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Mississippi murder suspect escapes: How common are jail breaks?

A search is underway for Rafael McCloud, who escaped from the Warren County Jail in Vicksburg, Miss. Wednesday, after briefly taking a jail employee hostage and forcing him to give up his clothes, authorities said.

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Sheriff Martin Pace leads deputies in a search for escaped inmate Rafael McCloud in Warren County, Miss., Wed. Mr. McCloud sparked a manhunt in Mississippi on Wednesday after he swiped a jail employee's clothes, radio and keys and escaped from a county detention facility out a side door, police said.

Therese Apel/Reuters

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Law enforcement officials in western Mississippi are still searching for a capital murder suspect who escaped from a county jail early Wednesday.

Rafael McCloud escaped from the Warren County jail wearing a jail employee uniform, law enforcement officials in Vicksburg, Miss., said, noting that Mr. McCloud faces capital murder and rape charges and is considered armed and dangerous.

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While making his escape, McCloud briefly took a jail employee hostage using a shank and forced the employee to give McCloud his clothes. He also took a radio and keys, Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said, but both items were later recovered on the jail’s grounds.

As the search continued on Wednesday evening, centered about 1/2 mile northeast of the jail in Vicksburg, schools in the area were locked down and canceled after-school activities.

Prison escapes are not uncommon, statistics show, but overall, as the prison population has increased, the number of escapees has declined.

After convicted murderers David Sweat and Richard Matt escaped from a New York state prison last year, many expressed alarm and marveled at the unusual nature of their escape, which involved a variety of power tools, goods smuggled in a package of ground meat, and the cooperation of prison staff.

But Bureau of Justice Statistics data show that prison escapes are not always as unusual as that, with the bureau reporting 2,001 counts of “AWOL/escape” among prisoners serving a sentence of more than a year in 2013, the Washington Post reported last year.

That year, where one inmate escaped in Mississippi, was actually an improvement, with more than 2,500 prisoners escaping in 2010, the Post reports.

McCloud, the Mississippi inmate, is accused in the kidnapping and death of Sharen Wilson whose body was found last June by people hunting for ghosts behind the abandoned Kuhn Memorial State Hospital in Vicksburg, local station WAPT reports.

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Ms. Wilson, who had previously been reported missing, had been hit in the head and beaten, police said.

In July, McCloud was charged with capital murder, sexual battery, rape, arson, home invasion, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and grand larceny auto theft, records show.

Dianne Mahony, one of Wilson’s daughters, told the Associated Press she was aware of the escape but declined to comment.

As the search continues for McCloud, who is described as 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing 170 pounds and was last seen wearing green pants and a black jacket, a handful of schools in the Vicksburg- Warren have been locked down, Chad Shealy, the school superintendent, told AP.

Police and multiple sheriffs units are involved in the search, authorities said.

”The search is concentrat[ed] along Martin Luther King Boulevard where [McCloud] previously lived," Vicksburg Police Chief Walter Armstrong told the AP.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.