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Tunnel Escape Story Called Political Ploy

SUNDAY, FEB. 23, 1997

A tunnel that prison officials say was going to be used as an escape route during a planned riot was really created by guards, a union official charged.

Guard union representative John LaBombard accused Gov. Gary Johnson of making up the inmate plot to scare the Legislature. The union is fighting the governor’s proposal to have a private company take over the prisons.

Corrections Secretary Dona Wilpolt said inmates were planning to riot and use the tunnel to escape.

The 30-foot-long, 3-foot-high and 3-foot-wide tunnel found Wednesday would have had to extend at least another 30 feet to reach outside the main building. Even then it would have been within the double fence surrounding the penitentiary.

But LaBombard said the tunnel opening was a hole cut into a wall by maintenance workers who wanted access to a utility crawl space.

He said the area next to the opening was a secret break room for guards.

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