In the aftermath of last week's jail escape, Sheriff Patrick Ray says measures have been and are being taken to beef up security at the jail.
The county commission, on Monday night, authorized an emergency expenditure of up to $15,000 for the purchase of surveillance cameras for the jail annex as well as the installation of a cage around the duct work to help keep prisoners from trying to escape. The county has applied for a grant, which if approved, could provide up to another $12,000 for more surveillance cameras for the jail.
Sheriff Ray says after interviewing the correctional officers, he has concluded that the escape of four prisoners last Wednesday morning was not the fault of the staff, but of the jail infrastructure. "One of the escapees watched the correctional officer, who was in the tower which overlooks the annex dorm, and every time that correctional officer looked away from the window to do some paper work or whatever, that prisoner would motion for one of the other escapees to start climbing the I-beam."
Sheriff Ray says he has been concerned about jail safety since taking office in September, 2006." I addressed the county mayor and county commission about these concerns. Working together with the county mayor and the commission, we have made improvements to the jail and annex."
"First, we fixed the door locks to the old jail and jail annex. We also had the control panel for the door locks repaired. All has worked well since then."
"Second, we talked about security cameras for the old jail and annex cell areas. The commission approved the bid process and we took bids. There were only two bids. One bid was over $50,000 and the other for $27,500. It has been agreed to try and get funding through a grant from the state to fund this project. County Mayor Mike Foster has filed the grant and we are awaiting a response back from the state to see whether or not we will receive funding. If the funding fails, we will still purchase the cameras at full cost."
"We were also concerned about the exposed support I-beams in the annex where the inmates were climbing the beams to get access to the central heat and air duct work and to the ceiling area of the annex. Since then, we welded steel around the I-beams in order to try and stop the inmates from climbing up the beams, but in this incident, the welded steel failed." (Inmates were still able to climb the beams).
"County Mayor Foster has also appointed a jail committee to inspect the jail and for me to address my concerns to."
"The morning of the escape, we were housing a total of 88 inmates and 35 were in the annex dorm. There are a total of 48 beds in there. Since the escape, we replaced all six of the fiberglass skylights with sheets of metal in the annex. We are in the process of trying to figure out a way to keep the inmates from climbing the I-beams in the annex dorm. We are working with the state jail inspector to make sure we stay within codes for the improvement."
"The safety of the public is of the utmost concern for me, the county mayor, and the county commission. We will strive to do everything we can to take care of these concerns."