Long-missing report hints Claude Dallas walked out the gate

An independent report that disappeared from state files appears to support the theory Claude Dallas walked out the front door of the Idaho State Correctional Institution with a group of visitors. The post-escape report focuses on reforming prison visiting procedures.

The Department of Correction and attorney general’s office said they couldn’t find the report on Dallas’ 1986 escape.

The Statesman, however, obtained a copy this month from another source. The report was authored by Nevada Correction Director George Sumner, a former warden at California’s San Quentin prison.

Former Idaho Correction Director Al Murphy said last month that he couldn’t remember ordering the inquiry or seeing its findings. But on April 24, 1986, Murphy told reporters he’d named Sumner and three others to a Serious Incident Review Panel.

“If anyone needs to be held culpable, then that’s what will happen,” he said at the time.

A Correction Department document also says Murphy appointed Sumner. The panel met in May 1986, and the report says Murphy was interviewed.

Sumner’s first recommendation was to fix the visiting process “because it severely compromises the security of the administration building, the total institution with possible takeovers, and provides too much opportunity for escapes into the community.”

He urged a security post to “slow down the departing visitors” so they could be effectively identified; a sign-out system for visitors when they left the prison; elimination of night visiting; and stamping visitors with infrared ink.

After the escape, a new guard post was built on the walkway outside the administration building. It was used by officers to check visitors’ identification as they entered and left.

Sumner also wrote: Top staff “appear to lack good security backgrounds”; the prison grounds’ abundant supply of rocks could be used as weapons; and “many of the cell locks can be breached. This presents an imminent danger to employees, inmates and the community.”

He recommended that should openings occur, the warden, deputy warden for operations and captain be replaced by out-of-state candidates “with a strong security background of several years’ duration.”

Arvon Arave, the warden at the time of Dallas’ escape, said he can’t recall being interviewed by Sumner or ever seeing the report.

Arave kept his job in 1986. He retired under pressure a decade later, after an officer raped or sexually molested as many as 11 female inmates. That scandal cost taxpayers $765,000 in settlements to victims.

Arave said there was bad blood between him and Sumner, who died in 1994.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he come up and said, ‘You gotta get rid of Arave,’” he said. “He was a big, ugly brute. There was no love between us.”

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