Top leading stories of 2009 - Escapes bring changes to Branchville

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By The Staff

PERRY COUNTY - The escapes this year of three men from the Branchville Correctional Facility brought major changes to the medium-security prison, including a new electrified stun fence and lighting.

Jerry Sargent, 59, Christopher Marshall, 49, and 31-year-old Bobby Cockerell escaped March 20 after striking a maintenance worker and cutting through two fences. The trio eluded a manhunt,  stole a vehicle near St. Croix and traveled to Kentucky, where they allegedly beat three brothers near Sanders, Ky.

The escapees fled westward into Nebraska, before they were caught in the city of Alliance, located in northwest corner of the state.  

The escapes followed the 2008 flight of two other men and raised attention from neighbors and others in the community that violent offenders serving long sentences were housed at the facility.

A community meeting a couple of weeks after the escapes allowed the public to voice their concerns, and for prison officials to share news.

One of the major changes was reducing the amount of time offenders at the prison can serve to eight years. The limit had been 15 years.

The state moved quickly to increase security, adding razor wire, installing new light towers and adding a multi-strand stun fence that will immobilize anyone trying to scale the fence.

The system also issues immediate alarms when any of the wires are touched.