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September 28, 2012

Tree escapes from Market Square prison

Tennessee corrections officials say a woody perennial inmate has escaped from the low-security Market Square Correctional Facility in Knoxville.

Prison officials say the sawtooth oak was missing from his assigned quarters Thursday night. The prison's statement gave no information on how he might have escaped. Nearby flowers have been taken into custody for questioning.

The Tennessee Department of Correction recently installed protective and attractive low iron fences around several of the trees on the paved portion of Market Square. Officials believed the fences would successfully house non-violent offender plants and that the exposure in a public place would invite the scorn of those passing by.

"We thought incarceration behind the fences would prevent these plants from escaping," said correction department spokesperson Jason Bertea. "Admittedly the fences were pretty small and easy enough for even a toddler to scale. But we assumed that the trees would stay put given their extensive root systems and that most of them cannot walk. I guess we learned a thing or two. Always assume incarcerated trees are Ents."

The small deciduous tree was sentenced this year to 98 months in prison for selling drugs. He began serving his sentence on June 28. He is considered non-violent, but an invasive species.

The tree was found to be missing during the evening leaf count. Authorities immediately sounded the alarm and called for a search of the downtown area.

"In retrospect, we obviously shouldn't have given the trees television privileges," said Bertea. "When they were watching 'Prison Break' on Netflix, we naturally assumed it was because Wentworth Miller is hot."

The Department of Corrections is working with state and local police in an effort to locate the tree. But police are quick to admit the treehurt will be a challenge.

"We're going to have a tough time finding that tree," said Knoxville police spokesperson Tinah Miller. "It's probably hiding in some family's backyard pretending to be a tree house at this point. Corrections has learned its lesson though. These fences don't work. They'll be placing an order for some Dementors soon. Hopefully the trees can't make a lumberjack Patronus."

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