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Yes, eight employees of a state-run prison facility should be fired when prisoners are allowed to escape.

In fact, we're pretty sure that there is not a more clear, one-goal job description in the history of job descriptions than prison guard.

Task No. 1: Do not let inmates escape.

Task No. 2: Remember Task No. 1.

Well, after a strange turn of events in the past few weeks, Rule 1 was violated at the Morgan County Regional Correctional Complex in Wartburg, Tenn.

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Jay Greeson

While the name of that joint sounds very euphemistically like a mix between a summer camp for troubled teens and sports complex that hosts raucous slow-pitch softball tournaments, the questions after Robert Fusco, a 36-year-old inmate, escaped it are, well, complex.

While no one this side of college football fans really wants people to be fired, we can all agree that violating Rule 1 for prison guards is certainly cause for termination.

But eight guards? That screams corruption.

The eight were fired after Fusco was caught trying to break back into the prison.

Yes, BACK into the prison with smuggled contraband.

While the authorities confirmed to this paper's Andy Sher the broad details of the firings, there are few details because this is an ongoing investigation.

As the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation continues to investigate, some things are obvious.

The first possibility is this was a full-blown prison break. Riots. Mass rushes toward the door. A complete nightmare that makes us all appreciate the risks and sacrifices the guards take every time they go to work.

That one is horrifying.

It also did not happen at Morgan County.

As for possibilities two and three, well, either the guards were asleep at the wheel or part of the plan from the get-go, and each circumstance is a fireable offense.

But the next step from any of those scenarios is a real problem for our corrections system.

For starters, that Fusco or any prisoner would try to break back into prison is stunning. In fact, Fusco's attempt to get back in with contraband is not as outlandish and isolated as you may think.

There have been detailed reports of prisoners from Texas to Australia to Atlanta and other places in between in the last year of the break-out, break-in two-step.

And the demand for the expected contraband of alcohol and drugs aside, the big-ticket items in a lot of these cases are cell phones, which Sher reported inmates use to continue criminal activities outside the walls and even to threaten witnesses.

If the eight fired guards are part of a syndicate at Morgan County, well, here's hoping they get charged to the fullest extent of the law. And man, it's hard to imagine the way corrupt guards or law enforcement officers would be treated inside those walls.

That's for the TBI to figure out.

As for having any prison system comfortable enough for people to want to break BACK into, well, it seems that may need to be an issue handled from the top down.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and 423-757-6343.

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