Prisoners escape Cal Fire work duty, get caught in Amador County, officials say

Three inmates who escaped while clearing brush for Cal Fire on Tuesday were captured around 12 hours later after a search in Amador County, according to state prison officials.

Before they walked off, the prisoners had last been seen around 11 a.m. on work assignment near Mitchell Mine Road, about three miles from Pine Grove Conservation Camp east of Sacramento, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a news release on Tuesday. An emergency count by Pine Grove staff just before 2 p.m. revealed that Stanley Hill, 19, Derrick Scott Peterson, 18, and Robert Lee Sneed, 19, had walked off, officials said.

Amador County Sheriff’s Department deputies arrested all three on Bowman Road just after 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, prison officials said in a news release on Wednesday.

Hill, Peterson and Sneed were taken to the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton, officials said Wednesday, adding that “the case will be referred to the Amador County District Attorney’s Office for consideration of escape charges.”

State officials said California Highway Patrol, local law enforcement and Cal Fire were notified early Tuesday afternoon of the escape and helped search for the three missing prisoners.

Officials did not release details on the histories of the escapees, but fire conservation camps are for inmates who volunteer and “have ‘minimum custody’ status, or the lowest classification for inmates based on their sustained good behavior in prison, their conforming to rules within the prison and participation in rehabilitative programming,” according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.