Aaron Bell and her children were searching for butterflies behind their house when Bell spotted a prison jumpsuit in the long grass.
Bell has lived next to Blackburn Correctional Complex — a minimum security Kentucky prison in Lexington — for about five years. Seeing the prison from her front yard hasn't been a big deal for Bell, but she and her kids don't go to that field anymore after finding the jumpsuit.
In the past five years, 59 people have escaped from Kentucky prisons, according to government records. "Walk-offs" make up 93 percent of these escapes, meaning no detailed escape plan is needed.
Nearly half of the 59 escapes have been from Blackburn, where there isn't a fence surrounding the 456 acres. In 2015, five people have escaped the prison. With half the year left, escapes are on track to exceed the nine escapes in 2014.
Leaving Blackburn isn't comparable to the recent escape of two convicted murderers in northern New York (one of whom was later caught; the other shot and killed). That escape involved multiple prison employees and power tools. And unlike David Sweat and Richard Matt, not one of the Blackburn escapees has been a convicted murderer.
Blackburn, one of Kentucky's two minimum-security prisons for men, houses 594 inmates. Almost any type of offender can be housed at Blackburn, but there are no murderers, sex offenders or child kidnappers, Blackburn warden Steve Haney said. An inmate also must be within four years of eligibility for parole or of completion of his sentence.
Surrounded by farm fields and suburbs, Blackburn is bordered on one side by Interstate 64 and on another by railroad tracks. If it weren't for the matching beige outfits and the age of the men, it would almost be possible to mistake the prison for a boarding school.
When the Bells moved into their house on Sandersville Road, they didn't know they had moved next to a prison. Bell saw the lights of Blackburn and thought it was a ballpark until she drove past it to buy a case of water. When she realized who their neighbors were, Bell called her husband, saying, "It's a prison!"
"Had I known it was there, I wouldn't have moved here," Bell said, "But we've been here for five years, and it's never been a problem."
The biggest issue with living next to Blackburn is the employees who come over to the neighborhood to smoke because they can't at the prison, Bell said.
Seeing Blackburn from her backyard doesn't alarm Ashley Isaacs. "If it was like a more high-security prison, it might be a little scarier," Isaacs said.
"We know it's there, but people just kind of adjust to it," said Jeffrey Crabb, president of the Masterson Station Neighborhood Association. Recent prison escapes have not caused problems, Crabb said.
For many neighbors, escapees aren't a big worry.
Larry Baird lives in a neighborhood across the street from the prison. Baird said an escapee might steal his car, but he was not too concerned about break-ins. "I figure they'll get further away from here," Baird said.
"Chances are, if somebody escapes, they're not going to come right here," Bell said. "It almost might be safer to be closer."
Haney, the warden, said any time an inmate walks off, the staff goes through a checklist:
■ Notify prison staff and law enforcement, including authorities of the county where the inmate committed the crime.
■ Send out alerts to people who have signed up for them via AlertXpress.
■ Alert the media.
■ Activate the command center to begin a search.
■ Notify any victims of the felon.
■ Make contact with the escapee's family and friends, or anyone who has visited him.
The escapes are usually impulsive and brief.
Most escapees are caught within hours, but sometimes it takes days or weeks, Haney said.
"A lot of them usually regret the decision," said Lisa Lamb, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections. "A lot of times, they're caught in their hometowns."
Of the 28 inmates who have escaped from Blackburn in the past five years, two are at large — Kelley Conway and James Dennis. Conway was in prison on a robbery charge, and Dennis was in on three different drug charges and flagrant nonsupport. Both Conway and Dennis escaped on April 7.
When caught, escapees are sent to higher-security prisons and charged with escape, which can add one to five years to their sentences, Lamb said.
If an inmate escaped a maximum-security prison, as in New York, the captured inmate might be sent to an out-of-state prison, Lamb said.
Because of Blackburn's minimum-security status, some residents say they feel safer living there than they might next to a maximum-security prison, where capital offenders are kept.
Bell didn't sign up for the escape alerts. "I don't want to know when they're out and about," she said. Usually, the helicopters flying in the area are enough of a tip-off.