Sheriff: Six inmates behind security breach

Published 7:52 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2023

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NATCHEZ — A Sunday security breach at the jail was created when five male inmates tore down a non-working light in a shower area, crawled through a hole and entered the female block in the jail, assisted by a female inmate.

“Jail staff saw this on camera and contacted deputies who were already in the building. Both jail staff and deputies were able to respond in three and a half minutes to get the situation under control,” Sheriff Travis Patten said on Tuesday. “No female had contact with the male inmates other than the female inmate who assisted with this incident.

Patten said the non-working light was one of many that currently do not work in the jail and “which causes little to no visibility in this area.”

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On Sunday, he said inmates had breached security at the jail and ultimately caused conditions that “reached a point to where it is no longer safe to house staff or inmates.”

Patten would not elaborate on Sunday after the breach but said the incident caused a two-inch water line to break, causing “tremendous damage within the walls of the facility, several offices and E911 dispatch.”

Computers and radio equipment were damaged and lost during the flooding and emergency dispatchers had to use handheld radios to keep communications open during the incident.

Patten said he contacted Adams County Board of Supervisors President Warren Gaines and County Attorney Scott Slover and requested that all inmates, with the exception of those who have trusty status, be moved to the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Female inmates were moved to the Concordia Parish facility on Sunday morning. The remaining inmates — other than those with trusty status, those awaiting mental illness evaluations and those in jail on misdemeanor charges waiting to be bonded out of jail — were transported Tuesday, Patten said.

“The female inmate and a male inmate (who know each other), who are both in jail on murder charges while awaiting mental health evaluations, planned this entire incident,” Patten said. “They knew each other prior to being incarcerated. During further investigation, it was discovered that the two had been planning this incident for about a week and carried out their plan the day of the breach,” he said.

All inmates involved in the Sunday morning breach will be charged with destruction of county property and restitution will be sought for any damages that occurred, the sheriff said.

“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 on Sunday.

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.”

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 had 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.”