2 inmates escape from coronavirus-stricken Wisconsin prison

Two inmates escaped Thursday from a Wisconsin prison where staffers have been infected with the coronavirus, police and correctional officials said.

Thomas E. Deering, 46, and James R. Newman, 36, escaped from the Columbia County Correctional Institution in Portage and investigators believe they could be headed toward Madison, Portage police said.

The inmates are not suspected to still be in Portage, where police advised residents earlier Thursday to stay inside and lock their homes and doors until further notice.

“[All] officers and detectives are being provided the latest information on the suspects,” Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain told WMTV. “Like other area law enforcement, we are on alert.”

Detectives are also searching for the pair in nearby Poynette, police told WMTV.

Newman was convicted of kidnapping, escape and theft in 2016, according to court records cited by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Deering, meanwhile, had been serving time at the prison with maximum- and minimum-security units after being convicted of kidnapping, burglary and sexual assault in 2001, the newspaper reports.

The prison had been recently locked down due to coronavirus concerns after four staffers had been diagnosed with the illness as of Monday, Wisconsin Department of Corrections officials told the newspaper.

It’s unclear if the lockdown was still in effect when Deering and Newman busted out, the Journal Sentinel reports.

A Wisconsin Department of Corrections spokeswoman confirmed that Newman and Deering escaped when reached for comment Thursday, but did not indicate whether the reported lockdown was in effect at the time.

“These individuals are considered dangerous,” spokeswoman Anna Neal said in an email. “We are asking anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of these individuals to contact law enforcement immediately.”