UPDATE: VAN ZANDT CO. (KYTX) - The Van Zandt County jail inmate population is being transferred back to the jail after spending more than 10 days in neighboring counties after the discovery of flawed security locks.
The entire 200 jail inmate population is expected to return to the jail by the end of the day Friday, according to Van Zandt County Sheriff officials.
The locks have been replaced, and approved by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
Detention staff discovered inmates found a flaw in the high security locking systems within the facility increasing the risk of escape.
On Monday June 30, 2014, detention staff immediately contacted private contractors responsible for the design and installation of the locks.
Following an inspection of the facility, it was determined that although the locks were functioning as designed, an engineering flaw existed with the mechanisms enabling a simple process to defeat the security of the lock.
This issue effected confinement cells in high security sections of the facility as well as ingress and egress access to the building.
State and County Officials were immediately notified of the situation and the Sheriff's Emergency Action Plan was put in action.
Because the separate, newer constructed Minimum Security Confinement Facility was not equipped with the same locking systems; of the currently incarcerated 161 inmates; 90 were required to be transported to the Henderson County Jail and 35 to the Kaufman County Jail and the remaining female inmates were transported to the Upshur County Jail for the safety and the security of the inmates and the jail staff.
Sheriff Michael Lindsey Ray stated, "Because of the vigilance of the Van Zandt County Detention Staff, a very serious situation was discovered and dealt with expeditiously and appropriately.
Because there are many very dangerous inmates currently confined in our county jail; the alertness of jail staff most certainly prevented a very dangerous situation from becoming a potentially deadly situation."
The company responsible for the locking systems is preparing replacement parts for shipping and it is expected to take ten days to two weeks for contractors to replace the internal components of the defective locks.
The Van Zandt County Sheriff's Office presently spends approximately $20.00 per day to house each inmate in the 196 bed institution which was constructed in 1992.
The cost to outsource an inmate, out of county, is $30.00 per day. Sheriff Ray stated, "Obviously we want to get this problem corrected as quickly as possible because of the high cost of outsourcing such a large portion of the inmate population. However; my number one priority is the safety and security of our community.
We will begin returning the inmates to the jail as soon as we determine that the risk of escape has been mitigated." Sheriff Ray continued, "I am truly grateful to Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt, Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes and Upshur County Sheriff Anthony Betterton for assisting my office on such short notice in proactively dealing with this very serious issue.
It is so good to have Sheriffs in our neighboring and nearby counties who are such good neighbors to our community in time of such urgent need."