Inmates Returning to County Jail Annex

Wichita County Sheriff's Deputies began returning inmates to the County Jail Annex Tuesday. Repairs to the facility are nearly complete since four inmates escaped August 19th.

"Chances of an escape from the inside of the facility are next to nothing at this point," said Wichita County Sheriff David Duke. He also said workers have finished welding nearly 13,000 pounds of steel bars to the top of the containment pods. The inmates who escaped in August, pried through those bars and climbed onto the roof.

Sheriff Duke said around 50 inmates were returned to the Annex Tuesday. He also said the county had been spending around $3,300 a day to house inmates in other counties.

In addition to the repairs, Duke said the county is hiring 22 additional full-time staff members at the facility and adding security cameras and motion sensors above the pods.

Those repairs to the Annex are not the end of the problem for the Wichita County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Duke said, while the numbers are higher than normal, the county would have still needed to keep some inmates out of county, regardless of the repairs.

"We're going to have to grow the facility to hold more inmates," said Sheriff Duke. "Bottom line."

Sheriff Duke said the overcrowding problems in the county will have to be addressed. Currently, County Commissioners are considering several options. One of those is a possible facility at the old Patterson Auto Mall site downtown.

Commissioners have gotten an initial environmental survey back on that property. But, Commissioner Bill Presson said the county is still very early in the due-diligence process regarding the project. Presson said they will have to look into the environmental results, have the property value assessed, and perform a study on whether the county really needs a new facility.

Regardless of where a new facility would go, Sheriff Duke said it's something the county has to do. "We have got to have a facility that will accommodate these [inmates]," he said, "not only now, but in the future."

Wichita County Commissioner Barry Mahler said, while the county is still receiving invoices from the repairs, he estimates the total cost will be around $55,000.