A massive search is under way for an inmate who escaped from a Florida jail early Tuesday morning.

Inmate Michael Howarth made his escape from the Lake Correctional Institution between midnight and 12:30 a.m., while he was working outside the prison gates at a waste water treatment plant.

"Howarth is considered a minimum security inmate and is allowed to go outside the prison fence to work in his squad," Gretl Plessinger of the Florida Department of Corrections told The Orlando Sentinel.

The plant where the escaped convict worked "is a 24-hour operation" and corrections officers do random checks during prisoners' shifts, she added.

Sgt. Jim Vachon of the Lake County Sheriff's Office told the newspaper that police were using bloodhounds and a helicopter in the search for Howarth across "an expansive perimeter."

Lake County deputies also are monitoring children at school bus stops while Howarth remains on the loose.

The inmate has been in prison since 1992 for burglary and grand theft and was scheduled to be released in 2012.

Prison officials are looking at Howarth’s personal phone calls for clues as to any connections in his escape.

"Howarth was not arrested on any violence charges, but he is considered dangerous and people need to take all precautions to avoid him," said Plessinger.

Howarth was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and blue pants.

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