Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sheriff calls out county maintenance department on jail repairs

Sheriff Tyrone Lewis gave the media* a tour of the Hind County Detention Center in Raymond after an inmate escaped Friday morning. The Sheriff and his employees pointed out numerous problems such as broken locks, doors that would not close, a lack of cameras, and design problems at the facility. The Sheriff said "we have a capable command staff in place, we just need a jail to run." The Sheriff said the county maintenance department was "inconsistent" in fixing problems and needed to "step up to the plate."



Flanked by Chief Deputy Chris Picou and Captain Joe Daughtry, Sheriff Lewis opened with a press conference. The Sheriff said the issues were "accountability" and "responsibility" as he discussed the escape. He said, "I am responsible for the personnel, these facilities, as well as making sure we can secure the inmates we house in these facilities." He then said the maintenance and repair of the jail was the "responsibility of the Board of Supervisors, the county administrator (Carmen Davis), and the county maintenance department." The Sheriff said there had been a pattern of "neglect" and "lack of repair" (2:16) since 1994. "Until the maintenance department of Hinds County steps up to the plate.. we are going to have issues with inmates escaping and our employees and personnel resigning and being afraid to come to work."

Sheriff Lewis said when he assumed office they found 30 non-functioning doors. He placed blame on the county maintenance department as he said "some days they come to work, some days they don't. There has been nothing consistent about the maintenance department to make sure these problems are taken care of."  He said they would continue to "have issues with inmates escaping and our personnel depleting the way it is fixed or we come up with a proper solution we are going to continue to have these issues. (4:26)"

The escapee managed to pop a grate out of the wall in his holding cell. He had been in custody less than twelve hours. (The grate is shown in the video of the tour.)  There was a section of plywood between the wall and the grate several inches thick which held the grate in place. The grate was removed in less than a minute. The inmate then entered a mechanical room. The door to the outside was secured with a flimsy lock. The inmate forced open the door and escaped the facility. He was captured forty minutes later at the Shell station on Highway 18. The inmate was Frederick Deschete. He was arrested for making a bomb threat in Byram. He has been arrested several times and was once committed to Whitfield.

Sheriff Lewis said it would take "a million plus" to make the needed repairs to the jail. He said he did not know how many escapes took place last year. Sheriff Lewis said "I am frustrated for the taxpayers" and "there is only so much I can do without the help of the maintenance department." He said he wanted to bring in experts to review the detention center and determine whether the best option is to repair the jail or build a new one. He said in the final press conference only Supervisors Robert Graham and Kenneth Stokes had visited the facility.

The tour was an eye-opener for one not in law enforcement. (Video of entire tour is posted below. It's worth watching.) Inmates banged on the doors when they saw us pass. Hutto screamed, "I will kill you Tyrone Lewis" as we went by his cell. There were pools of standing water in the maintenance rooms. Machines um, rigged with coat-hangers to keep them working. Grates held in place with plywood. Ceilings ripped out by inmates seeking weapons or anything that could be used in an escape. Deputies showed how inmates could use wire taken out of the ceiling to pop open cell doors- in less than five seconds. Inmates showed how they could use bed sheets to open doors in less than thirty seconds. Employees said cameras were not in all of the housing units. The Sheriff showed how one inmate was able to escape through a supposedly secure outside recreation area. He was able to tie two bedsheets and a broomstick together, throw them over part of the ceiling (a chain link fence covered the entire area), hoist himself up, and escape to the roof. Repairs were made to the "ceiling" to ensure there would be no repeat performance by other inmates. The Chief Deputy pointed out blind spots in the camera coverage. The Sheriff said the facility was designed to be a "jail, not a prison" as a prison was for long-term incarcerations while a jail is meant to be a temporary holding facility.

The next question is whether the board will actually move towards building a new jail or settling for repairs.







*Media present: WLBT, WAPT, Clarion-Ledger, Fox40, WJTV, Jackson Jambalaya

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

The authority structure makes little sense. The Sherriff should have his own maint dept - then there would be sole source of authority and accountability.

Anonymous said...

With the amount of $ it takes to run the jail why not let a private company come in and have a shot?

Anonymous said...

Who built this facility and who gave them the contract?

Anonymous said...

Dunn Construction Company built the jail and settled up with the county several years ago for what was deemed to be their responsibility. The real problem was that Bennie Thompson and crew insisted on hiring a minority engineering firm from Chicago to do the design. The work they did was pure crap - illegible drawings, called for equipment that manufacturers specs showed to be inadequate(an example is that the motors on cell doors were not powerful enough), etc. Then, the firm disappeared before the project was finished and problems worked out. I assume that the project was let for bid and Dunn was the lowest bidder.

Anonymous said...

http://www.co.hinds.ms.us/pgs/boardminutes/docs/07_24_00.pdf

An ongoing problem.

Anonymous said...

Isnt the jail understaffed by 40 or more employees that Sheriff Lewis has yet to hire? If your understaffed by that high of a number, not only will you have escapees you will also be puting employees in a high risk extremely dangerous positions. Seems funny Yo Sheriff blames all this on maintenance and there is no mention of how understaffed he is!!! Go Figure!!

Anonymous said...

It is absolutely amazing how dumb some of you are!! The way the county government is set up the BOS (thats Board of Supervisors) has control of the money! ALL OF IT!! Yes,they divide up the money and distribute it out to the different departments but who gets how much is ENTIRELY up to them. The Sheriff will only have the funds given to him by the BOS, which according to Kenniff Tokes the Sheriff has too much. I can't explain that reasoning either. The Jail problem has direct relation to the crime problem in Jackson. No room in jail, more criminals on the street...get it! So maybe yall should think about that when you vote your next bunch into office. Lesson over

Anonymous said...

If you must travel through Jackson or Hinds County on I-55 or I-20, whatever you do - don't stop in Jxn !

(With the exception of Canton), less bullets, cheaper gasoline, and better restaurants
are abundant in the surrounding towns.

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