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Army fugitive back in Kansas prison after 37 years

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 20, 2014 at 2:16 pm •  Published: March 20, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Nearly 40 years after James Robert Jones walked away from the famed prison at Fort Leavenworth, he returned to military custody this week to find the historic structure gone and the corrections system changed.

Jones, 59, arrived back in Kansas on Tuesday and was placed at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks where he is expected to serve out the remaining time on a 23-year sentence for killing a fellow soldier at Fort Dix, N.J., in 1974. He escaped in 1977, and was considered one of the Army's 15 most-wanted fugitives when U.S. Marshals arrested him in Florida earlier this month.

Jones likely doesn't recognize the prison system since his escape in 1977, said Anita Gorecki Robbins, a military defense attorney who spent six years with the Army judicial staff.

The old building's high walls and towers lent themselves to its name, "The Castle," which was located on the north end of the post's main section. The prison was located a few blocks away from the post's rows of stately red-brick homes dating the early to mid-1800s.

"It was drafty, smelly, cold, everything you would expect from a dilapidated old prison," Gorecki-Robbins said from her Washington, D.C., office. "He may have been able to somehow walk out of The Castle, but things have now been computerized in a new facility. The current (prison) is virtually inescapable."

Between 1977 and 1998, there were seven escapes involving 11 prisoners at the disciplinary barracks, but all but Jones had been recaptured.

The new prison opened in 2002 on the far north end of Fort Leavenworth. The post is also home to the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College, where the military's best and brightest go for advanced education. The building looks more like a modern community college surrounded by a landscape of rolling hills, with the cells housed in pods arranged around a common area.

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