Inmates can open some jail cells
Jeff sheriff confirms older locks are worn Tuesday, May 13, 2008
By Allen Powell II
When Jefferson Parish Deputy Michael Tisdale was attacked in March by five inmates who had opened their own jail cells, it uncovered a problem that authorities acknowledge: Inmates can let themselves out of their cells in the oldest part of the lockup.
Tisdale suffered lacerations, bruises and a fractured nose in the March 21 incident at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna. An inmate refused the deputy's order to return to his cell and was joined in the beating by four others, who also had opened their cells, according to a Sheriff's Office report.
Inmates call it "racking back" the cells. And it happens when they want to settle disputes, pass items to each other or free themselves after being confined for hours
"Anybody can rack back their cells over there," said Timothy Smith, 35, who spent about a year in the jail and recently pleaded guilty to three counts of molestation of a juvenile.
Sheriff Newell Normand confirmed that there are jail cells that do not close properly and can be opened by inmates. He attributed the problem to the facility's age and inmates who spend hours devising ways to break the cells' locking mechanisms. Chances are if an inmate breaks out of his cell, he won't get out of the correctional center, Normand said.
"Any time you have mechanisms you're going to have failures," Normand said. "You can go to any jail in the country and find similar situations. We are in fact looking at the locking mechanisms in the jail to see if there is anything we can do."