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When Anthony Gafford, an inmate convicted in a 1997 Omaha slaying, walked away while on work release Saturday, Corrections Director Scott Frakes defended not telling the public until Tuesday.

Law enforcement was notified within the hour of discovering Gafford, 40, had not returned to the minimum-security Community Corrections Center-Lincoln. But no formal notification to the public was given.

Frakes came to the Capitol on Wednesday to testify on a couple of bills and was asked by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks about the escape and what the policy is for the prisons to notify the public and the media. 

Until a few days ago, Frakes said, he had a different mindset about who to notify about walkaways from work release. The Washington prison system he came from did not report to the media about people who left work release or community custody facilities, he said.  

When he arrived in Nebraska it was not the practice, and he didn't question that, he said. 

After Saturday night, he said, he's decided the department should think harder about how it views these walkaways. 

Philosophically, he's viewed what happened Saturday night as closer to absconding from parole than escape from a secure facility. 

But moving forward, he told Pansing Brooks, the department would make sure the media is notified on those incidences. 

Gafford left the Community Corrections Center at 6 a.m. Saturday to go to work at Smithfield Foods at 200 S. Second St., where he clocked out at 3:21 p.m.

He was unaccounted for during an 8 p.m. prison check, and remained at large Wednesday evening.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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