Violent inmate escapes from work-release program in Rock Hill - | WBTV Charlotte

Violent inmate escapes from work-release program in Rock Hill

Written by Ian Flanegan - email

ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV) - An inmate convicted of violent crime is still at large after he walked away from a work-release program in Rock Hill.

Justin Barton left his work detail at Palmetto Recycling around 4:15 Saturday afternoon.  He was serving a 10-year sentence for assault & battery and burglary.

He had been working at the recycling center since January. When officials went to pick up the inmates who worked there, Barton was nowhere to be found.

Barton is a 23-year-old white male with a tattoo of his initials on his left arm - it reads, "JRB".

Officials describe him as having a medium build, 5'11" tall, weighing about 180 lbs.  He has a fair complexion with blue eyes and blond hair.  His head may be shaved.

The convict was last seen working in street clothes, wearing a T-shirt that read, "TWIN."

Barton is a native South Carolinian who was arrested in Chester, SC.   South Carolina Department of Corrections Spokesman John Barkley says he doesn't understand why an inmate would mess up an opportunity to work. 

"There is no way to know what is in the mind of that individual," he says of the convict who was only 18 months away from finishing his sentence. 

Barkley says the money Barton was earning at the recycling center went to an account to which he would have limited access.

"We don't know if he had any assistance on the outside," says Barkley.

Barkley says officials will be searching his property at the prison and who he has had contact with for possible leads on escapee's location.  "We'll stretch out everywhere to see where he's been," he says.

"We treat this as an escape," says Barkley.  "When he is apprehended he will be treated as an escape."

Barkley says that if Barton is found, he will be sent to a maximum security prison.  The presiding judge could add an additional 15 years to his sentence. 

There is a reward for any information leading to the capture of Justin Barton.  If you know anything or think you may have seen him, notify police or WBTV.  Use the email link above or call the newsroom at (704) 374-3691.

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