Dec. 21, 2016
CONTACT: Dr. Keith Price, 806-651-2418, firstname.lastname@example.org
CANYON, Texas—Students enrolled in the criminal justice course, “Prisons in America,” for the fall semester at West Texas A&M University got a special treat with the viewing of an episode of Investigation Discovery’s I (almost) Got Away With It featuring none other than their professor, Dr. Keith Price, head of the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice.
Price joined the faculty at WTAMU in 2003, but spent 30 years with the state’s prison system before retiring as a warden from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In 1990, Price was the senior warden at the Darrington Unit, a maximum-security prison just south of Houston, when two inmates broke out of prison and later became the subjects of an episode of I (almost) Got Away With It titled “GOT to Escape with a Battleaxe.”
“It’s really an unusual story,” Price said. “I spent 30 years with the prison system, and this is the most unusual escape ever—it makes a good story.”
The subject of the show, prisoner Russell Kerr, apparently felt it was a good story too and contacted the show’s production company. Producers tracked Price down in 2015 to see if he would be interested in offering commentary on the escape. A crew came to Canyon to interview Price, and segments of his comments about the escape are included throughout the almost 43 minute program. “GOT to Escape with a Battleaxe,” Season 8, Episode 5, aired in the spring, and Price uses it for his “Prisons in America” course to illustrate problems found in the inmate subculture.
The show tells the story of Kerr, who was serving a 60-sentence for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. At the Darrington Unit, Kerr joined up with fellow inmate Christopher Stout, and the two hatched an escape plan. Kerr and Stout overpowered and secured an unarmed supervisor in a closet and drove through the prison gates in a state-owned pickup while the tower guard watched in shocked surprise. The date was Dec. 27, 1990, and the show follows the pair and the many mistakes they make while enjoying a few days of freedom.
“The escape was well planned,” Price said. “They have a lot of free time to plan, and it was a success because the guard at the tower failed at his duty.”
Thanks to their escape, many changes were made in terms of prison barricades and gates, which now include tempered steel and spikes. Plus, Kerr and Stout’s plan offers some valuable lessons for Price to share with students at WTAMU.