By AMY LINDBLOM
Back in November, an inmate told Sierra Conservation Center administrators that another inmate planned to escape.
He told them how it would be done: Inmate Robert Michael Judd planned to secure a job as a trusty at the visitors' area snack bar outside the prison gates then somehow flee.
Officials at the west Tuolumne County prison confronted Judd directly about the tip.
He denied it, and prison officials determined the tip was not credible.
But 44 days after the tip came in, Judd did exactly what he told the other inmate he would do, prompting what state prison union officials call the longest, most expensive escape in the prison's history.
Judd a 29-year-old minimum-security prisoner who had about five years left on his sentence was on the loose for 23 days before being caught Feb. 2 in Orange County by Buena Park police officers. They arrested the convicted burglar and police batterer on suspicion of selling methamphetamine.
Now, the California Correctional Supervisors Organization, a union representing sergeants, lieutenants and captains, is blasting SCC officials especially Warden Matthew Kramer for dismissing the warning and then spending $100,000 on a failed attempt to recapture Judd after his Jan. 10 escape.
"They made some mistakes maybe not intentionally, but they made some mistakes," said CCSO President Richard Tatum. "Now, Kramer and his administrators are trying to make it seem like no mistakes were made at all, and they used $100,000 of taxpayer money to do it."
In a Dec. 1 memo, a copy of which was given to The Union Democrat by the CCSO, a correctional officer wrote to the captain of the yard where Judd was housed.
The memo said an inmate knew Judd planned to escape as soon as he was assigned to the snack bar outside the prison gates.
After the captain reported the tip, an investigation started, Kramer said.
Prison officials checked Judd's visitor log, his mail and his telephone calls, and looked at his file for an escape history. Nothing other than the fellow inmate's tip indicated Judd would flee, Kramer said.