Inmate escaped Atlanta prison camp ‘for love' — then snuck back in

Patches of metal cover holes that minimum-security inmates cut into the fence around the Atlanta federal penitentiary's prison camp so they could escape and return with contraband. 

ATLANTA — You might find a man indecisive if he escapes prison only to sneak back in — especially if he pulls the trick three times.

But Jaye L. Thomas, a 37-year-old formerly of Dalton, knew what he was doing. In 2016, things inside the prison camp adjacent to the U.S. Penitentiary in southeast Atlanta weren’t all bad. Inmates found ways to sneak in lobster, steak, Mexican takeout, drugs, copious amounts of liquor and cell phones so they could piddle on Facebook and keep up with families and sweethearts.

Women, of course, they didn’t have in the penitentiary, which is largely why Thomas decided to sneak away, his attorney Vionnette Reyes Johnson said during a sentencing hearing Thursday. He escaped “for love,” she said, or as she also put it, “sexual escapades” with two women he was dating.

Judge Thomas Thrash Jr. sentenced Thomas to 21 additional months in prison. The defense and prosecution agreed that was a just term for Thomas, who pleaded guilty to escape and was the last in a series of defendants sentenced in what had become routine escapes from the camp. The inmates would leave, sometimes through a hole in a chain-link fence, and return with contraband.


Details about Thomas’ slips in and out of the minimum-security camp confirm earlier reports from inmates and officials about the nonchalant prison breaks taking place as far back as 2013.

“These prosecutions make it clear,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak after the hearing, “that serious consequences exist for inmates who escape from custody, especially for those who are caught smuggling illegal contraband.”

Contraband was a common theme in the hearing, though the one his attorney focused on was love.

It started with sweet talk through a smuggled cell phone shortly after he arrived at the prison camp in January 2016, to serve nearly seven years for possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. Thomas is a burly man with close-cropped hair, who used to run a small trucking business and, as evidenced by the Facebook page he kept up while at the prison camp, is a football fan favoring the Florida Gators.

He exchanged texts with a woman identified in court only as T.T., because she wasn’t charged. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Lee said Thomas got T.T. to come pick him up one day in March so they could spend time together. He was on a work detail at the time and was able walk to meet her at South View Cemetery by the prison camp.