2 prisoners hail cab after escape from Columbia Correctional in Portage

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Two prisoners who are considered dangerous hailed a cab out of town after escaping the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage on Thursday.

Portage police reported the escape at 4:59 a.m. Thursday and are searching for Thomas E. Deering, 46, and James R. Newman, 36. 

The two are believed to have jumped over two security fences before fleeing to a hotel, where they hailed a cab that transported them 12 miles south to Poynette, according to a statement from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

It’s believed the two managed to leave the Portage area before law enforcement even knew of the escape, the statement said.

Law enforcement is encouraging the public to stay indoors and make sure their homes and vehicles were secure until further notice.

Newman was convicted in Jackson County in 2016 of kidnapping, escape and theft, according to online court records. Deering was convicted of kidnapping, burglary and three counts of second-degree sexual assault in Milwaukee County in 2001.

Deering is described by police as 6-feet tall and 200 pounds. Newman is 5-foot-9, 190 pounds.

Columbia Correctional Institution had recently been on lockdown due to concerns with the coronavirus, which had infected four staff members as of Monday, according to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

It’s unclear if lockdown measures were still being used at the time of Deering and Newman’s escape.

The prison, on 110 acres, contains 10 maximum-security living units and one 150-bed, minimum-security unit, according to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified one of the prisoners due to information provided by the Portage Police Department and incorrectly described the past criminal history of James Newman. The errors have been corrected. 

Contact Elliot Hughes at elliot.hughes@jrn.com or 414-704-8958. Follow him on Twitter @elliothughes12.

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