By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — Sheriff deputies and police are looking for a 35-year-old inmate who walked out of the minimum-security Correctional Alternative Center late Thursday.
The inmate, Reford Watkins, is considered dangerous, said Maurice Pratt, an assistant superintendent of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the alternative center.
Watkins recently transferred to the center, also known as the Farm, from the Middleton Jail, where he had been serving a 17-month sentence for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and vandalizing property, Pratt said.
Pratt could not say where Watkins committed the crimes, but news reports show Salem, Mass., police issued a warrant for his arrest on Aug. 19.
Four years earlier, on Aug. 27, 2009, Watkins and a 20-year-old woman were charged with lewd and lascivious behavior and drinking in public after angry parents called police to report that the couple were openly fornicating at a Salem playground filled with children.
Watkins, who was then living in Danvers, also was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was ordered held when he was not able to raise a $40 fee.
He began serving his sentence for his more recent arrest on Jan. 13 and was eligible for parole Oct. 6.
How Watkins was able to leave the center remains under investigation, Pratt said.
The center, beside Interstate 495 in Lawrence, is not fenced, but relies on a heavily structured environment and frequent roll calls to monitor inmates, Pratt said.
Inmates approaching release from the more secure jail can apply for a transfer to the alternative center, where they receive stepped-up services to help their acclimation back into society.
The center can hold 340 inmates. It held 263 yesterday.
Pratt would not say how often inmates walk off the property.