Sollie takes appropriate action against jailers
May 6, 2001
When the news broke that an inmate had climbed out of a visitors area at the Lauderdale County Detention Facility, Sheriff Billy Sollie faced some potentially serious problems.
Derek Houston's escape was the second that started in the same manner. Houston climbed through a ceiling panel, over an interior wall and through an air conditioning duct. What made his escape worse were the facts that:
At least six people may have seen it happen and not bothered to report it; and,
Correctional officers assigned to the area failed in their duties to enforce a secure zone.
Houston, described as dangerous by the sheriff, remains at large. So, one of Sollie's problems is re-apprehending a suspected criminal whose record includes a number of brushes with the law.
The second problem was more of the public relations variety. It doesn't look good for an otherwise competent law enforcement agency when inmates climb out of the jail, even from a visitors area where security may be more lax.
To his credit, Sollie investigated quickly and took immediate disciplinary action against two jailers firing one and suspending another. While it is unfortunate in one respect that the jailers took the heat while the inmate is still on the loose, Sollie's action was appropriate.
A broader question is what kind of design flaws in the building itself allows inmates to escape? Climbing through the ceiling now may be classified as an acceptable means of escape. Jailers should be aware and on the lookout for it. This hole in security must be corrected immediately.