Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
Glenn S. Goord, Commissioner

Office of Public Information
[518] 457-8182

For immediate release:

Friday, March 30, 2001

Collins Correctional Facility searches for escaped inmate

Escape procedures have been activated and stationary roadblocks as well as roving foot and motorized patrols established in the area as staff at the Collins Correctional Facility searches for an inmate who escaped this morning from the medium-security prison housing 1,480 male offenders in the southern Erie County Town of Collins. Seventy additional staff have been called in to aid in the escape pursuit.

Inmate James Visser, 29, was last seen in the facility at 7:55 a.m. He was reported missing at 11:15 a.m. Inmates have been confined to their cubicle-style housing units since then while staff concentrated on a search of non-housing areas of the facility such as academic and vocational buildings and ancillary structures. Visser was not present for an 11:15 a.m. master count and was declared an escapee.

State and local police agencies were notified of the escape. Three Departmental K-9 units are en route to the facility to augment the two K-9's from the State Police already on the scene. Also in use is the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Department's helicopter. No information on the location of road blocks and roving patrols, or on other escape procedures, will be released for security reasons.

Visser is a white male, 5' 11" tall, weighing 130 pounds. He has scars on his left forearm and hand as well as his forehead. He has a cross tattooed on his left forearm. He was last seen wearing a green army field jacket, red sweat shirt and red sweat pants under prison-issue green slacks and white sneakers. Mug shots of Visser will be available at 3 p.m. for the media at Collins' administration building on Middle Road.

Visser was committed out of Oswego County on April 28, 1997, serving a sentence of 5-15 years for first-degree rape and second-degree forgery. He is scheduled to appear before a parole board in October of this year prior to his December 26 completion of his minimum sentence. He served 121 days in the county jail before entering state custody.

Certain inmates who maintain acceptable behavior levels and positive program participation are eligible for medium-security placement when within five years of parole eligibility. Visser met the time qualification and has had only six minor disciplinary infractions since 1997. Those infractions include being out of place, missing a mandatory meal, having an untidy cubicle and one for fighting. He was currently assigned as a porter on the medical unit in the mornings and to a masonry program in the afternoon. His work in those assignments was considered acceptable. While having completed an Aggression Replacement Program, Visser had refused to participate in Collins' sex offender treatment program. That could affect his parole release and could result in a loss of good time.

Visser was transferred from Auburn Correctional Facility to Collins in February 2000. Collins, opened in 1982, is surrounded by an interior chain link fence 8-feet high and an exterior fence that is 16-feet high, both topped and banked with razor wire. They are separated by a 20-foot "no man's land" that includes a perimeter patrol roadway. The perimeter security also includes a microwave detection system as well as camera monitors. While the means of his escape remain under investigation, there is no indication that he penetrated the secure perimeter.

This is the first escape ever from within Collins' perimeter and the first escape from within any of New York's 71 institutions this year.