Inside the mind of an offender in the work release program, why some escape when their time is almost up

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- Work goes both ways at the Work Release Center in Davenport: inmates check out to go to work and officers pat down and drug test those that are coming back in.

The average time an offender stays in a program like this is four months, but within the last three years, 87 people have escaped from the work release facility in Davenport, despite the fact that their time is almost up.

"Some people come in here and they just don't care," says Daniel, a inmate in the halfway house program.

More offenders walking away from halfway houses. 

"If your mind is set that you want to make this place work, if you actually understood the concept of the Work Release Center, then you would understand how to make this place work for you," he says.

Daniel was charged with sexual abuse back in 1995, and after successfully going through the halfway house program the first time, he was sent back to prison.

He says through the program he's been able to save enough money to take care of himself when he gets out, but those who decide to check out and take off do so because of either drug addictions, outside relationships or because of conflicts with the staff in the program.

Although this program in Davenport has the second lowest inmate escape rate in Iowa, public officials are struggling to find a balance between transitioning inmates back into the society and keeping the community safe.

"With the history of all the criminals walking away, you bet the neighbors are frightened... it's right across the street from a high school and next door to a college," says 4th ward Alderman Ray Ambrose.

He's voiced concerns about the location of the facility for at least the past three years. He says he would rather see the program moved to a more rural area, away from the downtown, but others say that would defeat the purpose of the program.

"If we put this facility out in the country that would certainly detract from the (inmate's) ability to adjust to the community," says Waylyn McCulloh, 7th District Director for the Department of Corrections.

All of the offenders who escaped from the Davenport Halfway house since the start of the year are accounted for. Some are back in prison and others were accepted back into the program.