Reconsider Security Needs for Inmates

Apparently federal authorities did not consider Eugene N. Cobbs to be much of a flight risk. They were wrong.

Cobbs, 42, escaped from a federal corrections facility in Morgantown on Wednesday. One puzzling aspect of what happened is that the Federal Correctional Institute in that city is a minimum-security facility.

Area residents may remember Cobbs for what he did in 2004, when he crashed an airplane at the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport. On board, police found 525 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated $24 million.

It took federal authorities more than three years to catch up to Cobbs. He was arrested in Texas in 2008. Then, a federal judge in Wheeling sentenced him to 12 and one-half years in prison on charges that included conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and operating an aircraft without the required certification.

Clearly, the judge consided Cobbs to be a menace to society. Twelve and one-half years is a long prison sentence for a crime not involving violence directly.

And given Cobbs’ record and his success in eluding authorities, he might well have been considered a candidate for more secure detention than in a minimum-security facility. But he was in one in Morgantown when he escaped.

Perhaps the federal prison system is overcrowded, like ours in West Virginia. Still, those in charge of it may want to reevaluate how they classify security needs.