release of the inmate.

The sheriff’s office issued nationwide warrants for Cornelius Joseph Phillips for escape, a second-degree felony, Dasia Crutcher and Checkiah E. Washington Jr. for escape/complicity, a second-degree felony. Washington was arrested Sept 10, and is being held in the Richland County Jail on a $50,000 Cash Bond.

Sheldon said the the investigation determined that the weakness or breach in security had everything to do with officers not following policy or established procedures. Since this incident, the sheriff’s office have put additional security measures in place.


Staff report