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Who dropped the ball at Lauderdale County jail?

By Staff
April 29, 2001
An accused burglar with a fairly long record of brushes with the law literally climbed out of the Lauderdale County Detention Facility (read that: jail) the other evening. At last report, sheriff's deputies and other law officers were searching for 21-year-old Derek Houston, but had no leads.
Houston was most recently jailed on two burglary charges. Previous charges have ranged from armed robbery to aggravated assault and 10 misdemeanors. He is also said to be wanted in Texas.
Houston climbed out of a visitor's area of the jail, in full or partial view of at least six people, three visitors and three other inmates. He reached a partition in the visitation room, removed a piece of ceiling, scaled the wall above and came down the other side through an air-conditioning duct. Someone provided him with a change of clothing and he quickly vanished into the evening air.
No one in the vicinity of the escape reported seeing a thing.
And now county officials are left holding another bag of empty excuses while area residents are alerted to another dangerous criminal on the loose. It isn't the first time.
The circumstances surrounding Houston's escape are very similar to how an inmate named Zachary Kothenbeutal escaped in March 1999 while awaiting trial on a murder charge. Kothenbeutal also escaped by going through a ceiling and lowering himself with two sheets through an exterior air vent.
One official was quoted in The Meridian Star last week as saying the community is fortunate there haven't been more escapes using the same method.
The questions must be asked Where were the correctional officers while these escapes were taking place? Were the officers on the job really on the job?
We have our doubts and perhaps disciplinary action is in order.
Meanwhile, isn't it time this problem was fixed architecturally and permanently?