The body of one of the four prisoners that escaped from Taitung's Taiyuan Vocational Training Institute (
Meanwhile, Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan (
After checking fingerprints, police confirmed yesterday evening that the dead man was 33-year-old Chen Yung-sung (
Justice ministry officials speculated that Chen might have been washed away by the river after falling off the riverbank or while trying to cross the river to flee to mountain areas.
They suspected, if that that were the case, some or all of the other three might also have fallen into the river, swollen by rains from Typhoon Bilis.
The justice minister's inspection tour of the Taitung facility where the jailbreak occurred was thwarted by the temporary closure of the Taitung airport by heavy rain and strong winds. Chen's plane circled Taitung but eventually returned to Taipei, unable to land.
Chen ruled out disciplinary action against officials until a formal investigative report was complete.
He said that investigations by both the Taitung District Prosecutors' Office and the ministry's ad-hoc investigating force were continuing, but added that there must have been official negligence on the part of prison staff.
"According to prison regulations, patrols of cellblocks should have been conducted every 15 minutes but it seems that in this case the regulations were not obeyed," he said. "The question of why patrols were not carried out on time is a focus of our investigations," he said
The cell in which the four inmates had been confined was found empty at around 11:05pm on Tuesday night. It was estimated that the four escaped between 10:30pm and 11:00pm.
Chen also hinted that the country's correctional institutions may be in the grip of a common lack of discipline.
"Someone in the ministry told me yesterday that during the past three years the [management of] correction facilities has been lax."
"If that is so, prison staff might tend to neglect their duties. Inevitably such situations will cause problems," he said, adding that an urgent measure to prevent further similar incidents was to enhance prison security.
"The shortage of prison staff is a problem that cannot be solved easily due to budgetary shortages, but some improvements to facilities can be made without too much expenditure."
He said, for example, that had the security gate through which the four passed been made of railings rather than of a single steel plate, the gate could have been closed.
The security gate had been left partially open, enabling the prisoners to pass through to an area of the prison that was less secure to make their escape.
Prison authorities said they had left the opening for fear that the strong wind would blow the gate down.
Chen also said he wished to test the truth of this "justification" on the part of prison staff.
In addition to inspecting the prison, Chen said, another purpose of his intended tour was to express his appreciation to the Taitung County Police Bureau (
Three Control Yuan members have also started an investigation into the escape.
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