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Razor wire installation completed; old Liberty Co. Jail to be refurbished

DSC_0681by Teresa Eubanks, Journal Editor

The recent installation of six rolls of razor wire around the Liberty County Jail should prevent any more escapes, according to Sheriff Eddie Joe White.

The “new” area of the jail was completed in 2008 and inmates were then moved into dormitory style quarters.  Some inmates were still held in single cells on the second floor of the old jail, which was built in 1942.

Efforts began to install the wire six years ago but the task was never completed.  Most of it was in place yet there were still some gaps left.  And those gaps were all Jed Ellis needed to slip out of custody twice last year.

The first time he was discovered missing on June 6, 2016.  He was caught two days later in Tallahassee.

The second time he escaped was Dec. 10, 2016.  He left a correctional officer badly injured after slamming him with a door and then punching him repeatedly, breaking bones in his nose and cheek.

Both times Ellis got over the jail yard fence through a gap in the razor wire, climbed onto the roof of the courthouse and disappeared.  Ellis is currently being held in the Gadsden County Jail on the Liberty County charges.

White, who took office just a few weeks ago, said the work to complete the razor installation was done after he renewed work agreements with Liberty Correctional Institution to utilize their inmate labor at no charge.  He said the prison has a group of inmates with their own safety equipment who are trained to put up razor wire and “they fixed it in one day.”

The prison loaned out one supervisor, three correctional officers and about six inmates to complete the job which included repairing damage done to the fence during Ellis’ second escape,  he said.

The new sheriff worked with other areas of the community to complete the razor wire installation, which was coordinated by Jail Administrator Reggie Ethridge.  “Florida Public Utilities brought out their boom truck to help with the project and Jinker Potter donated his time to complete the welding,” the sheriff said.

AN UPDATE FOR THE OLD JAIL

The sheriff plans to refurbish the old jail and create an open bay area to house up to 25 female inmates, which would bring in some much-needed revenue for the county.  Calhoun County Sheriff Glenn Kimbrel is in support of the plan “once we have a clean, safe setting and pass a jail inspection,” White said.

There’s a lot of work ahead before the old jail will be usable. After they last inspected the jail, the Florida Sheriff’s Association Risk Management Division compiled an 800-page dossier on its many deficits. “It’s crumbling and deteriorating…something had to be done,” White said.

He said he’s focused on saving tax dollars by using more state prison inmate labor. The first thing to be done is gut the interior, removing the old cells and fixtures.  Next, the plumbing will have to be fixed and new restrooms and showers installed.

“We’re going to put security cameras up and put the responsibility of their behavior back on the inmates,” he said.   “Employees will be safe, too, because there won’t be any blind spots.”

He noted, “The Board of County Commissioners are behind us 100 percent and are cooperating and encouraging this effort.”

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