VIDEO: Jail suffers ‘security breach’; Sheriff wants inmates moved to Concordia Parish until conditions corrected

Published 5:53 pm Sunday, July 30, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The Adams County Jail suffered a “security breach” in the jail at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday, said Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten.

He would not elaborate on what the security breach entailed, but said it put inmates and jail staff in danger.

Patten said the public was not in any danger but “the conditions of the jail have reached a point to where it is no longer safe to house staff or inmates.”

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He said he has been in contact with Warren Gaines, president of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, and County Attorney Scott Slover.

“Both have been extremely helpful with the matter and have agreed to a temporary fix concerning this urgent matter,” Patten said. “After seeing the damage and continued deterioration of the jail, I have requested that all inmates, with the exception of those who have trustee status, be moved across the river to Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office until the jail is either properly repaired to house inmates or another course of action is taken.”

The breach allowed a two-inch water line to be broken causing “tremendous damage within the walls of the facility, several offices and E911 dispatch. Computer and radio equipment were damaged or lost during the flooding,” Patten said.

He said E911 on the Natchez Police and Fire “side” never lost capabilities, but the Adams County Sheriff’s Office was down from about 2:35 a.m. until after 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

“We have been able to get dispatch back up and running,” Patten said. “Dispatchers did a great job of keeping communication flowing by using portable radios. The public could still call in on 911. Officers just couldn’t utilize NCIC, nor could they run tags or check warrants locally or nationwide through dispatch.”

Because of the moving of inmates to the Concordia Parish jail facility, he said some jail staffers would lose their jobs.

“We are going to cut some staff and supplies to offset the cost,” of housing Adams County and Natchez inmates in Concordia Parish.

“The breach/threat was quickly brought under control within minutes due to the quick response of both deputies and jail staff. Due to the sensitivity of the breach, I cannot elaborate more on what happened at this time because it could cause more security issues and the incident is still under investigation,” Patten said.

He said the incident was caused by “a number of issues we have been complaining about publicly for years. It came to a head today. Enough is enough. We are not at a point where we don’t have a choice but to do something about the jail.”

Patten said he will meet again on Monday with county supervisors and Concordia Parish officials and will put together a transition plan.

He said at one time the jail had 30 cell doors that would not lock. Because of the work of maintenance staff, he said that number has been reduced to 20 cells in the jail that cannot lock.

“The locks on the cell doors cost a minimum of $10,000 apiece and that’s on the low end. When you do the math, that is a minimum of $100,000 spent and around $200,000 more to go, just to be able to lock an inmate behind a cell door,” Patten said. “If you can’t use internal correction actions to deal with inmates, staff is in a helpless position if they can’t lock them in the cell.”

The sheriff said he has been talking publicly about conditions at the jail for years, to no avail.

“When the board got ready to do something about the jail, the supervisors were voted out. Now we are at a point where we don’t have a choice,” Patten said. “The safety of the staff and the incarcerated is our number one concern and our goal is to come up with a plan that works for both on this week.”