Escapee Douglas Alward Collects $15,000 For Humiliating Capture

Everybody knows that crime doesn't pay — at least, not in any of the 129 episodes of Dragnet available on Netflix. But one notorious state inmate has figured out how to make the risky business of breaking out of prison pay off. According to the terms of a hush-hush settlement agreement reached a few months ago, the Colorado Department of Corrections agreed to pay escape artist Douglas Alward $15,000 to resolve his claims that prison officials violated his constitutional rights and publicly humiliated him in the course of recapturing him.

 Alward, 53, first went to prison at age seventeen for attempted murder; he's since racked up more time by busting out of one joint after another, only to be tracked down each time. His seventh and latest escape in 2010 made headlines across the state. Alward not only defeated the supposedly foolproof electronic "kill" fence at Sterling Correctional Facility, he was considered a highly dangerous fugitive, having kidnapped a citizen and shot at a police officer during previous breakouts. He surrendered three days later outside of a house near Yuma, after holding a woman hostage for two hours.  

Alward picked up another couple of fifteen-year sentences out of that episode and was shipped off to the Colorado State Penitentiary, the state's highest-security prison. But the part of the story that hasn't been told is what happened after Alward surrendered. According to a handwritten complaint by Alward filed in federal court, DOC guards ordered him to the ground, handcuffed him, and performed a thorough strip-search, pulling down his pants and inspecting every orifice for contraband or weapons. 

Although that search was "physically uncomfortable," Alward writes, that isn't the basis of his complaint. After he was escorted in restraints to the front of the house, he found a contingent of at least fifty law enforcement officers and civilians awaiting his arrival. Some took pictures with cell phones and high-fived each other, "apparently congratulating each other because Plaintiff was back in custody."

At one point, Alward claims, Kevin Milyard, then the warden of Sterling Correctional Facility and soon to become the DOC's interim director of prisons, got in his face, stated, "I got you, shithead" — and stared at him for two minutes, like "a schoolyard bully trying to intimidate a smaller, weaker kid." Alward also claims that Milyard ordered the officers escorting him to strip him, even though he'd already been searched. The officers cut and tore all his clothes off him, leaving him "standing completely naked on a public road in the middle of the front of at least twenty spectators, including several civilians and females."

Alward alleges that he was taken naked in a van back to Sterling and paraded in front of "so many guards...that they were literally getting in each others' way." Several security cameras would have caught the show, he notes, before he was allowed to clothe himself in a holding cell. His complaint concludes, "Stripping plaintiff completely naked on a public road in the middle of the day and then putting his completely naked body on display to large groups of spectators over the next 45 minutes was unnecessary and unreasonable and violated the Fourth Amendment."

State attorneys attempted unsuccessfully to have Alward's lawsuit dismissed. In an e-mail exchange with the Colorado Attorney General's office, Alward's pro bono attorney, Jonathan Allen, contended that discovery in the case had "revealed no legitimate penological interest served by stripping Mr. Alward on the side of the road in plain view of civilians, transporting him back to prison without providing any covering or clothing, and then parading him through the prison naked. The depositions will almost certainly reveal that the true motivation behind Defendants' actions was to humiliate Mr. Alward."

Last November the DOC, while not admitting to any wrongdoing, agreed to settle the case for $15,000 — and also agreed not to seize the settlement money from Alward's inmate account to pay for the costs of his capture. Westword recently obtained a copy of the unusual agreement, the full contents of which appear below, through an open records request. 

Settlement Agreement Fully Executed 2

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast