Why are convicted murderers allowed to be trusty inmates?
PINE BLUFF (KATV) — Out of 17,000 Arkansans jailed in Department of Corrections prisons, just about 1,700 have been granted trusty status.
Nearly four percent of those trusty inmates are convicted murderers - just like Timothy Buffington.
It was 2005 when David Thompson, 28, was accused of killing Dee Minchew, 27, in Pine Bluff in what was said by police to be an "execution-style" slaying.
He was one of two others convicted in the homicide.
Thompson was sentenced in 2006 to serve 40 years behind bars, but today he's a trusty inmate serving his sentence at the Varner Unit in Grady.
Thompson, just like Buffington, is one of 65 murderers in the Department of Corrections that have been granted trusty status.
"We have people who are in for what you would perceive as lesser crimes, who are doing less time, who are not trusty inmates and that's because of their behavior," said Shea Wilson, spokeswoman for ADC.
Wilson mentioned, inmates in for robbery for example, might not be eligible for "trusty status" because they don't get along with other inmates, have a history with guards or other behavior related problems while incarcerated.
Inmate Buffington was able to prove to the ADC Classification Board that he was on his best behavior.
Buffington was able to achieve "trusty status" within four years of his jailing in 1999.
"This is a person who up until the night he escaped from prison, had no disciplinary record in his file," commented Wilson.
Despite his clean record inside prison, Buffington was subsequently denied parole in January 2012, 2013 and 2014 - none of which had any effect on Buffington's trusty status.
Even though a convicted murderer like Buffington can become a trusty - that doesn't mean all inmates are able to do the same.
"A person who's convicted of capital murder, crimes of a sexual nature, you would not be eligible for trusty status," said Wilson.
But Wilson mentions that all trusty inmates, including those in for murder, will eventually be released from prison.
Buffington had only four years left on his sentence.
Wilson said the Department of Corrections most likely won't alter they grant trusty status, simply because Buffington is the only convicted murderer they've had escape from their trusty program.
Once Buffington is back in custody, Wilson said ADC will review all procedures in regard to the inmate's escape.
The search still continues two weeks after his escape.