Broken Locks A Critical Concern At County Jail

Plenty of fence, ankle breaking boulders, and razor sharp wire secure the perimeter of the Harrison County jail.

But inside the cellblock are broken locks. Inmates often jam the locks with paper or other material. They're also fond of tearing them apart.

"This is a motor that drives this lock. This is a ball point pen piece that's attached to it. And what the inmates like to do, they love these motors, they like to get at them. And this one was made into a homemade tattoo gun," said warden Don Cabana, holding a torn apart locking mechanism.

Our tour of just two cellblocks found an abundance of locks that don't work. One had been clogged with tar.

"They put the tar on there to keep it from, when it comes out it will stick, so it can't pop to and lock right," said a jailer, pointing to the lock problem.

Maintaining the locks has become a constant struggle. Along with inmate tampering, a design flaw makes the locks more susceptive to such abuse.

"The locks in cellblock A may be working fine today and it's the ones in C block that aren't. And then you get the ones in C block fixed and by that time there's some in A block that need fixing," said the warden.

A prisoner rights attorney told county supervisors the problem with the locks represents a potential catastrophe. And although the warden was more restrained in his language, he still admits it's a serious problem.

"Certainly it has the potential to be dangerous, because any time you have the situation where inmates can come in and out of a cell at will, yeah that concerns you," Cabana admits.

The county will soon advertise for bids to replace the locks and upgrade cell doors. The project will likely cost several million dollars.

Warden Cabana says the swing type cell doors will be replaced with doors that slide open and shut. He says sliding doors are more secure and make it more difficult for inmates to mess with the locks.