Escaped inmates climbed two security fences, took cab to Poynette, sheriff says

Thomas Deering, James Newman.

PORTAGE, Wis. — Authorities believe two inmates climbed two security fences while escaping from a state maximum-security prison in Portage on Thursday.

Police are searching for 46-year-old Thomas Deering and 37-year-old James Newman.

Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Portage Police Department officers were dispatched to the Columbia Correctional Institution around 5 a.m. for reports of an inmate escape.

Residents in the area received automated phone calls about the incident around 6 a.m., police said. Drones and K-9 units were used to search the neighborhoods near the prison, according to a release from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

Inmate search

Authorities determined the inmates had gone to a local hotel and were picked up by Portage Cab and taken to Poynette, according to a release from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. Portage and Poynette are around 15 miles from each other.

An initial investigation revealed the inmates had already left the Portage area prior to law enforcement being notified of the escape, the release said.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office does not believe the men are in Columbia County and issued an alert around 12:15 p.m. saying “the public is no longer in danger.”


Posted by Portage Police Department – Wisconsin on Thursday, April 16, 2020

Portage police believe the men are headed to Madison.

The Madison Police Department said all local law enforcement agencies are on alert and aware of the escape, but the department does not have any reason to suggest Newman or Deering are in the Madison area.

According to online records, Deering has convictions for kidnapping, sexual assault, burglary, battery by a prisoner and escape. Newman has convictions for kidnapping, escape, theft and discharging a firearm.

Inmate search

“These individuals are considered dangerous. We are asking anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of these individuals to contact law enforcement immediately,” the Department of Corrections said in a statement regarding the escape.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Newman and Deering are asked to call 911.