About 120 inmates have had to be transferred out of the Van Zandt County Jail, located about 50 miles outside of Dallas, because the locks had been tampered with, according to CBS Houston. Sheriff Michael Lindsey Ray says that the inmates were able to figure out a way to compromise the locks. Jail staff agrees, saying that one inmate figured out how to pick the locks, and taught other inmates how to follow suit.
“The inmates were able to gain access out of their secured cells, out into the hallway and then out of the hallway… really out into the parking lot,” says Chief George Flowers. He says that it was first noticed by the control room, who saw a sheet moving through the hallway. The inmates, after breaking the locks, had traveled under sheets so that they could not be identified by the cameras.
In total, about 66 doors have locks in need of replacement. The Sheriff’s office has not reported any escapes, and is still unsure as to who the original culprit is. “Some of these people are pretty intelligent when it comes to what they can come up with, what they can build and what they can destroy,” Flowers explains.
The prisoners were transferred to several different jails throughout the region, including to Henderson, Kaufman, and Upshur counties, and contractors are being called in to replace the locks’ internal components — a process that could take up to two weeks. Until that time, each inmate will be costing Van Zandt County about $30 in daily expenses. Over the course of the next two weeks, the transfer will total about $52,000. The county judge says that the jail is hoping that the original lock manufacturer will be willing to cover some of the cost.
The county’s other, minimum security jail does not use the same locking system, and those inmates will stay where they are.