The York County Sheriff’s Office today released its own findings regarding the erroneous release of a convicted murderer Thomas Aaron Whitlock in late February.
Instead, following a bond hearing on an unrelated drug charge, he was released from the York County Detention Center. Bryant says that in addition, no documentation was submitted to to the jail staff — and that detention center employees performed their duties according to standard practice and transport procedures.
In addition, Whitlock was given civilian attire by North Carolina Corrections officials — and when he was processed into the York County Detention Center, he was not identified by usual inmate attire.
Bryant said that as a result of the Whitlock incident, his office is working with the Solicitor’s Office to improve communication procedures before and after an inmate arrives or departs from their facility.
Bryant that all inmates will be provided with standard inmate clothing prior to transport — and will not be transported in civilian attire.
Whitlock was recaptured days later in Dallas, Texas where he was visiting his daughter. Whitlock will not face any additional charges as a result of the February release — and he is now back in custody of North Carolina Corrections officials.
Below is the official release on the matter from the Sheriff’s Office:
A complete and thorough investigation of the facts and circumstances surrounding the erroneous release of Thomas A. Whitlock from custody led to the review of the York County Sheriff’s Office transport protocol specifically as it relates to the Interstate Agreement on Detainers. The statutory interstate detainer procedure requires certain written forms that were utilized between the Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office and the North Carolina Department of Correction (NCDOC). These forms were properly used; however, the review showed that the single Form VI detainer documentation that is provided to transporting deputies is inadequate for internal usage to ensure that the transporting deputies and York County detention officers are made aware of the status of transported inmates and whether they must be returned to their originating facility. Transporting deputies were not provided with any oral or written documentation that instructed that Whitlock must return to NCDOC. Whitlock was provided with civilian attire by NCDOC prior to his transport and so was not identified by usual inmate attire. Likewise, there was no documentation provided to employees of the York County Detention Center to indicate that Thomas Whitlock was received from North Carolina Department of Corrections and that he had to return to that facility. All sheriff‘s office and detention center employees performed their duties according to unwritten practice and transport procedures that have functioned without incident for many years. In hindsight, however, it is clear that the procedures were not sufficiently detailed to avert the possibility of such an occurrence.
Working in cooperation with the Solicitor’s Office, significant safeguards have been put into place that will provide the direct notification that was absent. The Solicitor’s Office, as originator of the transport, will now notify the detention center of the inmate’s anticipated arrival once approval has been granted by the originating state. In addition, the sheriff’s office will also notify the detention center of the anticipated transport. These notifications will trigger new procedures at the detention center that will put detention employees on notice of the inmate’s imminent arrival and necessary return to his/her original facility. A new YCSO document has also been prepared that will be provided to the transporting deputies which must be provided to the detention center booking officer with the arriving inmate that will communicate whether the inmate must be returned to his/her original facility. In addition, all inmates will be provided with an orange York County detention inmate clothing prior to transport and will not be transported with civilian attire.
Adherence to these new procedures will ensure that this type of incident will not recur. Whitlock was recaptured within days and has been safely returned to the custody of North Carolina Department of Corrections. Whitlock will not face further charges in York County, South Carolina as a result of this incident.
The York County Sheriff’s Office will make no further comments regarding this incident.