County jails act as their own feifdoms when it comes to regulations

4:43 PM, Sep 10, 2012   |    comments
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Pike County, MO (KSDK) - Usually jails are considered pretty secure places with lots of regulation. So how did five inmates manage to escape from the Pike County Jail over the weekend?

NewsChannel 5 did some digging and found out that in Missouri each jail plays by its own set of rules. There is no regulation by the state when it comes to staffing, training or security.

Pike County Jail is what's considered an indirect supervision facility. That means guards aren't always posted inside the prisoner pods. But that's not uncommon.

What is uncommon is for prisoners to escape.

Pike County Sheriff Stephen Korte says the night of the escape there were two jailers and a 911 dispatcher on duty. But nobody was assigned to watch the security monitors. And that's not something required by the state.

"Each particular government agency uses their own particular experience in terms of operating jails as they see fit," said Herbert Bernsen, Director of the St. Louis County Department of Justice Services. The department is in charge of the St. Louis County Jail.

Bernsen says each facility has its own characteristics and state involvement in security procedures isn't necessarily the answer.

"There are a lot of counties in Missouri and the practicality of trying to have one set of standards and regulations, there's challenges there," said Bernsen.

Sheriff Korte says jail inmates have access to the shower facility until lockdown at 11 p.m.  The men who escaped went into the shower room just before 11.  Surveillance cameras are not allowed in the showers, making it easier for them to break out.

The sheriff says having more staff might have helped prevent the escape. But Bernsen knows even the sharpest eyes can't catch everything.

"It really again depends on each individual jail in terms of how many monitors you have and where you place them and what your outside security is and whether or not your security is mainly focused on the outside of the building or the inside," said Bernsen.

Sheriff Korte says his staff mainly trains for situations where inmates escape the yard, not from within the building. But he says this jail break taught him and his staff some important lessons and security improvements will be made.

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